Cento Sharp is a second-year student in the MS in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics (MCST) program. He is the principal management and technology consultant with Cento Sharp Consulting, LLC, which supports single-person entrepreneurs and billion-dollar professional services firms in optimizing their business and technology investments.
What has been your career path up to now?
I’m a results-oriented program management executive with a strong background in large-scale system design, cloud software implementations, systems auditing, cybersecurity, production support, and continuous process improvement initiatives. My past roles have focused on quality management, leadership development, and financial impact. I have 20+ years of experience leading executive team members, business stakeholders, software developers, and third-party vendors on a broad range of digital business transformation projects.
What interested you in learning more about medical cannabis? What was your prior exposure to these topics?
Medical cannabis is a transformational field. For a digital transformation practitioner, it is a blue ocean of opportunities. After having several friends and relatives negatively impacted by cancer, stress, and anxiety, I’ve always been curious about the evidence-based medical benefits of cannabis. Being a part of the solution to such life-altering medical conditions and ailments made applying to the program a no-brainer. The stories of medical cannabis patients are both heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time. I knew I wanted to help enable and support clinicians, advocates, and entrepreneurs who dramatically improve the quality of life for millions of Americans.
What drew you to attend the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy?
The long-established credibility and prominence of the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy intrigued me. I wanted the best medical cannabis training in the nation. The University of Maryland’s program had the depth and breadth of knowledge I needed in medical cannabis education. The faculty are accomplished pharmacists, scientists, clinicians, and industry advocates. Their experience is so vast, it’s almost intimidating until you meet them and take their class. The professors make learning approachable for every student.
What has your experience been like in the MS in MCST program?
The first class I took in the program was Introduction to Medical Cannabis History, Culture, and Policy. I was a bit nervous when I entered the program because I was concerned about the continuously evolving cannabis legislation that is currently driving the industry. This introductory class put my mind at ease and showed me a framework for better understanding the history, challenges, and advocates behind medical cannabis. After taking the first course, I felt even more empowered and challenged to do my part for the industry moving forward.
In my second year of the program, I had the opportunity to apply and join the Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics Student Association’s executive board as director of future professionals. As part of the executive board, I’ve had the opportunity to partner with pharmacists, physicians, advocates, and entrepreneurs in helping fellow students find career development resources and expand their network. I have been amazed at the expertise and passion my peers are always openly willing to share in support of advancing the program. The student leaders in the program really care about the medical cannabis industry, but they also care about you. These factors really help to set the medical cannabis program apart from others, in my opinion.
How do you plan to apply your knowledge and skills from this program into practice?
By using my extensive information technology program management skills and executive leadership experience, I plan to help medical cannabis entrepreneurs and businesses implement operational strategies, manage risk, and quickly build high-performing teams. The MCST degree aligns perfectly with my broad executive program management experience. One of the best things about the MCST program is that it is a launching pad for establishing new industry relationships and learning how our talents can benefit the innovative science of medical cannabis.
What is your advice to prospective students who might be considering whether to apply to this program?
I advise prospective students to be ready to commit their heads, heart, and hands to this program. The medical cannabis industry is driven by some of the most passionate medical professionals and patients in society. You must be ready to match this passion with your contribution to the program and the industry. For me, the MCST program is about helping to drive industry influence and cannabis advocacy so patients can get the proven medicine they need to live a better quality of life.
It’s taken my head to succeed in the program’s intense academic’s portion. It’s taken my heart to fully understand the need for industry advocates while becoming a staunch supporter and industry advocate myself. Lastly, it’s taken my hands to volunteer and expand my professional network to help others. It requires going above and beyond what’s asked of you and helping to enable others to reach their full potential in the MCST program and life. After a 20+ year professional career, graduating from the Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics program at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy will be one of my proudest moments.
About the MCST program: The MS in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics program provides students with the knowledge they need to support patients and the medical cannabis industry, add to existing research, and develop well-informed medical cannabis policy. The two-year program based at the Universities at Shady Grove in Rockville, Md., blends online instruction with face-to-face experiences to prepare graduates to respond to the increasing demand for medical cannabis with an understanding of the basic science and clinical uses of the cannabis plant. Learn more and apply today.