Shaifali Bhalla, Ph.D.

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Years Teaching at Midwestern University: 

17 years (I joined the College of Pharmacy, Downers Grove, in 2005)

Research Interests

I am passionate about uncovering the mechanism of action of opioids. How are signaling pathways activated or inhibited after being exposed to an agonist or antagonist? What changes does a receptor undergo after a drug molecule binds to it? My research interests include the role of endothelin, opioid, and imidazoline receptors in opioid analgesia, tolerance, and withdrawal. We have found that endothelin-A receptor (ETAR) antagonists potentiate opioid analgesia and reverse tolerance. Opioid withdrawal symptoms are also reversed by ETAR antagonists. Preliminary findings suggest that these phenomena are mediated via a G-protein mediated mechanism. We are currently investigating the role of cAMP signaling and calcium channels upon acute and chronic exposure to morphine and oxycodone in the presence and absence of ETAR antagonists. Identifying adaptations in signaling pathways during tolerance and withdrawal will assist us in identifying specific targets and designing novel therapies to ensure adequate analgesia while lowering adverse effects of opioids.

My research group includes pharmacy and master’s students, and it is important to me to share this curiosity and knowledge with the next generation of pharmacists and scientists. Two students from my lab have gone on to pursue a Ph.D. and are contributing to both academic and industrial settings with the vast knowledge and skill sets they have gained during their Pharm.D. doctoral training at MWU.

Being a member of the Midwestern University faculty is a unique opportunity to mentor as well as simultaneously learn from the next generation of pharmacists. ”

Shaifali Bhalla
Ph.D., Associate Dean, College of Pharmacy, Downers Grove, and Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences

How do you engage students in the learning process?   

The two most important things are creating an inclusive classroom and earning the trust of my students. A teacher’s dynamic ability to convey concepts effectively is another critical element of the educational environment. By encouraging students to unleash their curiosity, ask questions, and continually grow by trying different methods to succeed makes collaborative learning come alive. Helping students develop critical thinking skills with intentionality and creating innovative ways of conveying challenging concepts – in my didactic courses, workshops, and during mentoring in the research lab, helps my success in enhancing student engagement and confidence. 

I believe that the purpose of education is to build character, and to create human beings, not machines. Every time I teach a difficult concept/equation/calculation, I envision how I would like to be taught if I were a student. My goal is to make this two-way street of learning and teaching more meaningful by tapping into my students’ prior knowledge. My philosophy is to teach with patience, care, and consideration for my students’ diverse learning styles.

What do you hope students learn from your classes? 

It is very important to me that students learn how biopharmaceutics and pharmacokinetics is a foundational piece, a building block of the Pharm.D. curriculum. Regardless of which pharmacy career students pursue upon graduation, the knowledge from this course imparts key concepts that they can refer to and rely on throughout the program and in their future careers. Immersing themselves in the material with a clear vision as to why it is important helps students gain the confidence to understand the mathematical component of the pharmacy profession.

When students can set their own goals for assignments and then work to achieve those goals, their work takes on a serious and meaningful purpose. I help students stay on the right track by providing opportunities for frequent self-checks and plenty of other formative assessments so that they can monitor their own progress. This empowers students to be aware of how well they are doing and makes it easier for them to stay engaged in a learning activity.

What is the most rewarding part of being a member of the Midwestern University faculty? 

Being a member of the Midwestern University faculty is a unique opportunity to mentor as well as simultaneously learn from the next generation of pharmacists. Working with faculty who are experts in their fields – be it in a clinical specialty, a specific area of scientific research, or as a leader in teaching innovations – contributes to my own professional growth and development. Connectedness, teamwork, collegiality, and investment in the professional development of students and faculty are the most rewarding aspects of my role here at MWU.           

Why should students enroll at Midwestern University? 

Midwestern University is focused on healthcare education, and we are committed to student success. The faculty and staff are focused on preparing our future graduates as leaders in healthcare in the 21st-century. Our mission is to educate current and future pharmacists, inspire engagement in scholarship and research, and maximizing health outcomes through patient care and public service in a culturally diverse society. Students will find a commitment to the student-centered approach in each of their courses. We have a dynamic and evolving curriculum that responds to clinical and industrial demands.

What lessons would you like students to take with them in their professional careers? 

First, I hope that students hold onto the five core values of excellence, professionalism, integrity, inclusion, and collegiality. Second, don’t be afraid to learn new things and develop your skill set. Challenge yourself to give 100% effort and focus on building upon your strengths. When you have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and wisdom and remain open-minded, nothing is wasted. Third, relationships are key in any profession, so focus on building trust with colleagues. Look for mentors and coaches and courageously talk about your strengths and areas of improvement. Professionalism, strategic thinking, commitment, and working towards measurable results will lead you on the path of success. 

What about your profession should people know during Pharmacy Month?   

Pharmaceutical advancements and technologies play a fundamental role in the lives of many Americans. It is important to understand the scientific aspects of drug discovery, development, and dosing, so that a pharmacist can provide a complete education to their patients.

Pharmacists play an important role in ensuring that patients receive the correct medication dosage, and that the dosage is regulated according to the patient's clinical response to the prescribed drug. Another important role is to notify physicians if a patient has an adverse effect to a drug and suggest an alternative treatment.


Pharmacists can pursue careers in various settings – hospital, community, health service, pharmaceutical research, industries, nursing, government health administration, and academia. Pharmacists are consistently ranked as one of the most highly trusted healthcare providers and listed as having one of the best jobs in America.

Sally Arif

Shaifali Bhalla, Ph.D., is the Associate Dean for the College of Pharmacy, Downers Grove, and an Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Midwestern University.