Alumni Spotlight: John H. Acosta ’90, PharmD

“Pacific gave me a lot of confidence,” said John H. Acosta ’90, PharmD. “I believe Pacific prepares all students to enter their careers, the only limiting factor is themselves. I would encourage every student to explore every facet of pharmacy to find what interests them.”

A class that altered the trajectory of Dr. Acosta’s career was a business management course taught by Carl L. Vitalie, JD, PharmD. Dr. Acosta shares, “He opened my eyes — within pharmacy you can be a business person.” Before becoming a faculty member, Dr. Vitalie held several administrative roles in retail pharmacy, served on the California Board of Pharmacy and provided legal services for the American Pharmaceutical Association. According to Dean Emeritus Donald L. Sorby, PhD, “One of Carl’s lifelong goals was to be able to retire from the business world at an early age to begin a second career in pharmacy education.”

Dr. Acosta also remembers taking classes from Katherine Knapp, PhD; Donald Y. Barker, PhD; Patrick Catania ’68, PhD, RPh and Donald Floriddia ’71, PhD. Dr. Acosta has vivid memories of Dr. Floriddia’s class. “That class was something else,” Dr. Acosta shares. “Pharmacokinetics — that was the class you had to get through to graduate.”

He has many fond memories of his time at Pacific including “getting together with friends, playing basketball, eating sushi and going to the Bay Area.” He adds, “At Pacific all you have to do is cross the bridge and it’s a whole new world. I remember after finals we would go across campus and play a game of basketball. We would play with people we didn’t even know.”

Dr. Acosta worked at Kaiser Permanente before transitioning into a retail setting when he accepted a position at Thrifty, which was later acquired by Rite Aid Corporation. Dr. Acosta explains that Rite Aid offers employees professional development opportunities and they “expose pharmacy managers to aspects of business.” His supervisors at Rite Aid recognized his business acumen and a career opportunity arose. He declined the position because it required him to relocate and he was reluctant to uproot his family. He was later offered a position with Stater Bros. Supermarkets that allowed him to stay local and challenged him to learn new aspects of the industry.

“Even though I was a district manager with Rite Aid, there were stark differences with joining a small regional grocery chain,” Acosta said. He elaborates, “Working for a large chain they have resources. If one of my stores had an issue I would call the corporate office and hand over the problem.” Dr. Acosta enjoys the variety of his current role. He shares, “I have had to learn a lot of different aspects within pharmacy; that has been very invigorating.”

Dr. Acosta and his wife, Sarah, have two daughters, Christina and Ana Marie. “My wife is truly the pillar of my family. She is a wonderful woman, one of the most positive people I know. I believe much of the success we share as a family derives from her. She has taught our daughters that whatever they start they have to finish.”

Christina and Ana Marie have embraced that spirit of resolve and purposefulness. In 2013, from among the thousands of applicants for the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Royal Court, Ana Marie was named the 96th Rose Queen. Currently, Ana Marie is a pre-medical student at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Christina will soon be graduating from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, where she is a double major in human science and psychology. An avid traveler, Christina has visited several developing countries. On one of those trips the interactions she had with a pharmacist set her on a course to also pursue a career in pharmacy. Continuing the Acosta family’s legacy at Pacific, Christina will be joining the doctor of pharmacy class of 2020 in the fall.

Student Spotlight: Phillip Inouye ’19 and Esther Pugh ’19

Doctor of audiology (AuD) students Phillip Inouye ’19 and Esther Pugh ’19 were the recipients of the A. Stephenson/Parker Diversity in Audiology Endowed Scholarship.

Inouye is from Puyallup, Washington. He earned a bachelor of science in chemistry and a bachelor of science in health sciences from Whitworth University. Inouye has extensive experience with pediatric and geriatric populations through his work at the YMCA and Rockwood Retirement Communities. He enjoys spending his free time outdoors by hiking with friends, skiing or rock climbing.

Pugh is originally from the San Gabriel Valley in Southern California. She attended California State University, Northridge where she majored in communication disorders with an emphasis in audiology. Prior to her acceptance into the AuD program at Pacific she worked for several years as an audiology assistant and then as a hearing aid dispenser. She loves to travel and experiment with photography.

What led you to pursue a career in audiology?

Inouye: “I’ve always enjoyed the health care field, particularly improving the quality of life for patients. Audiology allows me to do this on a daily basis.”

Pugh: “Being able to work with people to find treatments and options that can improve their daily quality of life is very rewarding.”

What does it mean to you to know that there are individuals who support you as you pursue your AuD degree?

Inouye: “I find it very comforting and motivating that others believe in my abilities and potential.”

Pugh: “My husband and classmates have been my biggest support team. They’ve sacrificed so much of their own time to encourage and motivate me […]. They’re my greatest cheerleaders and I am so blessed to have them in my corner.”

What three attributes do you hope your peers use to describe you?

Inouye: “Flexible, industrious and whimsical.”

Pugh: “Quiet, hardworking and hungry.”

What do you like about being in San Francisco?

Inouye: “It is a vibrant city with something for everyone.”

Pugh: “I love being able to explore how every neighborhood has its own distinct character and personality. There are so many beautiful little gems tucked away in the Bay!”


Student Spotlight: Stephanie Nguyen ’20

Stephanie Nguyen ’20 dreamed about coming to Pacific since the sixth grade. She was inspired by her cousin, Lien Tran ’01, PharmD. “I recently completed the undergraduate portion of the 3+3 Pre-Pharmacy program and I’m excited to begin pharmacy school in Fall 2017,” said Nguyen. “In my three years at Pacific, I’ve really grown as an individual and professional.”

“The Pre-Pharmacy Advantage Program is a wonderful opportunity for driven high school students who absolutely know that they want to be pharmacists,” Nguyen said. “Priority admission to a top-ranked accelerated pharmacy school is a major perk of the program! I also enjoy the fact that undergraduate and graduate years are spent at the same university, allowing you the chance to build personal and professional connections from a very early time in your college career.”

Since her first year at Pacific, Nguyen has been actively involved in student organizations. “Joining an organization on campus is a great way to find a family away from home,” Nguyen said. “I’ve been able to build strong friendships with other people with similar ambitions and goals while continuing to be myself, which has been a wonderful support system.”

“I am the current recording secretary of Lambda Kappa Sigma (LKS), one of the four professional pharmacy fraternities at Pacific. LKS is an international pharmacy fraternity that strives to provide lifelong opportunities for women in pharmacy through professional excellence and professional growth.

Joining a professional pharmacy fraternity has given me the chance to network with pharmacists and participate in health fairs.”

Nguyen also gained valuable leadership experience as a human physiology teaching assistant for Tara Thiemann, PhD, assistant professor of biological sciences.

A self-proclaimed foodie, she documents her epicurean adventures on Instagram. Warm and welcoming, Nguyen shared, “I’m always up to bring another on a food adventure.” She also loves being in choir and has been involved in the Conservatory of Music’s choral program. An alto, she has been a member of the University Chorus and the Oriana Women’s Chorus.


Student Spotlight: Anthony “Tony” Laurel ’17

Doctor of physical therapy (DPT) student Anthony “Tony” Laurel ’17 decided to pursue a career in physical therapy when he discovered that the profession matched his personality and interest in health care.

“I was injured a lot as a cross country runner,” said Laurel. “I got really frustrated with being injured and how it affected my ability to support my team.” During the formative years of high school, his mentors included his teachers, coach and athletic trainer. “They showed me that there are ways to care for people and encourage people when they are hurt and when they are down.” As he prepares for a career in physical therapy he continues to be inspired by the care and compassion his mentors provide to those around them.

For the next phase of his education, Laurel will be completing three clinical internships. His first clinical internship was at Lodi Physical Therapy in Lodi, California, followed by a rotation at VIBRA Rehabilitation Hospital of Lake Travis in Lakeway, Texas. He is currently in Bangor, Maine, for an acute care rotation at St. Joseph Healthcare. He believes that Pacific’s DPT program has given him the skills and tools he needs to thrive in the clinical internships and beyond. “I feel very well-prepared for any issues or problems I might come up against,” Laurel said.

Through the immersive internships, Pacific’s DPT students can experience first-hand several distinctive practice settings. They gain a wide breadth of experience and find what setting best suits them as an individual. “At the moment, I am leaning toward acute inpatient care,” Laurel said. “I love working in the hospital; something about it really gets me going as a person, as a human being.”

In February, Laurel attended the 2017 American Physical Therapists Association (APTA) Combined Sections Meeting (CSM) in San Antonio. “It is a great opportunity for young professionals to get their feet wet, get exposure to the vast scope of our profession,” Laurel explains. “I was inspired by the quantity and variety of valuable information available through both the sessions and personal connections.”

Laurel also connected with Pacific alumni. “I was able to attend our Pacific alumni event at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. I was able to see my buddy from the program who is an alumnus, Patrick Cawneen [’16, DPT], as well as several other faculty and alumni.”

Even traveling to CSM presented networking opportunities. “I actually met the developer and CEO of one of the vendors on my flight into San Antonio. His name was Nick Fontana and he developed a web-based application for home exercise program design and adherence specifically geared toward physical therapists. Beyond our professional conversation, we talked about a variety of subjects stretching from music and cars, to Star Trek and Star Wars. It was a fantastic conversation and one of my most memorable encounters from the weekend.”

Laurel believes learning to focus is the key to thriving in Pacific’s accelerated, academically rigorous DPT program. He explains, “Learn how to do things purposefully, including taking care of yourself and relaxing. I’m a musician and music is a big part of what I do to keep sane.” He is intentional about setting aside time to create music. “I’ve had to learn to be very purposeful with that time.”


Q&A with Gerald “Jerry” Dieter Griffin ’71, MD, PharmD

Pharmacist, physician, brigadier general, author and educator — the resume of Gerald “Jerry” Dieter Griffin ’71, MD, PharmD is as unique and surprising as the man himself. Dr. Griffin’s professional career has spanned from an assistant pharmacist to the Chippewa Nation in Minnesota to an emergency department physician for both the U.S. Army and several hospitals in Monterey County.

The individual responsible for setting him on this path was Dean Ivan W. Rowland, PhD. As a student at Pacific, Dr. Griffin was also mentored by Donald Y. Barker, PhD, James C. King, PhD, John K. Brown, PhD and Howell “Howie” Runion ’56, PhD. Dr. Griffin returned to his alma mater decades later as an adjunct professor.

You received Pacific’s 2017 ­Distinguished Alumni Award for Professional Service. What does receiving this award mean to you personally?

Dr. Griffin: “It was obviously a great honor and a total surprise. It is very meaningful to me because I think it was Pacific that gave me a start in my professional life.”

You earned your doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) in 1971 and became an adjunct professor in 2015. Did you stay connected to Pacific in those intervening years?

Dr. Griffin: “I stayed connected through donations and by writing to some of the faculty, for example Dr. Runion, Dr. Barker and Dr. King.”

Dean Phillip Oppenheimer and Associate Dean Nancy DeGuire [’85, PharmD] came down to Monterey and invited me to dinner. I started thinking about coming full circle and coming back here. Being an emergency physician for 30 plus years puts me in a unique position to share with pharmacy doctoral candidates what physicians require from clinical pharmacists. I’m not bashful in asking pharmacists to get out from behind the counter and get involved with the patient clinically with me. I’m passionate about getting pharmacists directly involved as very active partners in direct patient care and on the health care team.”

How did your mentors encourage and challenge you? How has their influence shaped your career?

Dr. Griffin: “Dr. Runion and I were great friends for many years. We corresponded for some time. We shared a lot of thoughts on research. My hero of course was Dean Rowland. It was he who was responsible for getting me to come to Pacific and to get a PharmD instead of a PhD in microbiology. I think it was the right career choice. It certainly led to interesting pathways.”

“I was in grad school in San Francisco and I’d applied here. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, a PharmD or a PhD. He asked me to come to Stockton and meet with him. We kind of sliced and diced and pontificated on my future. I ended up choosing the PharmD in pharmacology with a heavy interest in antibiotics. The fact that I had a wife, two children, many cats and a dog weighed me towards getting to work earlier. Dean Rowland was a wonderful man, very understanding. He had a keen insight into reality and what could be accomplished with a PharmD versus a PhD.”

What advice do you have for your fellow Pacific faculty or alumni who would like to be more intentional about mentoring?

Dr. Griffin: “You have to figure out a way to let the students read you. Let the student understand, either through spoken works or body language, that you are open to offering help and advice. It is important to be totally open to students and to share your story, your experiences with them. You also have to share some of your pain, some of the problems you’ve had and how you solved them. It may not be applicable to a specific situation, but the method is what’s important.”

You are the chair of the U.S. Delegation of the Interallied Confederation of Medical Reserve Officers, which advises NATO on the development of military medicine, pharmacy and security policy. Tell me about your experience working with the delegation. 

Dr. Griffin: “We are guided by several things, one is the overall mission to organize and streamline medical care, and the delivery of that care, on NATO battlefields. Secondly, we are guided by a committee in NATO that represents 28 different surgeons. For me personally it is a way for me to continue serving our nation in a scientific way. We have wonderful presenters and talks on subjects that evolve from the different committees. It’s very gratifying to see our NATO partners grow in their different medical roles.”


Alumni Spotlight: Nathan “Nate” Hunsaker ’97, PT, MSPT, DPT, Cert MDT, CSMT

Nathan “Nate” Hunsaker ’97, PT, MSPT, DPT, Cert MDT, CSMT approaches his work as a physical therapist the same way he approaches a summit like the Grand Teton — with determination, skill and grit.

“I’m from Wyoming and since they didn’t have a physical therapy program at the time they would fund you to go elsewhere,” said Dr. Hunsaker. “I was impressed with the relaxed, but professional atmosphere Pacific seemed to offer. After interviewing at several different places their interview stood out to me because the physical therapy department had a unique way to interview. […] They asked really crazy questions, that was really interesting.” He thinks that the rationale for the unusual interview questions was to see “how you reacted, how you thought on your feet.” This theory was confirmed when he got to know his classmates. He shares, “I think it reflected on the class we had. We had a lot of unique thinkers, they thought outside-the-box.”

Dr. Hunsaker was named the 2016 Physical Therapist of the Year by the Idaho Physical Therapy Association. “First of all, it was a complete surprise to me,” Dr. Hunsaker shares. “I’ve worked hard to be a good spine therapist. It was a great honor. I was totally surprised, it was wonderful.” He also expressed his gratitude for the work of his peers, who consistently set a high standard of excellence for physical therapy in Idaho.

The award also recognizes Dr. Hunsaker’s role as a mentor. He encourages his fellow alumni to act as a mentor for aspiring health care professionals. “Remember how instrumental it was to getting you to where you are now,” Dr. Hunsaker said. “I wouldn’t be where I am without great mentorship. I’ve mentored many physical therapy students, many physical therapy techs aspiring to be physical therapists and many young people thinking about a career in physical therapy.”

Dr. Hunsaker is a partner, owner, clinic director and physical therapist at RehabAuthority in Idaho Falls, Idaho. While he enjoys the different aspects of this multifaceted role, working with patients is his driving force. “Number one I am a physical therapist; I just love patient care,” Dr. Hunsaker explains.

“Coming out of school I got a job in an acute rehabilitation clinic doing mostly rehabilitation,” Dr. Hunsaker shares. “When I joined RehabAuthority I had to completely shift gears. I had to take extensive education courses.” In 2011, he was certified in Mechanical Diagnosis and Treatment, awarded by the McKenzie Institute®, and in 2012 he became a Certified Spinal Manual Therapist, awarded by the International Spine and Pain Institute. He has earned a reputation as a specialist in back and neck rehabilitation and every year hundreds of patients benefit from his expertise.

He continues to challenge himself professionally. He elaborates, “I’m always working on the next certification. I keep setting goals for myself.” Dr. Hunsaker and his partners also plan to expand in Idaho and into Wyoming. He adds, “That provides its own growing pains and joys.”

He has been a member of the American Physical Therapy Association for over two decades. He believes that it is vitally important to be involved in professional organizations. “If we don’t speak up for ourselves no one will,” Dr. Hunsaker said. “Quite simply there is strength in our members, when you have thousands of professionals combining their experience we can truly make a difference.”

He and his family loves spending time outdoors. “I live in a great place to be in the outdoors — Idaho Falls, Idaho. Yellowstone [National Park] is about two hours away and Grand Teton [National Park] is about two hours away.” He and his wife, Audra, have four kids and they enjoy going hiking together.

He thinks fondly of his time at Pacific. “I have a special place in my heart for the Pacific Tigers. I just love Pacific, my wife and I had such a great experience there. I will forever be indebted to that wonderful school and what it’s done for me.”


Alumni Spotlight: Edlen Wong ’07, PharmD, FCPhA

Edlen Wong ’07, PharmD, FCPhA, joins a long list of Pacific alumni who have received the California Pharmacists Association (CPhA) Distinguished New Practitioner of the Year award. The award recognizes an outstanding new practitioner who encourages others to actively participate in professional, political and/or community affairs related to the practice of pharmacy. Dr. Wong’s enthusiasm for the profession is an inspiration to everyone he encounters. His tireless efforts are evident in the numerous leadership positions he has held within CPhA and the San Joaquin Pharmacists Association (SJPhA).

“When you make the decision to be involved it’s not the awards that drive you to succeed, but the passion for the profession,” said Dr. Wong. “My goal is to leave the profession in a better position than when I started. Receiving this award is quite a humbling honor; especially to be recognized by one’s mentors and colleagues. It is inspiring to be amongst such incredible company of previous award recipients who have gone on to do so much in their careers.”

During his time as a student at Pacific, Dr. Wong was actively involved in the student chapters of CPhA, American Pharmacists Association (APhA), National Community Pharmacist Association (NCPA) and California Society of Health-System Pharmacists (CSHP). Over the years, he has been involved in numerous Pacific health care outreach events as a student and a preceptor. Immediately after graduating he began serving on the SJPhA Board of Directors; serving as president in 2010 and again in 2014.

“Being actively involved in a pharmacy organization is a way to give you a voice to shape your profession,” Dr. Wong said. “One person can make a difference, but it takes a group to move a mountain. It is never too late to get involved. Join us in advocating for your profession!”

Dr. Wong is the immediate past-president of CPhA, having served the 2016-2017 term. His dedication to the CPhA includes his service as speaker-elect and speaker of the House of Delegates; as well as member of the Board of Trustees. It was during Dr. Wong’s term as speaker of the House of Delegates that CPhA revamped their association policies and standards of practice. He has also served on several CPhA committees and task forces.

His passion for the pharmacy profession is without question. He has mentored numerous student pharmacists and new practitioners. “I’m thankful for the great mentors who helped me along the way as if it wasn’t for them, who knows where or what I’d be doing today,” Dr. Wong shares. “I only hope to inspire the next generation of new practitioners for future success.”

As a board member of the Pacific Pharmacy Alumni Association, he continues to give back to his alma mater through his time and talent. In 2014, he was named a Fellow of CPhA. Dr. Wong is currently a lead pharmacist for Kaiser Permanente in Walnut Creek, California.

Pacific Alumni Distinguished New Practitioner of the Year Award Winners

2015 | Annie Ho ’12, PharmD
2014 | Michael Conner ’12, PharmD
2011 | Veronica T. Bandy ’00, ’08, MS, PharmD
2009 | Eric Gupta ’00, PharmD
2008 | Ryan Gates ’04, PharmD
2007 | Jason Kim ’04, PharmD
2006 | Helen Park ’98, PharmD
1999 | Adam M. Kaye ’95, PharmD, FASCP, FCPhA
1995 | Michael Pavlovich ’89, PharmD
1992 | Christopher Woo ’88, PharmD
1990 | Scott Workman ’81, RPh
1988 | Michael Woo ’80, RPh

Alumni Spotlight: Tobias “Toby” Damron ’14, PharmD

From California to New Jersey and back to California, Tobias “Toby” Damron ’14, PharmD has come full circle. “Following graduation, I joined Novo Nordisk as a post-doctoral fellow,” Dr. Damron said. “It was rewarding to grow as a professional and diversify my skills. I was really surprised by the number of doors that a fellowship opened for me in pharmacy. Roles that were traditionally not thought of as for a pharmacist, or that I had not thought were for a pharmacist, were available to me.”

He shares a memorable experience from his fellowship: “I gave a diabetes market overview presentation to the entire sales force of 3,000 employees. It was really awesome that they trusted me to do a presentation like that.” The experience gave him a sense of belonging and made a lasting impression. He remembers thinking that the opportunity to present to such a large audience showed that he was viewed as a contributing member of the company.

Despite facing a sharp learning curve at the start of his fellowship, he felt that his time at Pacific honed his abilities and equipped him with transferrable skills. “Pacific does a really good job of keeping their students well-rounded,” Dr. Damron said. “The program’s emphasis is on being well-rounded pharmacists, good communicators, being involved in the community and being leaders. Throughout the fellowship these were the things [Novo Nordisk] emphasized and thought were important.” As a student, he was the vice president of Phi Lambda Sigma, Rho chapter, and a member of Rho Chi, Beta Omega chapter. In addition, he was a member of the California Pharmacy Student Leadership team and a project manager for Operation Heart.

For students considering pursuing a fellowship he emphasizes that there are “so many opportunities that maybe you haven’t even thought about yet a fellowship can open doors to.” Given the competitive nature of residencies and fellowships, finding ways to stand out from the sea of applicants is essential. Dr. Damron recommends taking the time to research the company. He elaborates, “From first-hand experience those people who do well in the interview are those who understand the company culture.” His advice is to find out who oversees the fellowship and, if possible, directly contact the preceptor. He adds, “Collect as many resources as you can about the fellowship and connect with the current fellows.”

Following his fellowship, he accepted a position at Novo Nordisk as manager of health care professional relations. In July 2016, he transitioned to the position of regional medical liaison. His territory covers Northern California, including Stockton and Nevada. “In my new role, I share education and resources with health care professionals,” Dr. Damron said. “Building strong partnerships and relationships to enhance patient care is my number one goal.”


Dean Oppenheimer Inducted to CPhA Hall of Fame

Dean Phillip R. Oppenheimer, PharmD has been a dedicated educator, administrator and ambassador of pharmacy for over 40 years. With his induction to the California Pharmacists Association (CPhA) Hall of Fame, he joins 34 pharmacists who have garnered this distinction and is one of three deans who have received this recognition. He earned his doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) from University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) in 1972. He completed a clinical pharmacy residency at UCSF in 1973. His love of education led him to pursue a faculty position at University of Southern California School of Pharmacy where he served for 24 years as a faculty member and administrator.

Dean Oppenheimer has been a member of both the CPhA and the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) since 1972. He is an active member of several additional national, state and local professional organizations. In his role as dean, he supports and encourages students to be involved in their professional organizations. Students in the pharmacy, speech-language pathology, physical therapy and audiology programs have the opportunity to be involved in professional organizations during their time at Pacific through student chapters or by attending local, state and national conferences.

Dean Oppenheimer joined the Pacific family in 1997 when he was appointed dean. His open-door policy, attendance at events and financial support of the student body has brought the School national recognition. Faculty, staff and students can attest to his accessibility and hands-on leadership style. In 2014, he was awarded the Academy of Student Pharmacists APhA-ASP Outstanding Dean Award.

Under his leadership the School has seen a significant increase in the number of faculty and staff in all programs, new or upgraded facilities, and growth in endowments and funding. During his tenure as dean he has led the faculty to achieve four full reaccreditations from the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. The PharmD program has also seen enhanced post-graduate placements of graduates.

Dean Oppenheimer believes that alumni are one of the School’s most powerful assets. He advocates for alumni engagement, actively supporting the School’s events and alumni associations. His induction to the CPhA Hall of Fame is a testament to his vision as an educator and his life-long dedication to the pharmacy profession.



Alumni Spotlight: Brenda Riser ’85, PharmD

Few people have as many stamps in their passport as Brenda Riser ’85, PharmD. By specializing in contract work and utilizing her experience in pharmacy she has been able to see the world.

“Contract work has allowed tremendous flexibility during my career,” said Dr. Riser. “It allowed me to experience and enjoy new towns and cities I would not have explored without working these assignments. Also, in the latest chapter of my life as a single mom, it has allowed flexibility in scheduling to enjoy our adventures in traveling.” Dr. Riser, her mother and her daughter form a tight family unit. “Three generations of women live and travel together,” Dr. Riser shares. The flexibility of contract work also allows her to volunteer at her daughter’s school, as well as attend her daughter’s academic and athletic events.

Dr. Riser was awarded the 2017 National Staffing Employee of the Year All-Star for the health care sector by the American Staffing Association. She shares what receiving this award means to her personally: “What a humbling experience. […] My boss’ nomination and support means everything to me. To be recognized in such a large industry boosts my confidence.”

She has had over 500 assignments during her tenure with Rx relief®, a leading specialty pharmacy placement firm which utilizes a network of over 50,000 pharmacy professionals.  “I have been fortunate to dabble in many niches of pharmacy through my relief work,” Dr. Riser explains. “I always enjoy the challenge of something new and I believe I am adaptable to what the clients need. I have taken on both short and long-term contracts. I try to keep abreast of the changes within our profession.”

Dr. Riser explains how she first got connected to Rx relief®: “Carl Franklin was a customer of mine when I worked in retail. I went to pharmacy school with Tom Maez [’85, PharmD], so both bosses were actually friends prior to my employment with them. I first began with Rx relief® as a client, utilizing their staff to cover my temporary needs. I then began working with them part-time to supplement my extensive traveling.”

Dr. Riser believes that contract work allows pharmacists “to experience niches of our profession they might not get exposure to, but requires a great deal of confidence and hard work.” For those interested in this career path she emphasizes that one must be open to learning new information, personalities and systems. “The main challenges have been gaining enough knowledge and skill to provide the client with the level of competence they deserve. It requires a great deal of flexibility and adaptability to become a part of the staff and team in a limited amount of time.” Travel is also a key component. Dr. Riser adds, “An openness to travel to the client is a must.”

The element of travel has a strong appeal for Dr. Riser. “I have travelled my entire life, starting as a child with camping, exploring the U.S. and Canada,” Dr. Riser explains. “As a teen, my family took our first cruise in 1978 on the original Love Boat and I was hooked. I have been on over 60 cruises all over the world. I have visited all the continents except Antarctica, which is still on my list. My favorite places have been those that had animal experiences and encounters including Tanzania, Tasmania, Australia and the Galapagos Islands. My daughter has caught the travel bug as well; starting at 4-months-old with her first passport and adventure to Tahiti.”


Photo credit: Chance James Photography

Alumni Spotlight: Michael A. Pastrick ’73, BS Pharm

Michael A. Pastrick ’73, BS Pharm, who was inducted into the California Pharmacists Association (CPhA) Hall of Fame in 2014, was formally recognized at the CPhA Western Pharmacy Exchange Awards Ceremony in Palm Springs on February 24, 2017. “It’s a humbling experience to suddenly be included in the same group of pharmacists you’ve always considered to be your role models and mentors,” said Pastrick.

A member since 1973, Pastrick has served the CPhA as board member, president and parliamentarian. He shares, “As a student, I was taught the importance of volunteer work and giving back to your community and to the profession.” He was named the CPhA Pharmacist of the Year in 1992 and received the Bowl of Hygeia Community Service Award in 2003. In 2016, he was named a Fellow of the CPhA.

Pastrick received the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) Good Government Pharmacist of the Year Award in 1992 and the Hubert H. Humphrey Award in 2009. The latter recognizes APhA members who have made major contributions in government or legislative service at the local, state or national level. The award is named for United States Vice President Hubert Humphrey, a pharmacist, mayor and U.S. Senator who served under President Lyndon B. Johnson and was instrumental in the passage of the groundbreaking Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In 1995, Pastrick received the University’s Distinguished Alumni Award for Public Service. In 2014, he was named the Pacific Pharmacy Alumni Association Alumnus of the Year. Pastrick is a member of the Beta Omega chapter of Rho Chi and the Gamma Nu chapter of Kappa Psi. He is also a member of the Dean’s Leadership Council.

Pastrick explains his motivation for continuing to give back to his profession and alma mater: “Someone once told me, if you won’t do the work, how can you expect others to do it? It takes all of us working together to advance the profession and improve patient care.” He adds, “It’s a way of paying it forward to thank those that came before you. There have always been great role models at Pacific. Pacific has a proud tradition of service, 25 percent of the membership of the Hall of Fame are Pacificans.”

In addition to his service to the pharmacy profession, for many years he has been actively involved in civic affairs in Contra Costa County. A lifelong resident of Concord, California, Pastrick has served the city as mayor, member of the City Council, chair of the Design Review Board, chair of the Planning Commission and as an architectural design consultant; in addition to several other leadership roles for the city and county.

Pastrick is a currently a clinical oncology pharmacist at John Muir Medical Center and an editorial advisor for the Pharmacy Technician’s Letter.

Pacificans Inducted into the CPha Hall of Fame

2017 | Phillip R. Oppenheimer, PharmD
2014 | Michael A. Pastrick ’73, BS Pharm
2013 | Royce Friesen ’65, RPh
2013 | Ralph L. Saroyan ’64, RPh
2012 | Jeff Jellin ’74, PharmD
2012 | Clark H. Gustafson ’66, RPh
2009 | Donald Floriddia ’71, PhD
2007 | Charles Green ’68, RPh
2006 | Carlo Michelotti ’61, RPh, MPH
2005 | Thomas J. Long
2005 | Joseph M. Long
2000 | Ivan “Cy” Rowland, PhD

View complete list.


Faculty Spotlight: Erica Barr, PharmD

“I have been to all 50 states and over 20 countries,” said Erica Barr, PharmD, who joined Pacific last December as assistant clinical professor of pharmacy practice. She believes that it is important for health care professionals to “get some kind of exposure to different cultures and their views on medicine.” She adds, “America being the melting pot that it is, you are going to encounter someone who feels differently about your practices than you do.”

As a student, she participated in public-forum style debates. In these debates, students were challenged to critically evaluate their position by approaching the topic from the perspective of the opposing viewpoint. “They assigned you to argue the other point of view,” Dr. Barr explains. “You really had to dig deep and get in their shoes.” The experience left a lasting impression on Dr. Barr and underscored how deeply held beliefs affect the way one views health care. “People are very passionate about the way they feel about certain things.”

Dr. Barr’s interest in health care led her to choose a career in pharmacy. “I have been involved in volunteer clinics that provide free health care since high school,” Dr. Barr explains. She earned her doctor of pharmacy from University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Pharmacy in Little Rock, Arkansas. She completed an acute care residency at Christian Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, and earned a teaching certificate from St. Louis College of Pharmacy. Dr. Barr is a member of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy, the American Pharmacists Association and the American Society of Hospital Pharmacists.

“I have always wanted to teach,” Dr. Barr shares. “At Pacific, I’m able to combine my love of teaching and my love of medicine to help mold future health care professionals. Pacific encourages me to integrate new, active styles of learning into the traditional lecture setting, better preparing students for the ‘real world’ challenges they will face in their practice.” She explains that the caliber of the students is part of what attracted her to Pacific. “The School has one of the highest residency match rates in the country.”

After completing her residency, she spent three weeks in Greece, including a week spent sailing amongst the Greek Islands. “Sailing is one of my new hobbies. Up until this point I’ve been entirely landlocked.” In addition to sailing, she is passionate about mastering new vegan recipes. “My dream is to start a vegan YouTube cooking channel,” she shares. When having a conversation with Dr. Barr her love for animals quickly becomes apparent. “I am extremely involved in charities that involve working with animals, anywhere from training service dogs for disabled families to helping with local pet adoptions.” She also enjoys watching international soccer and has “a strange talent for escaping from ‘escape rooms’ in record times.”