The West Virginia University School of Pharmacy and its Alumni Association celebrated Alumni Day 2023 on Saturday, June 3. The annual event is an opportunity for former classmates from all years to return to Morgantown for a reunion dinner, awards ceremony, continuing education and other activities.
This year's theme was “The Place I Belong.” The day began with continuing education sessions focused on drug diversion prevention training, as well as mental health topics for pharmacists. Alumni and their guests took afternoon tours of the Cook-Hayman Pharmacy Museum, the new William A. Neal Museum of the Health Sciences and Pharmacy Skills Development Center. The evening included a social affair highlighted by an all-years class reunion dinner and awards ceremony at Erickson Alumni Center.
During the dinner, alumni and friends of the School of Pharmacy were honored for their outstanding professional achievements, commitment to community service and the pharmacy profession. Awards, voted on by the School's Alumni Association, which sponsors the event, were presented for the 2022-23 academic year. Dr. Betsy Elswick (PharmD, '01), clinical associate professor and alumni association coordinator, served as the event emcee.
Outstanding Non-alumnus Community Service Award 2023: Dr. Matt Rafa
Dr. Rafa is the president of the West Virginia Pharmacists Association (WVPA) and a pharmacy manager at Kroger Pharmacy in Warwood, West Virginia. With a passion for community involvement, Rafa is an avid activist and contributor to various organizations. He served as the vice president of programs and a board member for the Ohio River Valley Council of Boy Scouts for over six years. A member of the Lions Club since 2014, Rafa was the chartering vice president for the Ohio County Virtual Lions Club in 2020, the first of its kind in West Virginia and one of only 16 in the country. Additionally, he is the founder of Grow Warwood Pride, a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the well-being of his hometown, where he has founded and managed the local farmers market for five out of the last seven years. Throughout his tenure at the WVPA, Rafa has been a driving force in increasing the association's visibility and communication. He launched a successful podcast and newsletter, both of which have played a pivotal role in connecting the pharmacy community and disseminating valuable information. Rafa earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry from WVU in 2004, during which time he was a four-year active member of “The Pride of West Virginia” marching band. Rafa went on to earn a PharmD from the University of Charleston in 2010.
WVU School of Pharmacy DEI Award 2023: Dr. Brian Lawson
Dr. Lawson is the associate executive director for the Board of Pharmacy Specialties (BPS) in Washington, D.C. BPS is an autonomous division of the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) and recognizes pharmacy specialties and certifies pharmacists' knowledge and skills at the advanced practice level. In this role, he oversees the Professional Affairs, Communications, and Engagement (PACE) team responsible for monitoring the professional pharmacy landscape in the U.S. and around the globe and developing collaborative relationships within the healthcare community to promote the value of BPS board certification. He serves as the staff liaison to the APhA Task Force on Addressing Structural Racism in Pharmacy. Prior to joining BPS, Lawson was the associate director of governance for APhA with responsibilities related to the activities of the Board of Trustees, House of Delegates, policy development, professional awards and Board elections. He earned his Doctor of Pharmacy from WVU in 2008. He was subsequently named the first Knowlton Center Executive Resident in Association Management and Leadership at the APhA Foundation. Lawson is a former president of the WVU School of Pharmacy Alumni Association. He remains active with WVU through his appointment as an adjunct assistant professor and serves on the School's Leadership Council and its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. Lawson is a native of Huntington, West Virginia.
Alumnus of the Year Award 2023: Dr. Angela Wowczuk
Dr. Wowczuk is the director of the Rational Drug Therapy Program (RDTP) and a service assistant professor at the WVU School of Pharmacy. She has worked for RDTP since 2013 with a variety of responsibilities including collaborating with the Bureau for Medical Services, Public Employees Insurance Agency, Children's Health Insurance Program and West Virginia Medicaid. Wowczuk actively participated in the Project ECHO Hepatitis C program at J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital and RDTP's Safe and Effective Management of Pain Program, specifically in opioid case review authorizations. Before her tenure at WVU, Wowczuk worked in community pharmacy for six years for Rite Aid in Pittsburgh and CVS in Moundsville, West Virginia. She served as president of the Ohio-Marshall County Pharmacist Association. Driven by her passion for global health, Wowczuk participated in a medical brigade team from WVU and the University of Pittsburgh. Together, they established a temporary medical clinic in rural Honduras with the organization, Shoulder-to-Shoulder. Wowczuk is a Board-Certified Pharmacotherapy Specialist and a credentialed American Academy of HIV Medicine HIV Expert. Beyond her role as director of RDTP, Wowczuk actively serves as a preceptor to students at the WVU School of Pharmacy, sharing her wealth of knowledge and mentorship to shape the next generation of healthcare professionals. Wowczuk earned a PharmD from the WVU School of Pharmacy in 2008 and a bachelor's degree in animal and veterinary sciences and nutrition from WVU in 2007.
In addition to the awards presentation, the Alumni Association recognized the 2022-23 officers – Co-Presidents Dr. Jeremy (’11) and Dr. Leesa Prunty (’11), President-Elect Dr. Brian Pierson (’02), Secretary Susan Meredith (’67), Treasurer Scot Anderson (’68) and Member at Large Julie Austin (’96).
Officers for 2023-24 were introduced and voted on by the alumni association members in attendance. They are President Brian Pierson, President-Elect Lisa Pitrolo (’06), Treasurer Scot Anderson and Secretary Susan Meredith. Members at Large are Julie Austin and Abbi Blevins (’16), and Michaela Mahan and Anna Lumadue are student representatives.
The dinner included a silent auction which raised funds for an endowed scholarship on behalf of the WVU School of Pharmacy Alumni Association. All proceeds go to the WVU School of Pharmacy Alumni Association Leadership Scholarship.
Five-year reunion classes were celebrated this year, including 1953, 1958, 1963, 1968, 1973, 1978, 1983, 1988, 1993, 1998, 2003, 2008, 2013 and 2018.
Fun facts from the evening include—the Class of 1978 had the most significant showing, with 19 alumni in attendance; Irv VanMeter, Class of 1953, celebrated 70 years as a proud School of Pharmacy graduate; Zachary Hanuschock, Class of 2021, was the youngest alumnus to attend; and Mamie Gaver, Class of 1978, traveled the farthest, making the trip from her home in South Carolina.