Many of you may recognize Dr. Fred G. Weissman as our local expert pharmacist in pharmacy law and ethics. After earning his J.D. degree from the Loyola Law School in 1989, Dr. Weissman has since gone on to teach several related courses at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional levels including the pharmacy law course here at the USC School of Pharmacy (SOP) since 1994. He is also the accomplished author of two published textbooks and numerous pharmacy law related articles as well as a consultant for various law firms who has served as an expert witness in over 100 cases.
Prior to acquiring his J.D., Dr. Weissman obtained his Pharm.D. from the USC SOP in 1963 as a second-generation pharmacist and member of Rho Chi. Immediately upon graduating, he faced the possibility of being drafted during the rising Vietnam conflict and decided to instead enlist as an officer in the army where he served as head pharmacist of a large clinic near Kaiserslautern, Germany for 3 years. When he returned to the United States, Dr. Weissman continued his practice in various capacities moving from community pharmacy at Thrifty Drug (now Rite Aid) to outpatient at Kaiser Permanente Sunset to the director of pharmacy services at St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach to even serving on two California Board of Pharmacy committees. All the while, he began transitioning into the academic sector as a faculty of the USC SOP wherein he was involved early on in such projects as developing the community practice rotation for fourth-year USC pharmacy students.
In 1997, Dr. Weissman began his term as the USC SOP Associate Dean for Faculty/Student Affairs and Admissions, which lasted until 2016. While serving as Associate Dean, he initiated and established a variety of programs including the White Coat Ceremony, the very first set of Bylaws for the school, the Student Policy and Procedures Manual, and many more. In addition to Dr. Weissman’s remarkable career achievements, he has been the recipient of numerous awards including the 2002 USC SOP Alumnus of the Year, the 2017 national Rho Chi Alumni Honor Roll, and the USC SOP Outstanding Instructor of the Year on six separate occasions.
Q: What do you feel is one of your greatest accomplishments as a pharmacist?
A: When you have been in the profession as long as I have, the number of changes that has occurred in pharmacy over the last 50+ years has been remarkable. During the 1960’s the only two areas of pharmacy practice were community and hospital with the bulk of graduates going into the community sector.
I joined the USC pharmacy faculty in 1970 during a time when pharmacists were just starting to become more patient oriented than product oriented. I was one of four faculty responsible for training P4 students in dermatology and Ob/Gyn at USC/LAC where I worked with physicians and medical residents in these specialty areas to develop the first instituted clinical pharmacy program in the nation. Work initiated in this early stage of clinical pharmacy became the prototype for expanding the opportunities for pharmacy students to observe various diseases via rounding, the results of drug treatments, and allowing pharmacy students and faculty have input on drug recommendations. This was perhaps one of the most exciting times of my career that later allowed me to accomplish other exciting pursuits, and the beginning of changing the paradigm of how pharmacists were to be trained in the future.
Q: Please describe how being a member of the Rho Chi Society has impacted your professional career or your life in general?
A: Being a member of Rho Chi is a privilege that I sincerely believe should not be an exclusive recognition of how well you have done academically, but should serve as a reminder that the virtue of being scholarly should direct one to engage in leadership roles and foster a passion to help others, especially as it relates to patient care and the education of others. As a member of Rho Chi, I nurtured a desire to make life-long learning a goal and to seek meaningful opportunities that would allow me to expand into new areas and pursuits.
Q: Describe your decision to earn your J.D. degree after practicing as a pharmacist for several years? What were your motivations and considerations in being trained in law?
A: Law was an area of study that I only became totally interested in during my early 40s, and a good friend who was a pharmacist attending Southwestern Law School invited me to a number of his law classes. I began to see that pharmacy and law would make a perfect mix so after doing well on the LSAT, I applied to Loyola’s evening Law School Program in 1985. I found the study of law fascinating, and even though it involved a lot of long hours of study and preparation, and often taking time away from my family and friends, I graduated in 1989. While spending time doing consumer protection cases while at Loyola, I began working with law firms in an expert witness capacity doing pharmacy, health care, and medical malpractice cases. Since 1992 I have served as an expert witness in over 100 cases, and each one has been a learning experience and exciting venture for me. I am convinced the mix of pharmacy and law present wonderful opportunities for those who wish to pursue both professions.
Q: What words of advice/encouragement do you have for the future pharmacists at the USC School of Pharmacy.
A: Growing up, I was constantly told it was important to start planning on a career and to know what to do with your life while in your teens. Well, I really did not know what I wanted to do at that early age even though I was bombarded by family and friends with what they thought I ought to be doing with my life. However, decisions regarding one’s career sometimes come naturally even well after adolescence. I think the secret to happiness which breeds success is to find what you really want to do; do it, continue in it, and grow with it. Do not continue in a career position that you wake up in the morning and tell yourself, I really hate to go to this job. There are now enough options in the practice of pharmacy to allow you to find your niche and happiness. I know, for myself, after many different opportunities presented themselves throughout my life, I want to be sure that when I wake up in the morning, I really look forward to wanting to be where I am.