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Using Data and Economics to Transform Health | Celebrating 25 Years

CHOICE faculty and students at the 2019 retreat
CHOICE faculty and students at the 2019 retreat

Celebrating 25 years, The CHOICE Institute continues to grow and transform, expanding its impact on population health.

“At CHOICE, we work to advance the study of health economics, pharmaceutical outcomes research, and policy to improve population health in the U.S. and around the world.”—Anirban Basu, Stergachis Endowed Director, Choice Institute

The Comparative Health Outcomes, Policy & Economics (CHOICE) Institute at UWSOP began largely out of a response to a student and workforce needs. In 1989, Andy Stergachis, now Associate Dean at UWSOP, was advising David H. Smith, ’90, ’98, who wanted to earn a PhD studying the impact of healthcare policies on population health.

At that time UW did not offer a Pharmacy PhD, so David created his own interdisciplinary program of study. Andy and Dean Milo Gibaldi, decided to create a doctoral program in Pharmacy. In 1990, Andy was awarded the Burroughs Wellcome/American College of Preventive Medicine Scholar in Pharmacoepidemiology Award, which provided much-needed seed funding for the program, including support for visiting faculty, such as epidemiologist Jackie Gardner, PhD, and a newly-minted PhD from UC Berkeley named Sean D. Sullivan.

When Sean and Andy first met, Sean was looking forward to his new position at Wolfson College at Oxford University. But fate (and Andy) had a different plan. Andy presented Sean with the vision of a world-class program in pharmaceutical outcomes research. Sean was intrigued. When Andy showed up—in person—at Berkeley a few weeks later, Sean said yes to Andy and then, “I had to write the most difficult letter of my professional career. After all, who says ‘no’ to Oxford? But it changed my life.”

Sean and Jackie joined the faculty team with Dale Christensen and Bill Fassett, ’69. The development of the new Pharmacy PhD program began in earnest. About 25 years ago, the team had attracted top scholars and built enough support to be officially designated the Pharmaceutical Outcomes Research and Policy Program (PORPP) at the UW.

In 2014, Sean became Dean of UWSOP, which meant finding a new Director, now named the Stergachis Family Endowed Director, thanks to a generous gift from Andy and JoAnn Stergachis. Anirban Basu, Ph.D, was selected and in 2017, he announced the launch of The Comparative Health Outcomes, Policy & Economics (CHOICE) Institute, an expansion of PORPP that organizes research and training activities and resources in the fields of health economics, policy analysis/big data sciences, economics of precision medicine, drug and vaccine safety, and global medicines issues.

CHOICE continues to thrive with world-class researchers and leaders in health economics like Professor Emeritus Lou Garrison, Professor Dave Veenstra, Professor Beth Devine, Associate Professor Josh Carlson, Associate Professor Aasthaa Bansal, who earned a prestigious 7-year NIH MERIT Award, 2011 PAA Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Ryan Hansen, ’03, ’12, Research Assistant Professor Doug Barthold, Shelly Gray and Zach Marcum from the UW Plein Center, and many more affiliates and leaders in outcomes and health economics research.

CHOICE Alumni have become leaders in academia, industry, and government, such as Jonathan Watanabe, ’98, ’08, ’12, faculty member at UC San Diego and the first pharmacist named to the National Academy of Medicine Emerging Leaders in Health and Medicine Scholars Program, and Mitch Higashi, ’01, who established the Health Tech Fund, and now is an industry leader.


To study with UWSOP’s top faculty in health economics and outcomes, medicinal chemistry, and pharmaceutics, click here for more information about our Graduate Programs in Medicinal Chemistry, Pharmaceutics, Pharmaceutical Outcomes Research and Policy, and Biomedical Regulatory Affairs.

Want to earn your PharmD professional degree at the UW? Start here to learn more.