Alumnus Derek LaBar Humbled to be Part of COVID-19 Response

May 12, 2020

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COVID-19 has swept the nation. The United States has more than one million confirmed cases and over 61,000 deaths. The pandemic has affected essentially all aspects of our lives, and it has shined light on just how important our healthcare workers are. They are on the frontlines doing all that they can to keep us safe. One of these is University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy alum Derek LaBar. LaBar is currently an Investigational Drug Services (IDS) pharmacist at M Health Fairview University of Minnesota Medical Center, where he and his coworkers are working on the response to COVID-19.

LaBar graduated from the College of Pharmacy in 2012. After graduating he completed a PGY-1 pharmacy practice residency at United Hospital, part of Allina Health. He then worked as a clinical staff pharmacist at M Health Fairview-St. John's Hospital for three years. For the last three and a half years he has been an IDS pharmacist at M Health Fairview University of Minnesota Medical Center, and he is now working on the hydroxychloroquine trials.

The goal of these trials is to see if certain medications are effective and safe for subjects with COVID-19 or subjects who have been exposed to COVID-19. LaBar and his coworkers are preparing and dispensing medication for hydroxychloroquine, as well as Remdesivir and Losartan testing.

“IDS Pharmacy is involved in preparing and dispensing hydroxychloroquine and placebo medication for pre-exposure prophylaxis, post-exposure prophylaxis, and preemptive therapy for COVID-19 across the United States,” LaBar said. “We are responsible for randomizing all subjects, blinding the study, and serving as the emergency unblinding source if patients need to be removed from the study due to safety reasons.”

Even with the high demand for COVID-19 research, other non-COVID-19 related research is still being conducted. LaBar said they are still treating subjects who are part of clinical research at the University of Minnesota.

LaBar described how the process in which research is conducted has not changed for COVID-19 research. It is the same as any other research, they are just focusing their attention on COVID-19 research.

“Before beginning research, these [COVID-19 related] studies were reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Institutional Review Boards and will be monitored continuously throughout the life of the study,” LaBar said. “IDS Pharmacy continues to uphold the high-quality practices and standards that we have for all of our research protocols.” 

LaBar is very grateful for the opportunity to be part of the response to COVID-19. He hopes he can help make a difference in the fight against the virus.

“I'm humbled by this opportunity to rise to this challenge at hand to support local patients and those impacted across the country,” LaBar said. “This virus will continue to test us, and hopefully, IDS and the University of Minnesota can be a part of the solution.”

Leadership has been an important skill during the COVID-19 studies, and Labar thinks his time at the College of Pharmacy helped build his leadership skills, which have allowed him to be successful in his role during these trials.

“During my time at the College of Pharmacy, I was fortunate to hold the title of class representative for four years and also held leadership positions in Phi Delta Chi,” LaBar said. “In these roles, I learned how to make sound and timely decisions, work with all members of the healthcare team efficiently and effectively, and promote positivity. These skills are essential as we work quickly to get new studies up and running quickly in an already stressful situation.”

In addition to working hard as a part of the response to COVID-19, LaBar has enjoyed being able to reconnect with those close to him. He has enjoyed the opportunity to spend more quality time with his wife and daughters and have life slow down for a while.

Labar is appreciative of his opportunity to help others in these tough times, through his work as an IDS pharmacist at M Health Fairview University of Minnesota Medical Center. He intends on working hard to be a part of the solution to the COVID-19 crisis the world is facing today.