Student Spotlight: College of Pharmacy Graduate Student, Shannon Vaffis, Comes Full Circle

It was September 2016 when Shannon Vaffis started a journey that would expand her horizons and enhance her career path. At that time, Shannon was working for Roche Tissue Diagnostics as a project manager. With an interest in health outcomes, she reached out to the Center for Health Outcomes and PharmacoEconomic Research (HOPE Center) at the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy hoping to attend their long-standing annual training program.

While attending the program that year, Vaffis made connections with the HOPE Center team as well as participating College of Pharmacy faculty and graduate students. It was evident that she was interested in pursuing graduate school and in 2017 she applied and was accepted to the Health and Pharmaceutical Outcomes graduate program and began transitioning into her new life as PhD student.

“Entering the PhD program was an important step in my career – to move from project management of clinical research to leading projects in health economics and outcomes research,” noted Vaffis. “The experience of returning to graduate school has generated opportunities for research and teaching that have expanded my skillset and leadership abilities far beyond what I possessed entering the program.”

Her past experiences coupled with increasing knowledge in the area of health outcomes, Vaffis was soon asked to participate in the annual training program assisting participants with hands-on activities. Later it became apparent that she was poised to take on teaching and has become a go to for delivering selected topics included in HOPE Center training programs and garnering great reviews.

Along with working to soon complete her PhD program in 2021, next up for Vaffis is a key role in a research project connecting both her current HOPE Center and former Roche colleagues. The HOPE Center team recently secured a project with Roche Tissue Diagnostics to compare the costs associated with performing PD-L1 testing as an in-vitro diagnostic (IVD) vs as a laboratory developed test (LDT) in patients with non-small cell lung cancer. Vaffis’ team will be evaluating the economic impact of false negative and false positive assays to help identify the most cost-effective method for selecting appropriate treatment for these patients.

“Shannon has been an amazing colleague since we first met her at our annual training program,” said Amy Grizzle, PharmD and HOPE Center Associate Director. “She has become a great contributor to our training program teaching faculty. To now be working with her on this new research project is exciting and I know she will contribute so much!”

The first meeting with Shannon Vaffis proved to be just the beginning of an important relationship. Vaffis will forge ahead in her career and the HOPE Center team will continue to have an outstanding colleague for future teaching and research projects.