Alumni Spotlight: Robert Popovian

Meet Robert Popovian (PharmD ’93, MS ’96) a member of the first class to graduate with a master’s degree in Pharmaceutical Economics and Policy. As the Vice President of U.S. Government Relations at Pfizer Inc., Robert shares insights from his extensive career and what it takes to succeed.

Robert Popovian, PharmD ’93, MS ’96

Please describe your current work at Pfizer and a few of your career highlights.

I am the Vice President of U.S. Government Relations at Pfizer Inc. I work on both state and federal health care policy and legislative issues. I have published and presented extensively on the impact of biopharmaceuticals and health policies on health care costs and clinical outcomes, including authorship in clinical and healthcare delivery journals and published expert source in First Word, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Pink Sheet, Managed Healthcare Executive and Bloomberg News, amongst many others. I also write a monthly column published in Morning Consult regarding health policy and economic issues relevant to the biopharmaceutical industry.  In previous years, I worked in outcomes research and medical affairs at Pfizer in addition to government relations. I was one of the first individuals in the industry to secure outcomes data regarding the labeled indication of a biopharmaceutical. Additionally, I was one of the first field-based medical directors for Pfizer which led to the permanent establishment of the division at Pfizer.

Finally, I serve as a board member of Global Healthy Living Foundation (GHLF) a nonprofit patient advocacy and support organization. Our mission is to improve the quality of life for people living with chronic illness. I am a firm believer that all healthcare systems should be constructed based on the values and needs of patients whom they serve. GHLF epitomizes this ideology. They work tirelessly to ensure that patients are the direct beneficiaries of all healthcare decision making and not insurers, PBMs, government, pharmaceutical companies or any other entity.

What prompted your interest in the master’s program in Pharmaceutical Economics and Policy at USC School of Pharmacy? And how did it help achieve your career goals?

I became interested in health economics and policy as I was completing my residency program at USC. During my residency, I realized how economics drives human behavior whether it has to do with one’s financial interests or health. I chose USC because the faculty had a background in economics, public health or public policy; unlike other programs where the faculty were primarily pharmacists. USC was also the first university to offer the master of science in Pharmaceutical Economics and Policy and I’m proud to be a part of its first class of graduates from 1996.

How did the resources and faculty members at USC help prepare you for what you are doing now?

The faculty were incredibly generous with their time and resources. We were able to utilize various databases that the department had procured. Most importantly they helped me in development, implementation, and publication of my research initiative. It was the first time anyone had published empirical data regarding emerging payment models in the U.S. healthcare system.

What advice do you have for students who may be interested in following a similar path to yours?

I encourage students and new graduates to always take risks and never be afraid to volunteer for a new assignment or position; always challenge yourself. Ultimately, success or failure is up to you but do put your best foot forward at every opportunity.

There are also several resources I recommend, having used them regularly to help me advance my career over the years. Daily resources such as Drug Channels and Pink Sheet are a must read for anyone involved in healthcare and especially pharmaceutical economics and policy. Follow key thought healthcare thought leaders on social media, especially Twitter. Reports generated by IQVIA (formerly IMS Health) can provide important data points for conveying of policy issues. Most importantly keep in touch with the faculty at USC Mann and Schaeffer Institute. They provide great content on various topics of importance in healthcare policy and economics through their initiatives including their collaboration with the Brookings Institute. They can also be a powerful sounding board to discuss various issues that come up during your career.

Follow Robert Popovian on Twitter @PopovianPharmD