Entrepreneurial alumnus Robert Nickell has many irons in the pharmaceutical fire

It’s a challenge keeping up with Robert P. Nickell ’81, BS Pharm. At 63, Nickell continues to pursue multiple entrepreneurial and pharmaceutical ventures and keeping straight his many efforts can be difficult.

His ongoing connection to the sporting world is about to revive one of his previous business endeavors: SportPharm. Scheduled for a relaunch in 2024, the privately owned company will create, manufacture and distribute prescription and over-the-counter medications for athletes and other patients.

SportPharm will join his existing companies – Enovachem Pharmaceuticals, Pharmco Inc. and Nubratori RX – operating in an industrial park in Torrance. Nickell currently manufactures over-the-counter items such as specialized injection kits; creates and produces 10 different over-the-counter and prescription medications that are sold to hospitals, doctors and pharmacies; operates a 50,000-square-foot campus staffed by 75 employees with experience in academia, finance, research, pharmaceuticals and regulatory affairs; and develops, produces and sell specialized medications, including topical creams, rubs, lotions and sprays designed to treat athletes, orthopedic and injured patients.

It’s all possible because Nickell is the only U.S. pharmacist to own and manage the top three state and Food and Drug Administration-licensed drug distribution services: a national FDA manufacturing license, national mail order 503A pharmacy compounding license and coveted FDA-registered 503B outsourcing facility license.

A serial entrepreneur, he began his career as a second-generation family pharmacist who first worked at B&B Pharmacy, his father’s Norwalk drugstore. He believes his work extends the business lessons he learned from his father – experiences that still color his every business transaction.

“I saw how my dad interacted with patients, doctors and the community,” Nickell said. “He took care of people, and he ran the business. The rewards of the business were the first thing that hooked me.

“I’m passionate about what I do,” he adds. “I have had a lot of bumps and bruises along the way; I’ve made mistakes and failed and fallen. But I don’t ever give up.”

SportsPharm began as a tracking, distribution and analytical system for athletic trainers.

“But as I built it, I ended up tracking medications both on- and off-season, each athlete’s injuries and treatments,” he recalls. “We were able to start doing audits with annual controls, and it kept growing.”
Nickell’s reputation led to word-of-mouth advertising among leaders in sports including the NFL, MLB, NHL and NBA – virtually every professional sport.

Ultimately, he connected with the medical director for the U.S. 2002 Winter Olympics. After becoming the official sports pharmacist for the U.S. teams in those games, he served in the same capacity for the much larger 2004 Summer Olympics.

Some of that work involved setting up dispensaries, obtaining exceptions from the host country to import certain medications and ensuring athletes got the necessary treatment.

Nickell worked in the Olympics again in 2006. In 2008, he and his wife, Katy, headed to Beijing to be the first husband-and-wife Olympic pharmacist team. But when they learned they were expecting their first child, he decided to make some changes.

He sold the business when he was approached by a buyer who wanted to expand SportPharm internationally; it failed within two years. Still, he’s confident that SportPharm can again succeed.

“As a compounding pharmacist, I still have the formulations,” Nickell notes. “Now I can manufacture them in the lab and bring them to market. I’m chomping at the bit to get out there and start selling again.”

Nickell has been honored and has served many organizations. As a student, he was president of the Student Pharmacists Association and was an officer in the Phi Delta Chi pharmacy fraternity. A proud Pacific alumnus, he has served on the Dean’s Leadership Council, is a founder of the School’s Entrepreneurial Pharmacy Practice Program and serves on the program’s Board of Governors.

Nickell is a past president of the California Pharmacists Association and former honoree as Pharmacist of the Year and Innovator Pharmacist of the Year. He has taught pharmaceutical compounding at the University of Southern California for 10 years.

He also has served on the Entrepreneurs Organization board and is on the Foundation Board for the Alliance for Pharmacy Compounding. Nickell serves on the editorial advisory board of the Sports Pharmacy Journal and is the only pharmacist who’s an honorary National Athletic Training Association member.

Nickell says his father’s lessons live on in his businesses, where loyal staff members are rewarded with competitive pay and a friendly environment. “I have sisters, mothers and daughters and grandkids of families all working for me,” he notes. “It’s still like a mom-and-pop family business.

“After all, I was raised in a corner drugstore.”

Editor’s Note: This is the second and final story about Robert P. Nickell ’81, BS Pharm and his career at the intersection of sports and pharmacy.

Pharmacy alumnus humbled by Hall of Fame honor

Christopher Allen Woo ’88, PharmD, FCPhA can add another recognition to his list of commendations—induction into the California Pharmacy Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame recognizes individuals who set the gold standard for the practice of pharmacy.

“I am honored, humbled and still in a state of shock,” said Dr. Woo. “To be included within the ranks of leaders who I personally met and knew of when I was a UOP student—people such as Don Floriddia [’71], Colleen Carter [’76], Charles Green [’68], Jeff Jellin [’74], Clark Gustafson [’66], Royce Friesen [’65], Ralph Saroyan [’64], Wilma Wong, Lee Meyer [’73], Michael Pastrick [’73] and Phil Oppenheimer—is incredible.”

His many accolades include Pharmacy Foundation of California president in 2006, California Pharmacists Association (CPhA) Pharmacist of the Year in 2005, CPhA president in 1999 and CPhA Distinguished New Practitioner of the Year in 1992.

Dr. Woo views engaging with professional organizations as an integral part of being a pharmacist.

“Being active and involved in the profession made me a better pharmacist, created a larger network of pharmacist colleagues and peers, and was just plain fun,” he said.

An enthusiastic San Diego Comic-Con attendee, he believes the message of the power of teamwork should not be limited to the pages of comic books. It is essential in the world of health care as well. Dr. Woo encourages his fellow pharmacists to become “informed, participatory and well-rounded,” for their professional growth and for the benefit of the patients they serve.

Since 2013, Dr. Woo has been an inspector for the California State Board of Pharmacy. Through this role, he carries out the Board’s mission of promoting the health and safety of Californians by pursuing the highest quality of pharmacist care and appropriate medication use.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, he took a leave to serves as a clinical volunteer for the Federal Emergency Management Agency at immunization sites in Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico and Virginia.

“It definitely expanded my worldview, and was rewarding at such an uncertain time,” he said.

Prior to his role as an inspector, Dr. Woo spent 25 years in various hospital and community practice sites. Of all the roles he has had within the pharmacy profession, the one he has found most fulfilling was serving as a preceptor. Empowering others to reach their potential is his superpower.

“There was nothing quite like precepting pharmacy rotation students, which I did for 23 years,” he said. “My single, personal, greatest preceptor victory came after I had a community pharmacy rotation student who had not completed the American Pharmacists Association immunization administration certificate program because she could not bring herself to stick someone with a needle. We discussed this issue over the course of the rotation and how it would affect her career as a pharmacist.”

When Dr. Woo interacted with the student several months later, he was delighted to learn she had overcome her fears and was now able to immunize patients.

Dr. Woo remembers fondly his experiences as a student. Highlights of his time at Pacific include “get-togethers at the Kappa Psi Pharmaceutical Fraternity house on 236 West Stadium, studying in the Rotunda and making lifelong friends.”

His ideal vacation would be spent taking photos at Comic-Con or taking his wife, Denise, son, Johnathan, daughter, Ashley, and granddaughter, Rose, to Disneyland to experience the magic together.

Veteran Pacific leader Berit Gundersen named dean

Berit P. Gundersen ’84, PharmD a well-respected professor, mentor and executive leader at the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy at University of the Pacific, has been named dean of her alma mater. Dean Gundersen has served the University for the past 36 years as a faculty member, program director, vice provost and, for the past year, the School’s interim dean.

“Berit has done a tremendous job leading the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy over the past year, and I am thrilled she will continue to serve as dean,” President Christopher Callahan said. “She has a deep understanding of our school and its students. I am confident she will continue to elevate the exceptional education our students receive to ensure Pacific is graduating the best-prepared pharmacists who go on to become leaders in their field.”

Dean Gundersen earned her doctor of pharmacy from University of the Pacific in 1984. She joined Pacific as an assistant clinical professor in 1986 and earned full professorship in 2005. During her tenure as faculty, she was instrumental in spearheading initiatives that developed a program for pharmacy students to become immunizers—one of the first in the nation. Additionally, her efforts helped launch a smoking cessation program further demonstrating the school’s commitment to patient care.

“It is an honor and privilege to work with our outstanding students, faculty and staff,” Dean Gundersen said. “Pacific has been my home for more than three decades and I am committed to building and expanding programs that support student success and cultivate leaders who are dedicated to patient care.”

Under Dean Gundersen’s leadership, the School recently announced an immersive, three-week pharmacy licensure preparation program. Rx for Success is the first program of its kind, aiming to better prepare students for the state and national exams required to practice as pharmacists in California.

Prior to serving as interim dean, she held various roles in the provost’s office from 2007 to 2018, including assistant provost and vice provost. During this time, Dean Gundersen played a key role in the founding of the School of Health Sciences and worked closely with faculty to successfully launch four new academic programs in 2020: social work, clinical nutrition, occupational therapy and nursing. Dean Gundersen also led the successful accreditation of Pacific’s entry level master of science in nursing program.

Pacific remembers Professor Emeritus Donald Y. Shirachi

Donald Y. Shirachi ’60, PhD

Aug. 8, 1932 – April 21, 2023

The life of Professor Emeritus Donald Y. Shirachi ’60, PhD can be characterized by a relentless pursuit of knowledge and a steadfast support of students.

Born in Watsonville in 1932, at age 10, he and his family, along with other Japanese American families, were detained in internment camps during World War II. After the war, his family returned to Watsonville, where he finished high school. After graduating, he served in the U.S. Navy.

Dr. Shirachi earned his bachelor of science in pharmacy from University of the Pacific in 1960, his master of science in pharmacology from University of California, San Francisco in 1965 and his doctor of philosophy in pharmacology from Purdue University in 1968. After completing a U.S. Public Health postdoctoral research fellowship at UC San Francisco, he joined the Pacific faculty in 1971.

He taught at Pacific until 1993. In recognition of his years teaching and mentoring students, Dr. Shirachi was awarded the Order of Pacific, the University’s highest honor. He is particularly remembered among alumni for teaching the physiology and pharmacology of endocrine function.

Students who interacted with him over the years, in the classroom or at the annual scholarship ceremony, remember him as an attentive listener and keen researcher. Dr. Shirachi’s research was funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for almost a decade to investigate the carcinogenic potential of arsenic in drinking water. He also extensively researched the neuropharmacology of hyperbaric medicine, the use of air pressure to raise the level of oxygen in a patient’s body for therapeutic purposes.

His legacy will continue through the endowed scholarships established in his honor by Frank and Joyce Roscoe.

Pharmacy research could revolutionize treatment for opioid overdoses

(L-R) Md Tariqul Haque Tuhin ’22, PhD, Hala Aldawod ’24 and Dengpan Liang ’22, PhD

A University of the Pacific pharmacy professor is receiving a prestigious $1.7 million federal grant to discover a better antidote for opioid overdoses.

Mamoun M. Alhamadsheh, PhD, professor of pharmaceutics and medicinal chemistry, is only the third Pacific professor in more than 20 years to receive an R01—the highest level of competitive research grants from the National Institutes of Health.

“This is the highest achievement in biomedical research at Pacific that all scientists dream about,” said Professor William K. Chan, chair of the Department of Pharmaceutics and Medicinal Chemistry.

With a team of graduate students, Dr. Alhamadsheh is working to discover a more potent and longer lasting antidote for opioid overdoses. The research is urgently needed. Illicit synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, account for about two thirds of drug overdose deaths in the United States.

“Current antidotes are not very effective with synthetic opioids because the opioids stay in the body much longer than the antidotes, which causes people to relapse and stop breathing again,” Dr. Alhamadsheh said. “That’s why many patients may require multiple doses of the antidote after the initial rescue.”

(L-R) Md Tariqul Haque Tuhin ’22, Rasha Emara ’24, Dengpan Liang ’22, Mamoun M. Alhamadsheh, PhD, Arjun Patel ’24, Avishan Kiani ’25 and Hala Aldawod ’24

The team, including graduate students Hala Aldawod ’24, Joshua Ho ’23, PharmD, Arjun Patel ’24 and Rasha Emara ’24 and recent graduates Dengpan Liang ’22, PhD and Md Tariqul Haque Tuhin ’22, PhD is working to extend the duration of antidotes in the body for 24 hours or more using antidotes already approved by the Food and Drug Administration—naloxone, known as Narcan, and nalmefene.

Aldawod provided the majority of the preliminary data using a novel drug delivery approach previously discovered by Dr. Alhamadsheh. Aldawod optimized the technology for countering overdoses by designing a new molecule that stays in the body and releases the antidote slowly rather than all at once.

“The significance of this finding is tremendous. This is the first time someone has increased the half-life of naloxone, while maintaining its full efficacy. The beauty of our approach is that we are empowering drugs that are already approved by the FDA,” Dr. Alhamadsheh said.

Aldawod was drawn to the research after learning of the dramatic increase in overdose deaths among high school students in the United States, which has more than doubled since 2019.

“Many of these kids were taking pills that they thought were Xanax, not knowing it was laced with fentanyl. I want to do something to protect these kids from overdoses,” Aldawod said.

The team is currently optimizing the technology to eventually allow for moving the lead antidotes to clinical trials.

“Our findings have the potential to lead to an opioid antidote that goes to the market and helps people, so that’s the dream,” Aldawod said.

The team’s findings are expected to be published later this year.

Regional Coordinator of the Year Award recognizes Yong S.K. Moon

For 25 years and counting, Yong S. K. Moon, PharmD, associate professor of pharmacy practice and regional coordinator for Los Angeles/Long Beach, continues to be enthusiastic about her work and her students. Dr. Moon was named Regional Coordinator of the Year by the Class of 2023. The annual award honors Dr. Moon’s enthusiasm, professionalism and dedication to the third-year doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) students in her region.

“My work still feels fresh and new,” said Dr. Moon. “I love working with students and training them so that they reach their full potential.

“In my line of work I can see them growing as a whole person,” she adds. “I get a new batch of students each year and every student is different.”

As one of 17 regional coordinators, Dr. Moon recognizes her ability to motivate students to achieve professional excellence and her role as a model pharmacist. The award acknowledges Dr. Moon’s skill in coordinating professional experiences tailored to the needs of each student—supporting her students during their Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience rotations and preparing them for other professional opportunities.

“It’s truly an honor to have the job I have,” she observes. “It’s wonderful to be recognized for work I’ve been doing for a long time.

“I don’t need awards because I already love my work,” she notes. “But it’s so nice that the students have thought highly of me. I’m happy and flattered.” She believes that every regional coordinator deserves the award.

“I’m grateful for all the people I work with and for,” she says. “I feel well-supported by all my administrative staff and colleagues. They are the best people to work with.”

“In my line of work I can see them growing as a whole person. I get a new batch of students each year and every student is different.”

She loves working in academia, “there’s a lot of variety, with teaching, service and research.” She also appreciates University of the Pacific’s specific approach to learning.

“I have 15 students, a very small group to work with, in their final year of rotation; they get an individualized experience based on their career needs,” she says. “That student-centered philosophy sets the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy apart.

“I believe we have one of the best experiential learning programs in the country,” she continues. “It allows students to find their calling.”

She hopes to share with her students a love of pharmacy, which she calls “a great field with many opportunities.” She appreciates the opportunity to see her students grow into pharmacy professionals.

“Pharmacy is such a great profession,” she declares. “You can make an impact as an individual, making changes in policy at a hospital or in a health care system, and there’s a variety of things you can do with your degree—working in different specialties or in different inpatient, outpatient, managed care or corporate settings.

“Pharmacy also provides a good work-life balance.”

In particular, she finds working for the VA Long Beach Healthcare System fulfilling because she serves the veterans who served our country. “I did my training here as a resident pharmacist, so this has become my home away from home.”

“Helping veterans is rewarding in itself,” she added. In this environment, she feels like she is working with friends rather than patients.

Dr. Moon observes VA patients welcome interactions with students and residents.

“It’s a good place to develop relationships between clinicians, students and patients. It’s rewarding to see the students working with the patients and getting excited about ambulatory care.”

Carly A. Ranson is honored with top teaching award for the first time

For Carly A. Ranson ’13, ’17, PharmD, MS, BCGP, assistant professor of pharmacy practice and director of pharmacy co-curricular programming, her selection as Teacher of the Year by the Class of 2023 has special meaning.

“This year’s honor is especially gratifying because these students were with me through all the pandemic bumps, issues, delays and beta tests of our new co-curricular platform, and they were so gracious,” said Dr. Ranson. “They grew with me, seeing me on my best and worst days, so this award is humbling.”

This is the first time Dr. Ranson has been so honored.

“I was absolutely, completely shocked at the award,” Dr. Ranson remembers. “Being selected is validating—it indicates that I’m doing something right. It means that I can learn and grow with students in a meaningful way,” she continues. “After all, the only reason we are here is to serve the students.”

Graduating class members select the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy’s Teacher of the Year and Runner-Up Teacher of the Year by ranking the top five full-time faculty who were impactful to them. The Teacher of the Year leads the procession into the School’s Diploma and Hooding Ceremony and leads the graduating class in the Oath of a Pharmacist, a tradition for the nation’s pharmacy schools.

“I’m driven to help students find their passion and achieve it whatever path that takes. It’s about helping them find the same drive I’ve found in academia.”

Dr. Ranson considers her award as positive reinforcement that students see and appreciate her efforts toward exceptional teaching.

“All the late nights, and all the hard work, are not going in the wrong direction,” she said. “It’s comforting to know that I’m doing something right.”

Dr. Ranson shared Michael J. Fox’s autobiography inspired her to pursue a career in pharmacy; she was fascinated with his explanation of Parkinson’s disease and how medications affect his ability to function. She was driven to learn about medications and their role in managing diseases and their symptoms and decided to volunteer at a local hospital. There, she discovered the pharmacy profession was a good fit. During her early years in her clinical role at Tehachapi Valley Healthcare District she participated in monthly educational spots to teach nurses and physicians about various topics, which generated compliments from the staff, inspiring her to return to Pacific for the Pharmacy Practice Fellowship and ultimately for a teaching position.

Today, Dr. Ranson is actively involved in Pacific’s Medicare Part D Outreach Clinics and credits much of her success to the experiences she gained in the program, both as a student and an educator. Through her role at Pacific, she hopes to help students find their voice and passion in the pharmacy profession.

“I teach not only to help students be successful, although that’s important; I’m driven to help students find their passion and achieve it whatever path that takes,” she explains. “It’s about helping them find the same drive I’ve found in academia.”

She says colleagues like Rajul A. Patel ’01, ’06, PharmD, PhD, professor of pharmacy practice, and other faculty members involved in the Medicare Part D Outreach Clinics, are her mentors.

“I remember as a student wanting to be like them—they are innovative, kind, funny and experts in their field,” she recalls. “Dr. Patel is my biggest inspiration. Every time I question what I’m doing or my approach, I try to look at my work through the lens of people like him.”

As each new group of students challenges her to remain sharp and informed, she attains new knowledge and tries new approaches. “The students force you to look at things differently,” she said. “I appreciate the opportunity to learn from them,” she adds.

Indeed, her students are a key motivator as she strives to attain excellence. “This group of students as a whole is so impressive to me,” she observes. “Their appreciation and kindness gets me through projects that seem too big to handle.”

She believes the 2023 Teacher of the Year award will drive her teaching efforts even further.

“I want to make sure I continue to emulate it and to earn the title moving forward. I do not take this award lightly and am incredibly grateful to have been chosen by such a resilient group of students.”

Faculty award holds special meaning for professor and father William K. Chan

William K. Chan, PharmD, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Pharmaceutics and Medicinal Chemistry, is the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy’s Runner-Up Teacher of the Year.

This year’s honor is one of many awards Dr. Chan has received since joining the faculty in 1996, but he finds the 2023 designation especially meaningful. His daughter, Allyson Chan ’23, is a member of the Class of 2023 and will be earning her doctor of pharmacy. After Commencement she is headed to Southern California, where she matched with a PGY1 residency at Loma Linda University Health.

“I’m particularly honored since my daughter is in this graduating class,” said Dr. Chan. “It has been a very good experience teaching my daughter, although I have been careful to treat her like any other student.”

Graduating class members select the School’s Teacher of the Year and Runner-Up annually by ranking their top five faculty. The honor includes full-time faculty members, except those who have received the award in the past two years.

Dr. Chan says that earning this year’s Runner-Up award validates his teaching excellence and is a welcome honor.

“With this award, you know that the students appreciate what you have done,” he notes. “It’s a statement that what I’m doing is good and that the students respect my teaching.”

“It’s encouraging,” he continues, “and it helps me to be a better teacher. I believe that I should do my best, whatever I’m doing, so I’m grateful that this award confirms I’m at my best.”

“With this award, you know that the students appreciate what you have done. It’s a statement that what I’m doing is good and that the students respect my teaching.”

Doctor of pharmacy students meet Dr. Chan their first semester in the Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry course. Dr. Chan says he is humbled and honored to be 2023 Runner-Up Teacher of the Year, because this year’s graduating class was in the first semester of the pharmacy program right in the middle of the pandemic. “I had to change the way I taught,” he remembers.

As classes went entirely virtual, he couldn’t develop the close, one-on-one relationships with students he usually pursued. He believes personal relationships are a critical part of the active learning process, adding that he assesses students’ thinking and learning during office hours. “Then I can see their confusion and help them learn effectively,” he explains. “A lot of learning is students coming in individually and me spending time with them.”

“I love teaching,” Dr. Chan continues. “Since I have a pharmacy background and am blessed with the ability to teach, I want to give back to the School of Pharmacy.”

Dr. Chan works to attract funding for his lab and enjoys collaborating with his fellow faculty members. For over 25 years, Dr. Chan has been on a quest to better understand aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) protein levels. This receptor is involved in cancer, autoimmune diseases, lung diseases and diabetes—his goal is to contribute to the development of targeted pharmaceutical therapies. In 2020, Dr. Chan received a $382,000 NIH grant allowing him to continue his research on AHR.

“Pacific is a great school for me,” he adds, “because I can not only teach but also do research.”

PharmD graduates receive national recognitions

Since 1955, the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy has been training pharmacists who are innovators and leaders.

Continuing the legacy of excellence, Pacific’s doctor of pharmacy Class of 2023 have been recognized for their leadership, academic achievement and commitment to patient care.

Academy of Student Pharmacists Mortar and Pestle Professionalism Award

For a graduating senior who exhibits characteristics inherent in a professional.

Benson Leung

Alpha Psi Education, Scholarship and Leadership Foundation/Helen Rowland Scholarship

For a pharmacy graduate who has demonstrated extraordinary service and unique leadership within the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy, in memory of the wife of Ivan W. Rowland, founding dean and Alpha Psi, Phi Delta Chi chapter founder.

Kathleen Gani

American Pharmacists Association – Academy of Student Pharmacists Senior Recognition Award

For a graduating senior who has most contributed to the local chapter.

Celine Marie Chandler

Award of Excellence in Clinical Communication Sponsored by Wolters Kluwer Clinical Drug Information

For a graduating senior who demonstrates high academic achievement and outstanding communication skills.

Allyson Peace Chan

California Society of Health-System Pharmacists Central Valley Award

For graduating seniors who have demonstrated high academic achievement and service to the Central Valley.

Klara Minji Kim
Crystal Wong

Excellence in Building Community Award

For a graduating senior who demonstrated an ability to work collaboratively and strengthen communities of all types.

An BaoHien Tran

Excellence in Dedication Award

For a graduating senior who demonstrated extraordinary perseverance and dedication in the face of unexpected circumstances.

Tiger Fong Saelee

Excellence in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award

For a graduating senior who has shown outstanding leadership through a community service innovation, internship or scholarly research effort benefiting an economically, linguistically or otherwise diverse service population.

Sean Michael McNary

Excellence in Innovation Award

For a graduating senior who demonstrated a strong ability to develop and implement novel approaches to challenges facing pharmacy today.

Noah Ryan Jacala

Excellence in National and International Contributions Award

For a graduating senior who demonstrated outstanding service with a domestic or global emphasis.

Carissa C. Leung

Excellence in Patient Advocacy Award

For a graduating senior who brought attention to the pharmacist’s role in serving the health care needs of special populations.

Jeffrey Chen Jr.

Excellence in Promoting Unity, Equity and Service Award

For a graduating senior who exhibited dedication to their classmates by providing leadership in the creation of a culture of unity, collegiality and service to the School.

Sara Tran

Excellence in Youth Mentorship Award

For a graduating senior who demonstrated a commitment to mentor the youth in our community and provide unique opportunities for youth to explore higher education and health care professions.

Tanner Joseph Weaver

MERCK and Company Incorporated Award

For graduating seniors who have demonstrated high academic achievement in pharmacy studies.

Allyson Peace Chan
Jeffrey Chen Jr.
Karen Bui Giang
Sean Michael McNary
Trang Thuy Nguyen

Norman Silva Scholarship San Joaquin Pharmacists Association Award

For a graduating senior who has demonstrated achievement and service to the School and the profession.

Celine Marie Chandler

Rho Chi Award

For a graduating senior who has achieved the highest GPA and who has shown excellent leadership.

Cherry Deng

“Spirit of Pacific” Award

For a graduating senior who dedicated their time, talent and resources to help further the mission of the School.

Celine Marie Chandler

Viatris Excellence in Pharmacy Award

For a graduating senior in the top 25 percent academically who intends to enter practice upon graduation and demonstrates high personal motivation and possess a unique ability to communicate drug information.

Cherry Deng

Alumnus shares his four loves — family, pharmacy, theater and baseball

Alumnus Bill Yee

William “Bill” Yee ’83, PharmD, FASHP, FCSHP credits the theater for changing the trajectory of his life. Originally from Alameda, he planned on returning to the Bay Area after earning his doctor of pharmacy but acting in “The King and I” at San Joaquin Delta College gave him a reason to stay in Stockton. A few years later, he met his wife, Kimberlee, while working behind the scenes of Stockton Civic Theatre’s production of “Into the Woods.”

For 32 years Dr. Yee served in various roles at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Stockton, including clinic coordinator from 1989 to 2012 and director of pharmacy from 2012 to 2016. He is currently a lead ambulatory care pharmacist in the oncology department at Kaiser Permanente in Stockton, a role centered on patient care.

“I get to see patients on a regular basis and help them through one of the most challenging and emotional times of their life,” he said.

William “Bill” Yee ’83, PharmD, FASHP, FCSHP named CSHP-Central Valley Kelli Haase Memorial Pharmacist of the Year

Dr. Yee received the 2023 Kelli Haase Memorial Pharmacist of the Year Award from the Central Valley chapter of the California Society of Health-System Pharmacists (CSHP), in recognition of his contributions to the profession and his commitment to the community. The honor holds special significance as it is named in honor of his former colleague, Kelli Ann Haase ’88, PharmD.

Actively engaging with CSHP has significantly impacted Dr. Yee both personally and professionally. In addition to providing networking opportunities which developed into lifelong friendships, he had a tradition of attending the annual CSHP seminar with his father-in-law, Gilbert Castillo ’76, ’79, PharmD.

“Some fathers-in-law and sons-in-law bond through fishing trips, we bonded through pharmacy meetings,” he said.

Dr. Castillo’s successful career included roles at Scenic General Hospital in Modesto and Green Brothers Pharmacy, as well as several positions as a pharmacist within the correctional system and for San Joaquin County. He also served on the California Board of Pharmacy as a board member and supervising inspector.

“To be honest, I was initially intimidated by Gilbert,” Dr. Yee said. “I first knew him when I was a student, and he was a member of the Board of Pharmacy and someone who wrote questions for the Board exam. Later, when I met my wife, I got to know him as a person and as a pharmacist. I miss him terribly and attending meetings without him is just not the same.”

“Pacific has meant so much to me. I was the first in my family to go away to college and the first to complete a professional degree.”

Pacific has been a through line in his life since the first time he stepped foot on campus. Dr. Yee continues to stay connected by serving as an Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience preceptor. Through this role he has helped train future pharmacists for almost four decades.

“Pacific has meant so much to me,” he said. “I was the first in my family to go away to college and the first to complete a professional degree. Initially, my parents didn’t want me to go away, but after touring the campus and meeting faculty, they agreed to let me attend college here. I credit Ralph Saroyan [’64] in winning my mom over, he’s the reason why I got to attend Pacific!”

One of his favorite ways to spend time with family is at the ballpark.

“I have been an Oakland A’s fan since they moved to the Bay Area in 1968,” he said. “Going to the ballpark is a great way to put the pharmacy brain in neutral and cheer on the team that has been a part of my life for the past 50 plus years. Going to the ballpark is a complete experience. Besides the game, it’s the atmosphere, the aromas of ballpark foods and commiserating with fellow fans.”

While Dr. Yee continues to excel in his career as a pharmacist, theater remains a notable aspect of his life. Being a part of the ensemble for the musical “Something Rotten!” at Stockton Civic Theatre was a notable occasion as it marked his 50th performance in a local production. His most memorable roles include Patsy from Monty Python’s “Spamalot,” Stanley in “Caught in the Net” and Wally in “The 1940s Radio Hour.”

Pharmacy leader Michael Conner offers networking tips

Standout pharmacist and industry leader Michael Conner ’12, PharmD, Global MBA is using his position as president-elect of the California Pharmacists Association (CPhA) to advocate for the pharmacy profession. Dr. Conner is the regional pharmacy services manager for the Fresno Regional Office of California Correctional Health Care Services and owner and coach for Conner Consulting.

He and his wife, Jennifer Conner ’13, PharmD, who works at the Valley Children’s Home Infusion in Fresno, are raising their family in the Central Valley.

Dr. Conner has built a wide, effective network including faculty, students, Pacific alumni, industry leaders and other pharmacists. He notes that CPhA’s upcoming Western Pharmacy Exchange, April 28-30 in Las Vegas, provides pharmacists with a wealth of networking opportunities. And because the event is open to California pharmacists and industry professionals from Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah, 700 to 800 participants are expected.

Dr. Conner will be formally inducted as CPhA president at Western Pharmacy Exchange on April 29.

Tried-and-true networking tips for both students and seasoned professionals

Q. What is your advice for those who find networking intimidating?

Dr. Conner: Asking an experienced friend, colleague or mentor to introduce you to a few people initially is a good way to get your feet wet.

Second, come in with the right mindset. Often your thoughts of shyness or insecurity will color your interactions. Instead, come in wanting to make solid connections. With that mindset you can start meeting and clicking with people. 

Look beyond the profession – it’s guaranteed that whatever your interest is, whether it’s gaming, intramural sports or pickleball, you’ll find another pharmacist who shares that interest.

Third, the setting of a conference room or cocktail party can be intimidating, it requires energy. Realizing people are willing to open up and introduce you to others is helpful.

Lastly, strong body language and good posture, standing up tall, increases serotonin and makes you appear confident.

Once you meet a few people, you realize you can network.

Michael Conner ’12, PharmD, Global MBA (center) with his mentors, Donald G. Floriddia ’71, PhD (left) and Ralph L. Saroyan ’64, RPh (right)

Q. How can you use conferences and other professional events to build your network?

Dr. Conner: Before I walk into conference events I remind myself why I am there. I try to convert my nervousness into excitement – enthusiasm for meeting new people and learning new things. Once past the initial icebreaking phase, asking good questions and listening well to others are the keys to successful relationship-building.

Go into the conference knowing you want to learn more. You may have some questions in mind, but don’t limit spontaneity — you’ll have the chance to make connections you didn’t anticipate.

Once home, make the time to join and become active in professional organizations. Attend events locally and regionally and maintain occasional contact with your newfound colleagues.

People like being asked for their professional advice. While you might be nervous calling someone for the first time, remind them where you met and ask for their advice on their area of expertise.
Q. What are effective ways to nurture relationships with new contacts after the conference ends?

Dr. Conner: I like to send a follow-up email to the folks I’ve met.

Facebook and LinkedIn provide ready ways to maintain contact with hundreds of people. If your purpose statement and background are succinct and well-written, it will help contacts learn more about you.

Q. Why is it important to get involved?

Dr. Conner: The pharmacy profession will only truly transform if we can unify and [successfully pass new legislation]. My vision as incoming president is for strong governance and leadership, so our members will have an effective voice.

With engaged and active members, our organization offers a host of leadership and mentoring opportunities across the state, as well as continuing education credits. Just as our Pacific degrees open many doors and provide diverse contacts, CPhA offers opportunities to work together toward common goals professionally, educationally and politically. One example is Advocacy Day, planned for March 8, in Sacramento.

Q. Why should you give back to the profession?

Dr. Conner: As pharmacists, we take an oath to advocate for public health and our patients above all. Our patients need a voice, and we have a unique opportunity – we are in every town, including in rural communities – where we are best situated to advocate for them.

Surveys show that more than 80 percent of people found their jobs through personal connections. When you are engaged and giving back, you have a sense of autonomy and ownership in what you do; that’s the key to being happy as a pharmacist.

Alumnus Robert Nickell doesn’t rest on his laurels – he forges new ground

His accomplishments span myriad industries, from medicine and pharmacy to sports and dietary supplements. He’s a legacy pharmacist, innovator, entrepreneur, medical researcher, pharmaceutical manufacturer, software designer and owner of multiple successful businesses – with more ideas on tap. Indeed, proud Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy alumnus Robert P. Nickell ’81, BS Pharm is as compelling as the sum of his many divergent parts.

It all started in the humble aisles of what Nickell remembers as his father’s “original corner drug store,” complete with over-the-counter and prescription medications, sundry goods and a soda fountain. Located in Norwalk, the business involved the whole family. From the time he was in third grade, Nickell earned money sweeping floors and, later, typing medication labels. His father, J.B., was a University of New Mexico graduate who studied pharmacy on the G.I. Bill and founded B&B pharmacy in Southern California, his growing family in tow. It turned out that Nickell was a go-getter driven to take over his father’s business and create many others in related fields.

“My older brother wasn’t interested in the drug store, but it looked like a pretty good life to me,” recalled Nickell. “University of the Pacific had a program where you could get a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy, and it fit – I always knew I wanted to be a pharmacist and a businessman.”

At 22 years old, he “hit the ground running,” ultimately taking over as manager of the pharmacy and ultimately owning his father’s store.

Today, Nickell, lives in Manhattan Beach with his wife, Kathleen “Katy” Gallion Nickell, PharmD. He has seven children from two marriages and one grandchild but is far from retired.

In fact, he’s reviving his SportPharm business – featuring new pharmaceuticals, including compound products designed specifically for athletes. It is the latest iteration of the highly successful company that he began as part of his involvement with professional sports. For more than a dozen years, he managed medications for professional baseball, football and hockey teams across the country, as well as athletes on U.S. Olympic teams in four Olympic Games from 2002 through 2008.

The sports part of his business empire began when a neighbor, who knew an employee of then-Raiders’ owner Al Davis, introduced Nickell to the team’s athletic trainer.

“I became the official pharmacist for the Raiders, the Dodgers, the Orioles and then, the entire National Hockey League.”

“This is my dream job,” the trainer told him, “but I’m so worried. I don’t want to be on the news for all the wrong reasons.”

When the trainer confided about the team’s reported mismanaged, mislabeled and mistaken medications with little to no quality control, Nickell had an idea to help the trainer keep his job and assist the athletes in getting the medications they needed.

“I ultimately wrote a software program that managed medications – including coding the drugs, containing them in blister packs and instituting inventory controls,” he said. “I became the official pharmacist for the Raiders, the Dodgers, the Orioles and then, the entire National Hockey League.”

With a software program that also tracked injuries and could run a report on a given athlete, Nickell found himself with almost more work than he could handle, flying cross country from game to game.

Editor’s Note: This is the first of several stories about alumnus Robert P. Nickell ’81, BS Pharm and his professional life as a corner store pharmacist and founder of PHARMCO, GameRX, Enovache, Nubratori RX, SportPharm and other businesses. Please check out next month’s Dean’s Letter to hear more of Nickel’s story and meet other Pacific alumni.