Pharmacy Professor Prepares Students for the Technology and Ethics of Practice

Armen Simonian considers Professor Robert Stein a Renaissance man. Simonian, an assistant dean and chair of clinical and administrative sciences at the School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences at Keck Graduate Institute (KGI), should know: He first met Stein more than 40 years ago, when they were pharmacy school classmates at the University of Southern California, and they’ve stayed in touch ever since. They found themselves together again when each independently decided to join KGI when it launched the School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

“Bob became an expert in health information technology,” says Simonian. “He’s always been a very articulate person, so it was a perfect fit for him to also go into law. He has an incredible energy level, too. Besides teaching and pharmacy practice, he’s very involved in serving the profession. He cares, and it shows in everything he does.”

Knowing this, Simonian is unsurprised that Stein was recently named Pharmacist of the Year by the Orange County Society of Health System Pharmacists (OCSHP), an organization representing the area’s hospital and health system pharmacists. Stein, a professor of practice for pharmacy law and ethics and healthcare information technology at KGI, is a member of the OCSHP board of directors and serves as its delegate to both the California Society of Health System Pharmacists and the American Society of Health System Pharmacists. He will also become chair of the California Pharmacist Association’s Government Affairs Advisory Committee next year.

Stein wasn’t expecting to receive the award but credits KGI for providing him with the time and opportunity to give back to his profession. He says, “For many years, I was a member of the organization but didn’t really get involved because I was working and raising a family. Being involved now allows me to leverage my practice experience, and it’s helpful in anticipating what’s ahead for younger members of the profession.”

He began his career as a clinical pharmacist, working in a hospital. That experience led Stein to develop a narcotic inventory control system—a decision that grew from his interest in computer programming, which predates his graduation from high school in 1970. Stein’s system was put into use at 120 hospitals, and pharmacy informatics became central to his subsequent work as a consultant and at medical centers. Years later, he decided to add a law degree to his credentials, earning a J.D. from Western State University College of Law.

Stein brought all of this knowledge and experience to KGI. Now in what he calls “the best job I’ve ever had,” he teaches the Electronic Health Records and Pharmacy Law and Ethics courses in KGI’s Pharmacy Informatics Certificate Program.

Stein also educates students in KGI’s School of Applied Science about bioethics. He notes, “It’s beyond the comfort zone of a lot of students who are more technically oriented. All of a sudden, they’re going from science to dealing with philosophical issues. They tell me it makes them think about things they’d never given consideration before. I hope I’m teaching them to be good people making good decisions that will affect patients’ lives.”

By now, Stein has been a KGI faculty member long enough to see the School of Pharmacy’s inaugural class approach graduation. He has mentored a group of them from the beginning and says, “I feel proud of what these students have accomplished and how far they’ve come. I’ve seen their transformation into professionals who understand patient care and what they’re going to do in the future. I’m excited to see how our Class of 2018 is going to tackle the world.”