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The School of Pharmacy Mourns the Passing of Dr. Joy Plein

Joy PleinJoy (Bickmore) Plein, ’51, ’57, a beloved UW School of Pharmacy colleague, mentor and true pioneer in the field of geriatrics, passed away peacefully at Virginia Mason Medical Center on February 19, 2021. She was 97.

“For 48 years, Joy was the heart of the UW School of Pharmacy,” said SOP Professor and Dean Sean Sullivan. “Everyone who knew her felt her deep commitment to excellence in education, practice and research. She forever changed the field of pharmacy practice, and her passion has inspired generations of pharmacists and researchers.”

Joy earned both a master’s and doctoral degree at the University of Washington. In 1952, she married Dr. Elmer Plein, a professor in the School of Pharmacy, beginning a partnership that would create an entirely new field of pharmacy research and practice. One of the School’s first female faculty members, Joy was appointed to a full-time position as associate professor in 1972 and was promoted to full professor in 1974. She continued to teach nursing students fundamentals of pharmacotherapeutics until 1985.

Joy is widely credited for creating the momentum for senior-care pharmacy in Washington State at a time when there were few pharmacists who were geriatricians, and few resources to advocate for older patients. Along with Elmer, Joy developed the first course to be offered in nursing home pharmacy in 1973, which led to the establishment of the Certificate Program In Geriatric Pharmacy Practice in 1986.

The Pleins established three endowed funds to carry on their pioneering legacy in education, research and practice. In 2015, Joy was given the Pharmacy Alumni Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award for her exemplary service in the field of pharmacy, and in 2017 she was selected as the recipient of the UW-UWRA Distinguished Retiree Excellence award.

Joy’s dedication to geriatric pharmacy and practice, and her expertise in the field, culminated with the creation of the Plein Center for Geriatrics in 2016. Today, the Plein Center is a global leader in transformative pharmacy research, education and outreach, and has expanded the School’s role as a leader in promoting healthy aging.

“Her life-long commitment to supporting training and research in optimizing care for older adults has advanced the field of geriatrics pharmacotherapy,” said Plein Center Director Shelly Gray. “She has inspired generations of dedicated pharmacists.”

“Joy was an educator, an innovator and a pioneer, but most importantly, she was a dear friend and champion of the School and of Pharmacy,” Sullivan added. “Both professionally and personally, she embodied the best of us. We will strive to honor her kindness, passion and humanity, both in our profession, and in our daily lives.”

In memory of Joy, we have provided a link for those interested in supporting her passions and impact at the School of Pharmacy.


We’ve selected a few of the many memories of Joy that have been shared with us since her passing by the countless colleagues, mentees, and friends she impacted in her 97 years of life.


  • “Dr. Joy Plein had a profound and immeasurable impact on my life, both professionally and personally, as a dear mentor and friend. In addition to being an inspiration to me in all she had done to advance the field of geriatric pharmacy, Joy was continuously one of my greatest supporters and advocates. I would not be where I am today in my career if it weren’t for the incredible influence that Joy had on me. I will continuously strive to honor Joy’s legacy as a pioneer in geriatric pharmacy, as well as her kindness, passion, tenacity, and humility.”
    • Laura Hart, ’14


  • “Beyond being a quintessential professional with an unparalleled commitment to clinical practice, and to our students, Joy was a fine human being. She was a pioneer, role model, and leader. She was kind and compassionate; generous of spirit in every sense of the word. Joy was thoughtful and caring; a loyal and true friend. Joy was a loyal Husky football fan, fun-loving and adventurous, and a great conversationalist. She was brave, cheerful and persevering in the face of adversity. She loved her family and friends dearly and touched so many of our lives with her unwaveringly cheerful spirit. We now have the privilege of carrying out her legacy. Joy lives on in each of our hearts.”
    • Beth Devine, ’01


  • Joy was a teacher, mentor, colleague and friend to me for 43 years. In addition to me, she mentored every student, other faculty members, and our profession. I got to witness how Joy encouraged students and practicing pharmacist by pointing out opportunities such as organizations to join, conferences to attend, faculty and community projects, grants, and employment opportunities. Joy was a powerhouse of vision paired with gentle and persistent determination. Her influence, service, thoughtfulness, and love cannot be adequately captured by words. She had to be experienced.
    • Karan Dawson, ’70, ’78


  • “During my early training with the Pleins, Joy asked me to be her teaching assistant in the pharmacotherapeutics course for nursing and dental hygienist. This stimulated an interest in teaching which was to carry through my entire career. When it came time to write my thesis, Joy and her red pencil completed my sentence fragments, joined then in succinct paragraphs and pages of somewhat literate understanding of my research work. In short she taught me how to write.”
    • David Bailey, ’70