Daniel Gonzalez is an associate professor in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy and an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics within the UNC School of Medicine. He studies how medications affect children to improve dosing regimens for the pediatric population.
Q: How did you discover your specific field of study?
A: During pharmacy school at the University of Florida, I completed an internship that introduced me to research in the pharmaceutical sciences, which led me to pursue my PhD. After joining the UNC-Duke Collaborative Clinical Pharmacology T32 Postdoctoral Training Program, I began focusing on pediatric clinical pharmacology research.
I was drawn to pediatrics because of the need for better information about optimal doses of medications for kids. Rigorous clinical pharmacology studies have not always been required as part of the medication approval process, so there are many gaps in knowledge about medications commonly used in the pediatric population. Studying medications in children is important because developmental changes can affect the disposition of medications in the body, and the effects that the medication has on the body can differ in children relative to adults.
Q: Academics are problem-solvers. Describe a research challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it.
A: Interactions between medications administered together are routinely studied in healthy adults during drug development. But there are logistical and ethical challenges to performing these studies in children. To overcome them, we collect data from children who receive these combinations of medications as part of their routine care. Then, we identify the extent of interactions between medications, how these interactions vary with age, and what dosage adjustments, if any, are needed to avoid undesired adverse effects.
Q: Describe your research in five words.
A: Optimizing medication dosing for children.
Q: Who or what inspires you? Why?
A: Improving the use of medications in children. Drug development programs did not include children for a long time, so there are significant gaps in knowledge about dosing medications in this vulnerable population. Also, I have had outstanding mentors in my career, including my PhD advisor, the late Hartmut Derendorf, and my mentors during my postdoctoral fellowship training, Michael Cohen-Wolkowiez and Kim Brouwer.
Q: If you could pursue any other career, what would it be and why?
A: I would stay within pharmacy, but it could be interesting to go in a different direction — such as specializing in pharmacoeconomics, which focuses on evaluating the costs and benefits of medications.