On the evening of May 4th, 2019, Oregon State University College of Pharmacy alumni and friends gathered at Portland City Grill to honor the recipients of the 2019 Icons of Pharmacy Award including Sean D. Sullivan, a truly dedicated leader in the pharmacy profession.
Sean was recognized for his leadership at the UW School of Pharmacy where his engagement has helped transform the profession. When asked about his experience leading a college of pharmacy and being Dean, he responded, “This is a job none of us are trained for. Most days, it’s challenging. Some days, it’s extremely difficult. And on a few occasions, it is glorious.”
After completing his pharmacy degree at OSU College of Pharmacy in 1983, Sean practiced pharmacy in his hometown of Hollister, CA, where he obtained a deeper understanding of his profession. He then obtained a master’s degree in administrative and economic sciences at the University of Texas and a PhD in health economics and policy at the University of California, Berkeley.
Coming to University of Washington in 1992 as a Research Associate, Sean co-founded the UW School of Pharmacy’s Pharmaceutical Outcomes Research and Policy Program (PORPP), now known as The CHOICE Institute. Under Sean’s leadership, the program grew to become the premier outcomes research and policy program, with its faculty and students regularly receiving national and international recognition for excellence.
He has since become Dean and Chief Academic Officer at University of Washington School of Pharmacy. He is also joint Professor in the Schools of Pharmacy and Public Health, University of Washington, while also holding adjunct appointments in the School of Medicine, the Public Health Sciences Division at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute. Sean served as President of ISPOR, the leading global professional society for health economics and outcomes research and has been nationally recognized for his research and leadership with the 2014 Stephen G. Avey Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy and the 2015 American Pharmacists Association (APhA) Academy of Pharmaceutical Research Sciences (APRS) Research Achievement Award.
A stalwart believer in the pursuit of higher learning, he acknowledges that there were many individuals that inspired him and shaped his path. Specifically, former OSU College of Pharmacy Dean, Richard Ohvall had a huge impact on Sean’s work ethic in the way he balanced his professional role with an approachable, open door policy. To this day, it is a model and practice that he adheres to for his own students. It was Dr. Lee Strandberg who impressed upon Sean that he should think of pharmacy, not just as a clinical profession, but about its broader impacts. It was these two standout individuals, among many others, that had a lasting impact on Sean’s career.
It was in understanding his own professional trajectory that he could focus on what he is proudest of, the success of the students that he has had the opportunity to train. That group includes his first grad student, Joe Ness, who is now Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of OHSU Healthcare, as well as PharmD students, many of whom are in very successful positions up and down the west coast. Over his career, Sean has also mentored over 100 PhD graduates and post doc fellows, now in academic and leadership roles around the world. Sean truly believes that public universities such as Oregon State University and University of Washington are engines of social and economic mobility with the main purpose of lifting people up. He attests that the impact of these universities on him in particular was transformational, “I would not trade it for anything.”
Sean lives in Seattle with his wife, Catrena (Howlett) Sullivan, also an OSU College of Pharmacy graduate (Class of 1990), whom he holds great admiration and appreciation for in her support and partnership in raising their two children, Kiera and Aidan, before returning to work as a practicing pharmacist.
Recognition as an OSU College of Pharmacy Icon of Pharmacy is an honor reserved for those who have demonstrated dedication to the College of Pharmacy and distinguished themselves through sustained, meritorious contributions to pharmacy throughout their careers. Sean’s influences on the profession are meritorious and inspirational.
Congratulations, Dean Sullivan!