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Leadership Laurels

College Names Varkey as Alumnus Pharmacist of Year, Tipton as Meritorious Achievement Award Recipients

UH College of Pharmacy bestowed its 2018 Alumnus Pharmacist of the Year award to Alex C. Varkey, Pharm.D. ('05), M.S., FAPhA, and its 2018 Meritorious Achievement Award to Joyce A. Tipton, R.Ph. (B.S. '79), MBA, FASHP, during the college's annual Mading Society event for donors Oct. 5 in Houston.

Alumni Pharmacist of the Year

photo of Pritchard and Varkey
UHCOP Dean F. Lamar Pritchard presents the college's 2018 Alumnus Pharmacist of the Year Award to Alex C. Varkey.

Varkey has the distinction as being the only UHCOP student to serve as National President-elect, President and Immediate Past President of the American Pharmacists Association-Academy of Student Pharmacists. After earning his Pharm.D. degree from UHCOP, Varkey went on to complete a two-year PGY1/PGY2 at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and an M.S. in Health-System Pharmacy Administration from The Ohio State University. He then spent a year as pharmacy operations manager for Clarion Health Partners (now Indiana University Health).

Varkey returned to Texas in 2008, joining Houston Methodist Hospital as pharmacy operations manager and later promoted to his current position as director of Pharmacy Services. During his decade of service at Houston Methodist, Varkey is credited as one of the founders of The Houston Program, a concurrent M.S. in Pharmacy Leadership and Administration degree and PGY1/PGY2 Health-System Pharmacy Administration residency program through seven of the college's fellow Texas Medical Center member institutions, and creation of a longitudinal advanced pharmacy practice experience for professional pharmacy students.

Varkey's previous honors include 2010-11 recipient of the University of Texas College of Pharmacy Houston/Galveston Region Outstanding Hospital Preceptor Award and 2014 recipient of the Gulf Coast Society of Health-System Pharmacists Outstanding Pharmacist Award. In addition, Varkey's pharmacy department team was recognized with the college's Health-System Site of the Year in 2017. Varkey was appointed in January 2018 to fill an unexpired term on the APhA Board of Trustees and was inducted as an APhA Fellow in March 2018. He recently completed a one-year term as co-chair of the UHCOP Dean's Advisory Council.

"It’s a privilege to work in a profession I truly enjoy, and that privilege would not have been possible without the University of Houston College of Pharmacy," Varkey said. "I’ve been taught by UH faculty and many other pharmacy leaders I admire that the best way to repay the debts you owe to your mentors is to pay it forward. I appreciate the opportunities that UHCOP has given me over the years to do just that through The Houston Program among other venues. I look forward to continuing serving the profession and our patients."

Meritorious Achievement Award

photo of Pritchard and Tipton
UHCOP Dean F. Lamar Pritchard presents the college's 2018 Meritorious Achievement Award to Joyce A. Tipton.

After graduating cum laude from UHCOP, Tipton worked in both community and hospital pharmacy in Austin and Houston, including three years at MD Anderson Cancer Center. She then moved to Winston-Salem, N.C., to join Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. Over the next 14 years, Tipton rose to the rank of assistant director of pharmacy through her problem-solving initiative and passion for expanding clinical pharmacy services into such as areas as home infusion, pediatrics and emergency medicine. In fact, Tipton said one of her career highlights is creating one of the first embedded pharmacists in the emergency room. Tipton also managed to complete an MBA at Wake Forest while juggling her leadership responsibilities.

After returning to Houston as administrative director of what is now Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center, her penchant for innovation and advancing pharmacy practice continued in earnest – and led to her induction as a Fellow of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP). Among her achievements at Baylor St. Luke's was co-founding The Houston Program; creating the Center for Antimicrobial Stewardship and Epidemiology, which was recognized as a "Best Practices Model" by ASHP; and establishing an Infectious Diseases Pharmacy Fellowship between UHCOP and the hospital.

After departing Baylor St. Luke's, Tipton joined Baylor College of Medicine and later Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center where she would serve as director of Pharmacy and Respiratory Care at Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center. During this time, Tipton also served nine years on the Texas State Board of Pharmacy – including as its vice president – following her appointment by then Texas Gov. Rick Perry. In 2017, after nearly four decades in pharmacy practice and leadership, Tipton retired from Memorial Hermann and hung up her white coat.

"It was such an honor to be recognized by my alma mater and to get appreciated for doing what we love," Tipton said. "I've loved my work with UH and so proud of what we've accomplished with our students, residents and pharmacy staff, as well as to have witnessed such tremendous change at UH and the college under such phenomenal leaders as Chancellor (Renu) Khator and Dean (Lamar) Pritchard."

During the Mading Society event at which Varkey and Tipton were honored with the awards, both also were welcomed as Society inductees.