A Foot in Two Worlds

“We’re not trying to treat cells in a dish; we’re trying to treat people.”

“We’re not trying to treat cells in a dish; we’re trying to treat people.”

Cancer survivor Alison Mercer-Smith is pursuing an M.D./Ph.D. at UNC-Chapel Hill.

“Alison’s unique drive and ‘translational mind’ make her the ideal person to move this project from discovery towards therapy,” said Shawn Hingtgen, Ph.D. “We are truly lucky to have her as part of our team.” According to Hingtgen, the therapies Alison is researching in his lab have the potential to combat aggressive and lethal cancers.

“It feels very personal,” Alison said. “We’re ultimately not trying to treat cells in a dish; [we’re] trying to treat people.”

Outside of the lab and classroom, Alison is involved with UNC Advocates for Inclusion in Medicine and Science (AIMS). Alison noted that women and other underrepresented populations often face barriers when applying and are less likely to apply to a program if they think they do not meet every requirement. Alison said she feels lucky to have had people support her as she pursues her M.D./Ph.D.

The Eshelman Institute for Innovation is made possible by a $100 million gift from Fred Eshelman to accelerate the creation and development of ideas leading to discoveries and transformative changes in education, research and health care. To learn more about the EII’s impact, in new window.

Read the complete Carolina Story…Opens in new window

UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy Funding Priorities

Readers Also Viewed...


Discovering Disease Treatments

Strengthening neuroscience research


READDI for the Future

“READDI has the potential to make sure we are never caught off-guard again.”

Dean Angela Kashuba

Focused on helping people live longer, healthier lives

Renowned researcher and innovator in the fight against HIV/AIDS, Angela Kashuba is ready for a new challenge as dean of UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy.


Minds meet hearts in the hunt for a cure

Developing personalized treatments for cancer patients is more than a professional path for these UNC researchers; it’s a personal mission.

Global Impact

Pharmacy Without Borders

“It’s incredible to see that kind of impact for our students in an international setting.”


Giving to Future Generations

Making an impact on Carolina pharmacy students for years to come.