Honoring Exceptional Pharmacy Alumni: The 2017 Alumni Awards

On May 7, nine 2017 Alumni Award winners were honored at the inaugural USC Pharmacy Alumni Awards Gala. After a performance by the USC Trojan Band and a welcome from Dean Vassilios Papadopoulos, each of the awardees had a chance to give brief remarks before a packed house at Town & Gown.

Yong Yuan, MS ’96, PhD ’98, received the Innovation in Pharmacoeconomics Award. As director of global health economics and outcomes research at Bristol-Myers Squibb, he leads implementation and strategy for value demonstration of immune-oncology therapies in small cell lung cancer. “I am pleased and humbled to receive this prestigious recognition,” Yuan said. “I am grateful for the rigorous pharmacoeconomic training I received from USC and the unique biopharma environment that Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. has provided.”

The Research Achievement Award went to Eric Q. Wu, MA ’00, MSc ’02, PhD ’03, a managing principal at Analysis Group. He specializes in health economics, outcomes and market access issues related to pharmaceuticals, biologics and devices. “I want to take this opportunity to recognize the USC faculty, classmates and alumni who have supported me throughout the years,” Wu said. “I also want to recognize my fellow alumni who are doing amazing things in the field of healthcare research. I am so honored to represent them.”

The Innovation in Regulatory Science Award was presented to Peter Lassoff, PharmD ’86, vice president and head of global regulatory affairs at QuintilesIMS. Lassoff develops regulatory strategies for products for global markets and provides expert regulatory due diligence services. “I’m hugely excited and honored to receive this award from USC,” he said. “It means an enormous amount to me and our profession, as it helps to publicize what we do and the importance of regulatory affairs to a wider audience.”

The inaugural Young Alumni Award went to Danielle C. Colayco, PharmD, ’08, MS ’10. As president and CEO of the Komoto Family Foundation, she leads efforts to promote community wellness through research and education and shapes the foundation’s strategy and overall direction. “I’d like to dedicate this award to the memory of my dad, Jose Colayco Jr., who told me, ‘Your mother and I will do everything within our means to support you and help you chase your dreams,’” Colayco said. “Everything I’ve achieved has been possible because of my parents, and I will always be grateful to them.”

Roslyn Blake, PharmD ’92 — CEO of third-party billing business MB Ellison Inc. and chief operating officer of insurance agency Bob Blake & Associates Inc. — received the Community Award. In addition to serving on the USC School of Pharmacy Board of Councilors, she has held numerous community leadership positions, including president of the Aquatics Foundation of Metropolitan Los Angeles and Getty House Foundation board member. “I had no idea that ‘giving’ would result into such blessings as this honor,” she said. “I have learned that everyone has an interesting story, and if you cultivate the habit of asking about it, your life will be much richer.”

Michael Hochman, MD, MPH — associate professor of clinical medicine and director of the Gehr Family Center for Implementation Science at Keck School of Medicine of USC — received the Honorary Alumni Award. He is a primary care physician whose research focuses on improving health system models to deliver efficient, high-quality care. “As a primary care physician, I know how much pharmacists contribute to the overall care of patients, and I hope their role will continue to evolve in the years ahead,” he said. “It has been an incredible experience collaborating with the USC School of Pharmacy.”

The Dean’s Medallion Award was presented to Rita Shane, PharmD ’78, chief pharmacy officer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and assistant dean of clinical pharmacy services at the University of California, San Francisco’s School of Pharmacy. “This award is a symbol of the potential made possible by loving what you do,” she said. “This began with the education and wonderful mentoring I received at USC, which enabled me to see the many possibilities to make a difference for our patients and our profession.”

Charles Leiter, PharmD ’83 — vice president of business development at Leiter’s Compounding Pharmacy and adjunct professor at the Keck Graduate Institute — received the Distinguished Alumni Award. Leiter is a third-generation graduate of the USC School of Pharmacy and one of the world’s leading ophthalmic pharmacists. “This is a tremendous honor,” he said. “USC instilled in me that entrepreneurial spirit along with a great education and experience.”

Finally, the Lifetime Achievement Award went to Mel Baron, PharmD ’57, MPA ’73, professor of clinical pharmacy at the USC School of Pharmacy, who first joined the faculty in 1981. He was director of the first-level externship program, which he helped create, is co-director of the PharmD/MBA Program, and is responsible for teaching clerkships in Pharmacy Administration and Health Care Needs of Special Populations. He is also dedicated to the Health Literacy Program, which develops, distributes and evaluates health-related media for underserved and low-literacy Latino populations. He has received numerous awards from pharmacy organizations and was inducted into the Half Century Trojan Hall of Fame. “To be honored for professional accomplishments that originated from the passion and joy I have for pharmacy makes such an award truly treasured,” Baron said.