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Q&A with Sally W. Schwarz, 2016-2017 President of SNMMI

by Sean Ruck, Contributing Editor | June 13, 2016
Sally Schwarz
From the June 2016 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Sally Schwarz has worked in the field of nuclear medicine in a variety of roles. She began her career in the field when it was just starting to grow. She’s worked in it as it has evolved, and as the next president of the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging, she is going to have a greater role in directing its future. Health- Care Business News spoke with her about her past, present and future and how that parallels nuclear medicine’s history.

HCB News: How did you get involved in health care?
Originally I got into pharmacy because of my father. He was a traditional pharmacist with his own business and I started working for him when I was about 12. He had a clinic-based pharmacy. He essentially served medical needs, the basic cough and cold. His pharmacy rented walkers and wheelchairs and then expanded to hospital beds. He started with a soda fountain [and] progressed to a professional pharmacy.

After high school, I went to pharmacy school. I always liked chemistry through high school. My mother was very encouraging toward pharmacy as a profession. My mother had a four-year scholarship to a college and her mother wouldn’t let her take it, so she went to business school. But for her daughters, she wanted them to go where they wanted.

I went to the University of Iowa and got a Bachelor of Pharmacy degree. I then worked at the VA for a number of years, then I moved to Colorado and worked in retail pharmacy, but it didn’t hold my interest. I was interested in the chemistry side. I decided to return to school and looked into hospital pharmacy and nuclear pharmacy graduate programs. I was introduced to nuclear pharmacy at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Iowa City, Iowa. They were advertising the University of Southern California program. The VA was interested in encouraging the practice of nuclear pharmacy because they were interested in staffing all the VA hospitals in the United States with nuclear pharmacists. I received my Master’s from the University of Southern California, so USC is my alma mater. I truly enjoy nuclear pharmacy. It combined my interests in pharmacy and chemistry.

I wasn’t educated formally in nuclear pharmacy in my undergrad curriculum, just a brief touch in one of my chemistry courses. Clinical nuclear medicine began in the 1960s at the University of Chicago. When I was graduating, it really hadn’t made it into an educational focus for pharmacy. As it evolved, there was [the] need for pharmacists to be involved to prepare radiopharmaceuticals.

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