A locally-owned and operated organic cannabis company and dispensary in Michigan is setting itself apart from the competition, thanks to a medical cannabis credential from the University of Vermont.
Lisa Profera, M.D, medical director of Apothecare Ann Arbor, recently completed UVM’s Cannabis Science and Medicine Professional Certificate in order to provide the best level of care to her patients.
“As a physician, I wanted to know what is the evidence-based medicine behind (cannabis)? That’s what this course provided. It was a review of things I already knew, and a lot of information that helped fill in the gaps,” she says. “Now, I feel like I can provide a very high level of care and information for my patients.”
UVM Robert Larner College of Medicine is the first medical school in the nation to offer a professional certificate in cannabis and medicine. The seven-week online cannabis certification is designed for physicians, dispensary personnel, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, physician assistants, and regulators.
Trained at the University of Michigan Hospitals, Dr. Profera retired from her successful 23-year career as a primary care pediatrician in 2015 to open her own private practice to focus on aesthetics and lifestyle medicine.
“As a bio-chem geek, I got interested in whole-plant medicine and helping people with more natural solutions for better health and wellness, instead of writing prescriptions all the time for synthetic medications,” she says. “I got interested in essential oils, and the biochemistry of all that. A lot of people were asking me about cannabis medicine because not a lot of doctors have a background in it.”
Dr. Profera initially learned about CBD in the context of pediatric seizures and continued to do research about cannabis, as well as consult clients and work with a local grow facility. But it wasn’t until she was approached by the owners of Apothecare to join the dispensary—which opened in January 2020—that she decided to go back to school.
“I had a lot of knowledge, but I wanted some credentials behind it,” she says. “Our goal at Apothecare is to be the premier dispensary in Ann Arbor, to help patients, and go the extra mile to help them with their specific concerns. We want patients to understand the endocannabinoid system and understand modes of administration.”
A Flexible Online Cannabis Program Offered by the UVM College of Medicine
Offered by UVM’s Department of Pharmacology at the Larner College of Medicine, the non-credit, fully online program covers cannabis history, business, law and policy, plant biology, biological effects on humans, production and safety, pharmacology, and clinical research.
“When I was in medical school 30 years ago, no one taught cannabis,” Dr. Profera says. “The expertise at UVM is unparalleled as there isn’t really anything like this at any other university. The clincher for me is that the UVM program is at a medical school. I was looking for something that I could hang my hat on, and as an MD, say ‘I have these extra credentials.’”
Colleague Angelina Bielby, a staff support member at Apothecare, says Dr. Profera’s UVM credential and her decades of experience in medicine are helping more people in the Ann Arbor community unlock medicinal benefits from reliable cannabis products. Apothecare directs customers to Dr. Profera when they want to obtain a medical card or get detailed advice about using cannabis for medicine.
“She guides patients through the state med card application process, which could otherwise seem daunting to those unfamiliar with it. Her patients really appreciate the time she takes with them,” Bielby says. “Since April, she has helped more than 100 patients get their Michigan med cards. Her expert advice goes a long way toward lending credibility and removing the stigma around cannabis.”
With the UVM Cannabis and Medicine certificate under her belt, Dr. Profera believes the credential sets Apothecare apart from other dispensaries in the Michigan area. While other dispensaries are not only focused on recreational use, she points out that bud-tenders tend to share anecdotal information with customers.
“I’m really looking for a different level of credibility and ethicacy. As a physician, I want to do no harm, give people the best advice, and I want to understand the difference between whole-plant and full-spectrum products vs. synthetics, isolates, or things that have been processed or altered in such a way because I really feel strongly that the whole plant is what our endocannabinoid system needs. So, yes, I think (the credential) is distinguishing our dispensary as a big notch above. It’s setting the bar high.”
Learn more about UVM’s Cannabis Science and Medicine Professional Certificate
Editor’s note: This article was originally posted in 2020 and has been revamped and updated.