New CPPI grad student plans to expand neurocognitive research in HIV population
Aimalohi (Aima) Okpeku joined fellow Center for Pharmacy Practice Innovation graduate students studying pharmacoeconomics and health outcomes in the fall after earning her master’s in pharmaceutical outcomes and policy at the University of Florida. With a plan to graduate in May 2026, Okpeku is the first Ph.D. student to study under CPPI core faculty member Julie Patterson.
“I’m very excited to have Aima join us here at VCU and CPPI,” Patterson said. “She brings a breadth of clinical pharmacy and research experience in health outcomes research and pharmacoepidemiology as well as a unique perspective from her time as a pharmacist in Nigeria. She’s an excellent addition to our team and graduate program!”
Prior to earning her master’s, Okpeku worked as a pharmacist in the Nigerian equivalent of the White House Medical Unit, serving the president, presidential staff, and international dignitaries, and at Nigeria’s Institute of Human Virology, where her role included overseeing the implementation of a community pharmacy-based differentiated care model for people living with HIV.
“Part of my experience involved the capacity building of health care workers in Nigeria,” she said. “I also worked to provide quality health services for people living with HIV and updated and evidence-based recommendations for HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support services for all ages.”
Okpeku decided to continue her education to expand her body of research into the neurocognition of patients with both HIV and opioid addiction. This area of research matters to her because people from her home country of Nigeria are disproportionately affected by these medical conditions, and there’s a lack of research in this sphere.
“Earning my Ph.D. gives me more of an edge, and it gives me more time to understand this content,” she said. “Not a lot of research is being done into this area with this population.”
During the course of her Ph.D. program, Okpeku aims to publish at least three papers in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, or other medical care journals, and she hopes to present her research at The Professional Society for Health Economics and Outcomes Research (ISPOR) and International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE) conferences.
In her free time, she enjoys watching biographical documentaries and cartoons, especially The Powerpuff Girls, and she’s currently on the lookout for a good place for salsa dancing in Richmond.