A Prescription for Success

Marissa Schlaifer sees philanthropy as an obligation more than an opportunity. Her gift will open many doors for students in the College of Pharmacy.
The University of Texas at Austin Pharmacy Building

AAs a high school student in Bay City, Texas, Marissa Schlaifer (B.S. ’87, M.S. ’92) had limited involvement with academic clubs. At The University of Texas at Austin, Marissa took the leap into extracurricular activities thanks to the encouragement of faculty and staff. She entrenched herself in the community and culture of the College of Pharmacy and the pharmacy profession, running for national office in the Student American Pharmacists Association, Student APhA, (now the APhA Academy of Student Pharmacists) and running (albeit unsuccessfully) for the position of speaker of the house.

Marissa Schlaifer
Marissa was able to enhance her education beyond the Forty Acres thanks to donors whose gifts put new possibilities within her reach. “I was able to attend national pharmacy association meetings with funds provided by generous alumni,” says Marissa. “I was introduced to new ideas and people who would guide me in my career. I want current and future students to have those same opportunities.” For this purpose, Marissa established the Marissa Schlaifer Student Professional Development Endowment through her estate plan.

“It is important that students receive professional development opportunities,” says Marissa, who hasn’t missed an American Pharmacists Association conference in 35 years, and has been actively involved in the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP), serving on committees, on the board and as AMCP President. “For me, it would be a dream to be in the position to pay for every student pharmacist to attend their chosen conference. I would not be in the job I am in today if there hadn’t been money from the college to go to that first conference.”

Marissa is currently the vice president of policy at Optum, a health services innovation company and pharmacy benefit manager. When she started pharmacy school — a path she chose because she “wanted to go into a medical field but didn’t like the sight of blood” — she could not have predicted her career path would take her to the health care policy space. “I tell student pharmacists that what you end up doing 20 years from now is likely something you don’t know exists today,” she says.

Marissa confesses that her grades didn’t put her at the top of the class; nonetheless, her commitment to her field of study earned her accolades like Outstanding Pharmacy Administration Student. “My future major professor told me to consider that award to be an invitation to consider grad school,” says Marissa. She completed her M.S. in pharmacy administration at UT in 1992 and distinguished herself in her field, earning the William J. Sheffield Outstanding Alumnus Award from the UT College of Pharmacy and being named the AMCP Distinguished Service Award recipient this year.

During her years at UT, Marissa developed another interest — a love for Longhorn football. Although she has lived in the Washington, D.C., area since 2003, Marissa still holds season tickets. She not only attends as many home games as possible, but also connects with a group of friends at away games. “I may be a little obsessed,” she laughs.
A Prescription for Success Marissa Schlaifer Supporting Photo
Marissa is grateful for the life and career she has had thanks to her UT College of Pharmacy
education. “If not for the College of Pharmacy, I would not have the opportunities I have today. And my opportunities at the College of Pharmacy came from the donors before me,” she says. Marissa applies the same kind of dedication and commitment that got her through pharmacy school to her philanthropy. “Donors to the College of Pharmacy allow students to graduate from one of the top pharmacy programs in the country, get a great job and make decent money. To me, giving back is an obligation. If you can give back but don’t, you’re ignoring all of what was given to you.”
The University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy Students

Through exemplary education and training, research and professional development, the College of Pharmacy advances discovery, innovation and patient care.

Texas Leader Magazine

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