Three School of Pharmacy alumni recently established endowed scholarships to remember relatives who had an impact on their life and education.

George and Angelo Voxakis

George and Angelo Voxakis

Smaragde and Christopher Voxakis left the Greek island of Chois and came to the US for the same reasons most immigrants do: for a better life and better opportunities for their children.

The couple and their young son, George, came to Baltimore in the 1930s and settled in East Baltimore’s Greektown neighborhood, where they eventually opened their own wholesale bakery. “We all worked in the bakery,” says George Voxakis, BSP ’58, PharmD ’96, referring to his two brothers. “Family was first, second, and third in our house.”

Yet when George and his brother Angelo, BSP ’71, graduated from high school (in 1954 and 1964 respectively), they knew they were not expected to join the family business. Instead, their parent expected them to go to college. “That was always understood,” Angelo says. “Our parents valued higher education.”

When the opportunity came for the Voxakis brothers to create a scholarship endowment at the School of Pharmacy to honor their parents, they seized it, funding a $50,000 endowed scholarship named for Smaragde and Christopher Voxakis. “We both wanted to do something for them. We were grateful for the opportunity they gave us to go to college,” says George.

George entered the School of Pharmacy in 1954. Initially, I became a pharmacist for practical reasons – the school was affordable and I was guaranteed a job. But it ended up being the best thing that happened to me,” says George, who started working at Edwards & Anthony Pharmacy in East Baltimore in 1958. He bought the store in 1970.

Angelo Voxakis, 11 years George’s junior, became a pharmacist, in part, because of his brother’s success. “He had a big influence on my career,” says Angelo, who graduated from the School in 1971. “I worked at the University Hospital pharmacy for 16 years before buying my own pharmacy, Hereford Pharmacy, in Parkton, Md., in 1989.”

For much of their careers the Voxakis brothers have combined independent pharmacy practice with other businesses. Angelo owned three Dunkin’ Donut franchises, and George has been president of American Liberty Financial Services since 1987, the same year he sold Edwards & Anthony Pharmacy.

Angelo Voxakis has been president and CEO of the EPIC Pharmacy Network, a Maryland-based purchasing cooperative for independent pharmacies, since 1999. The network uses the group’s purchasing power to take advantage of large quantity pricing, regional advertising, managed care representation, and store promotion to help independent pharmacies compete with chains.

George Voxakis, 70, still practices pharmacy part time (at his brother’s pharmacy) and is so committed to the profession that he decided to earn his PharmD in 1996 – at the age of 60. “It was challenging, but worth it,” says Voxakis, who also serves on the School of Pharmacy’s Board of Visitors.

George and Angelo are happy that their parents lived long enough to see them become successful pharmacists. (Their dad passed away in 1972, their mom in 1995.) “If they were here, they would be pleased that we were giving someone else the opportunity to do the same,” George says.

The brothers’ $50,000 endowment was matched by funds from the John and Joan Gregory Gift and the Maryland Private Donation Incentive Program, which was created by the General Assembly in 1990 to provide matching funds for endowments established at public institutions and their foundations. The program was reauthorized in 1999 for an additional six years. The Voxakis endowment is now worth $150,000.

Sally Van Doren

Sally Van Doren, PharmDSally Van Doren, PharmD ’85, likewise created an endowed scholarship to honor a family member who had a powerful influence on her life and education: her late aunt, Doris Nuessle McCaig. Van Doren, who is vice president of drug safety and risk management at InterMune Inc., a biotechnology company in San Francisco, says her aunt Doris was a role model for her as a young girl.

“She was an independent woman who made the best of life’s circumstances, no matter how difficult,” Van Doren says. “My aunt Doris’ whole life revolved around meeting the mortgage, paying the bills, and raising her two children single-handedly. I learned a ‘pick-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps’ philosophy of life from her.”

One thing that was especially remarkable about Doris Nuessle McCaig, her niece says, was how she managed to work for B&O Railroad for more than 20 years despite suffering from debilitating rheumatoid arthritis. “Aunt Doris rarely complained of the extreme pain,” says Van Doren, although side effects from drugs to treat her arthritis – which weakened her heart – only made her aunt feel worse.

“She is one of the reasons I went into pharmacy,” Van Doren says. “Watching her slow decline from rheumatoid arthritis and cardiac disease helped me realize I could potentially help her and others like her by becoming a pharmacist,”

In 1984, when Van Doren was in her third year of pharmacy school, her aunt died of cardiac failure and complications of her disease. She was 58 years old. “It became clear to me that so much more was needed to provide patients like my aunt with better therapeutic treatment options,” Van Doren says.

After graduating from the School in 1985, Van Doren worked in hospital pharmacies at the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of California, San Francisco medical centers for a few years before entering the pharmaceutical industry to have a more direct role in drug development and safety.

Since then, she has worked overseas (including three years in Saudi Arabia) and in the US at companies including Syntex Laboratories, Gilead Sciences, Cerus Corporation, Peninsula Pharmaceuticals, and InterMune, Inc. She has been involved in several new drug applications and marketing authorization applications for a number of currently marketed antiviral drugs.

“My expertise and career focus is in safety surveillance, pharmacovigilance, and risk management of drug products throughout their life cycle,” says Van Doren, who recently joined the School of Pharmacy’s Board of Visitors.

Van Doren credits the training she received at the school with preparing her for the career path of maximizing the benefits of new drug therapies and minimizing risks to patients. “My career has allowed me to help a significant number of patients with serious medical conditions – on a worldwide public health scale,” she says. She characterizes being a pharmacist as a “life’s reward.”

“It is with this reward that I wish to give back to the School, so it can continue to expand its PharmD program,” Van Doren says. Her $50,000 endowment was also matched by the John and Joan Gregory Gift and by the Maryland Private Donation Incentive Program and is now worth $150,000.