Longtime ASHP CEO Joseph A. Oddis Dies at 92 Years
Joseph A. Oddis, whose visionary leadership brought about many critical initiatives that continue to shape and advance the pharmacy profession, died February 24 at age 92 years. Oddis, the namesake of ASHP’s Joseph A. Oddis Global Headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, was chief executive officer (CEO) of ASHP from 1960 to 1997 — a period of great change in pharmacy practice.
“This is an extremely sad day for the profession of pharmacy,” said ASHP CEO Paul W. Abramowitz. “Dr. Oddis’ contributions to pharmacy practice in the United States and globally are innumerable and have touched every corner of the profession. He embraced pharmacists’ societal roles as the medication experts and committed his life to advancing that vision. Dr. Oddis believed that pharmacists could improve the lives of patients through the safe and optimal use of medications.
“Dr. Oddis was a visionary who imagined ASHP as a professional organization that would offer the highest-caliber continuing education, pharmacy residency training, evidence-based drug information, pharmacist-led research, and so much more. He had that unique ability to articulate his vision, achieve consensus around it, and lead its highly successful implementation.
“Dr. Oddis mentored me as a member of the ASHP Board of Directors and during my term as the ASHP president. He has been a trusted advisor since I assumed the ASHP CEO role. Dr. Oddis will also be remembered for his commitment to people, as he cared deeply about everyone around him. He was an unassuming man — he embodied the definition of a gentleman — who always sought to showcase the contributions and successes of others. I am beyond thankful to have had Dr. Oddis in my life through most of my professional career, and I will miss him very much.
“On behalf of the ASHP Board of Directors and staff, I want to offer our sincerest condolences to Joe, Marie, and the entire Oddis family,” Abramowitz said. “Dr. Oddis has earned a permanent position in the history of ASHP, pharmacy, and healthcare, which have been the beneficiaries of his wisdom and vision.”
Henri R. Manasse, who was Oddis’ immediate successor as ASHP CEO, likewise spoke highly of Oddis as a mentor and advisor.
“I had great respect for Joe, both in the sense of his 37 years of service and also as a person,” Manasse said.
Manasse said Oddis emphasized that ASHP’s executive leaders are the organization’s public face, and their actions, good or bad, profoundly affect the association’s reputation.
“Those were the kinds of things that he and I would talk about that helped me a lot in preparing to become the CEO,” Manasse said. “Because it was up to me, then, to ensure good governance and maintain the reputation and the credibility of ASHP.”
Manasse said Oddis was gentle, kind, and personable, and he took a genuine interest in those around him and their loved ones.
“He was always interested in what my children were doing,” Manasse said. “When we would be together as a family with Joe, he always made it a point to reach out to them.”
Retired ASHP staff member William A. Zellmer, who worked alongside Oddis for 27 years, described him as a man of strong moral character.
“Anyone who knew Joe Oddis well recognized that he was a principles-driven man,” Zellmer said. “To me, it seemed as if his respectfulness, friendliness, and compassion arose in large measure from the sturdy foundation of his religious faith. He did not proselytize; he did not preach; he simply showed how to be a good person.”
ASHP President Thomas J. Johnson said Oddis “was simply a legend.”
“His kindness, his wisdom, and his ability to make investments in the future resulted in ASHP’s and the profession’s strength today,” Johnson said. “I had the pleasure to dine with Dr. Oddis at ASHP Policy Week, and his ability to make you feel like you were the only person in the room was amazing. It was easy for me to see why he was such an excellent mentor. He will be missed by so many.”
Oddis was also fondly recalled by past presidents of ASHP.
“I always felt completely and totally respected by Dr. Oddis as a past president — and as a member, too — of ASHP. But specifically he was always so kind and connected, really, with all past presidents,” said Roger W. Anderson, who served as ASHP president during 1987–88. “The advice he gave us was to maintain our professional presence that we had as officers and also to remain very connected or faithful to ASHP as our membership home.”
Anderson said that many times over the decades, Oddis would pick up the phone and call just to stay in touch.
“He’d say he was thinking of me and how the family was,” Anderson said.
Harold N. Godwin, ASHP president during 1982–83, was a recent pharmacy residency program graduate with an interest in pharmacy leadership organizations when he first met Oddis.
“He welcomed me to the profession and the pharmacy organization world,” Godwin said. “He soon became a career-long mentor to me relative to my subsequent pharmacy organization career journey. Dr. Oddis — Joe — was truly one of a kind, but throughout his remarkable career, his mission was always focused to help others and advance our profession.”
James D. McAllister III, ASHP president in 1990–91, said he has many fond memories of Oddis over the decades.
"He was a great mentor. He was probably one of the best listeners I ever met, professionally, and his commitment and love for the profession was at the top of his mind all the time," McAllister said.
Marianne F. Ivey said one of the highlights of her 1981–82 term as ASHP president involved a visit to the White House for a healthcare celebration that included having her photo taken with President Reagan. She later realized, after Oddis had dropped her off for the event, that he had stepped aside to allow her the privilege of the meeting.
“He was very supportive of presidents, that’s for sure,” Ivey said. “He was a wonderful leader and a fantastic human being; just a gentle man.”
Marcella Hill, widow of ASHP Past President Wendell T. Hill (1972–73), remained close to Oddis and his family for many decades. The relationship was facilitated through an annual ASHP dinner attended by board and council members, staff, and other invited guests.
“I’m thankful that I was part of their lives and they were a part of our lives and family,” Hill said.
Many who knew Oddis fondly recalled the social gatherings he hosted at the close of the business day.
“Any past president or employee of ASHP remembers Joe's ‘after 5’ time,” said Jannet M. Carmichael, who was ASHP president during 1992–93. “‘After 5’ was an opportunity for Joe to find out what was really going on. He seemed to thrive on the comradery of everyone, from Walter Jones in the mail room to upper-level management or a past president who was in town. Joe always made you feel welcomed and appreciated.”
Carmichael said she was honored to have the mentorship of the “classy, savvy, gracious” Oddis.
When Oddis was sworn in as ASHP’s top executive in 1960, the organization had 3,294 members. At the time of his retirement 37 years later, ASHP’s membership stood at 31,000.
During Oddis’ tenure, ASHP became the accrediting body for pharmacy residency and pharmacy technician training programs. By the time he retired in 1997, more than 10,000 pharmacy residents had graduated from ASHP-accredited programs.
Oddis also spearheaded the evolution of ASHP’s early educational events into what would become the ASHP Midyear Clinical Meeting and Exhibition — now the world’s largest gathering of pharmacy professionals — and the ASHP Summer Meetings.
With support from Oddis, ASHP in 1964 published the Mirror to Hospital Pharmacy, a national survey of hospital pharmacy practice. This groundbreaking document defined essential hospital pharmacy services and contained the building blocks of modern health-system pharmacy practice.
ASHP in 1968 launched an innovative residency in association management, a project that grew from a brainstorming session between Oddis and Warren McConnell, ASHP’s director of education and training. The program proved a valuable pipeline for producing leaders of national associations, but it was paused after 2009 because of the national financial crisis. In 2017, the residency was relaunched as the 12-month ASHP Executive Fellowship in Association Leadership and Management. More than 40 people have completed the residency or fellowship.
In 1968, under the leadership of Oddis, Joseph Beckerman, and Milton Skolaut, the ASHP Research and Education Foundation was incorporated. This was the culmination of a 16-year process to establish a philanthropic organization to offer research grants to advance pharmacy practice and support pharmacists’ role in patient care.
Charles M. King, whom Oddis recruited to lead the foundation in 1987, recalled his 13 years in the position as the longest and most enjoyable time of his career.
King described Oddis as a soft-spoken man who gave good advice and whose management style gently led people in the right direction.
“He was always listening to people, and he gave everybody an opportunity to speak,” King said. “He would ask for comments and he would kind of nudge you one way and then another way. And if you were headed in the wrong direction, he would warn you to stay away from that.”
Stephen Allen, who became CEO of the foundation in 2000, said the organization prospered under the leadership and wisdom Oddis provided as a member of the Board of Directors.
“I recall how impactful his guidance was in the 2008–09 financial crisis, when he advised the board to stay the course and not make deep budget cuts. This allowed the foundation to weather the storm and build on its program successes,” Allen said.
He called Oddis a treasured professional, personal mentor, and dedicated friend.
“Like so many others, I was blessed to have his friendship and guidance and will miss him dearly,” Allen said.
Oddis implemented organizational changes to help ASHP better serve its members, including the centralization of services and hiring of full-time staff to operate the organization near the nation’s capital.
In centralizing services, ASHP also undertook full responsibility for editing and producing the organization’s signature publications — American Hospital Formulary Service, International Pharmaceutical Abstracts, and AJHP. Influential new publications, including the Handbook on Injectable Drugs, were launched under Oddis’ leadership.
The centralization also brought pharmacy legend Donald E. Francke onboard as full-time paid staff serving as director of scientific services, which encompassed the American Hospital Formulary Service.
Oddis remained actively engaged with ASHP after his retirement and long served as a mentor and source of counsel for ASHP’s staff and leadership.
His main influences and achievements on behalf of the profession were recounted in a 1997 AJHP tribute, which also includes insights into Oddis as a leader, mentor, and friend.
Mary Jo Reilly, whom Oddis recruited for ASHP’s staff in 1964 (she retired more than three decades later as ASHP’s chief operating officer), described Oddis as a thinker, visionary, and kind and nurturing person with the highest integrity and honesty.
“Joe was a wonderful friend to me,” Reilly said. “He cared about people. He lived a life guided by faith and devotion to his family and a passion for the profession. His aim was to elevate those around him and to engage all in what he envisioned to be a shared mission for pharmacy.”
Joseph A. Oddis was born November 5, 1928, in Pennsylvania’s coal country to Giacinto and Felicetta Oddis, who had emigrated from Italy. Christened as Giuseppe Amilcare, he took the name Joseph Anthony at his confirmation and was known by that name thereafter.
Giacinto worked long days in the local mines, and he and his wife encouraged Joseph and his younger brother, Neal, to excel in school and in life. Neal Oddis eventually became a physician.
During his senior year of high school, Joseph Oddis visited Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, where he hoped to enroll in the school of music. The visit included an introduction to Hugh C. Muldoon, founding dean of the pharmacy school. Muldoon’s magnetism and grace so impressed Oddis that he switched his plans and applied to the school of pharmacy.
He received a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from Duquesne in 1950 and worked as a staff pharmacist at Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh for a year before being drafted into the U.S. Army. He was assigned to the Army hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, where he met Jeanne Trevenna. They were married in 1954 and remained devoted to each other until her death in 2013.
Oddis returned to Mercy Hospital and served briefly as assistant director of pharmacy, working under his childhood catechism teacher, Sister Mary Gonzales Duffy, who would later serve as ASHP’s first female president. Soon after, Oddis was selected as chief pharmacist for Western Pennsylvania Hospital in Pittsburgh. He was active in the Western Pennsylvania Society of Hospital Pharmacists and served as the organization’s president during 1954–56.
Oddis became involved in pharmacy association management shortly before the ASHP 1960 Annual Meeting. At the time, he was living in Chicago, where he had served since 1956 as the American Hospital Association's full-time staff representative for hospital pharmacy. One of his chief duties was overseeing the weeklong hospital pharmacy training programs, known as institutes, that the hospital association conducted jointly with ASHP and the then-American Pharmaceutical Association (APhA).
Both pharmacy associations were looking for new executive leadership. Paul F. Parker, director of APhA’s Division of Hospital Pharmacy, was stepping down. Michigan-based Gloria Niemeyer Francke was ending more than a decade of service as ASHP secretary.
Oddis was prevailed on to assume both organizations’ overlapping executive positions in 1960. Two years later, ASHP and APhA agreed to dissolve the latter's Division of Hospital Pharmacy, and Oddis remained ASHP’s CEO until his retirement in 1997.
Oddis combined a persistent and persuasive voice for progress with an unassuming and unfailingly kind personality that drew people to him. His understated approach to leadership was illustrated in a 2018 interview during which Oddis described his recruitment as candidate for president of the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP).
”I was minding my own business, I think. And ... I first got involved in the hospital section” of FIP, Oddis reflected. Later, after being elected as FIP vice president, he was approached to run for president of FIP.
“I was happy to do all of that,” Oddis said. “And the ASHP board was willing to let me run for that presidency, knowing it’s for four years, if I won. And there were gains to be made if I became elected to represent the international organization.”
Oddis served his term as FIP president during 1986–90, and the organization honored him in 2018 by bestowing an honorary lifetime membership.
“It was very kind of them,” Oddis said of the recognition.
FIP recognized Oddis’ passionate support for international pharmacy by presenting him with the André Bédat Award in 1994. In 2013, FIP honored Oddis as the inaugural recipient of the Joseph A. Oddis Award for Exceptional Service to FIP.
“It is with great sadness that FIP learnt of the passing of Dr. Joseph Oddis,” said CEO Catherine Duggan. She conveyed the sincere condolences of FIP, the FIP Bureau, and the organization’s current and past officers.
“FIP is forever grateful for the dedication and energy Dr. Oddis showed through his involvement in FIP,” Duggan said. “He also played an active role in the founding of the FIP Foundation for Education and Research in 1993, where he served as the chairman from 1993 to 1994.”
“Beyond his contribution to FIP and pharmacy at a global level, many of us have lost a dear friend,” she added. “He has been an inspiration to all of us. ... We will miss him dearly and we will value his legacy and his memory.”
Through his involvement in FIP, Oddis was able to offer ASHP’s presidents the opportunity to serve the international pharmacy community.
For ASHP past presidents Philip J. Schneider (1988–89) and Thomas S. Thielke (1989–90), the exposure to FIP helped to cement a lifelong friendship and a passion for international pharmacy.
“Tom and I were introduced to FIP when we were ASHP presidents,” Schneider said. “After that introduction, we attended the FIP meeting every year for the next 30 years. We were inspired by Dr. Oddis to seek and realize leadership positions in the Hospital Pharmacy Section and beyond. This experience broadened our perspective of hospital pharmacy in general and the profession overall and resulted in pharmacy friendships worldwide.”
Schneider said one of his cherished honors was when FIP in 2019 named him the recipient of the Joseph A. Oddis Award for Exceptional Service to FIP.
Thielke greatly valued Oddis as a professional mentor and personal friend.
“After Joe retired, I continued to visit him about every other year in Bethesda for dinner, where my mentoring sessions continued,” he said. Thielke praised Oddis’ unselfish commitment to health-system pharmacy, his consummate professionalism, and his executive presence, especially at the international level.
“I will really miss the great conversations I had with Joe over 50 years,” he said.
Oddis received many prestigious awards acknowledging his leadership and vision, including six honorary doctor of science degrees, one of which he received in 1989 from his alma mater, Duquesne University. He was the 1970 recipient of ASHP’s Harvey A. K. Whitney Lecture Award and the 1986 recipient of ASHP’s Donald E. Francke Medal. APhA presented Oddis with the Hugo H. Schaefer Award in 1983 and the Remington Honor Medal in 1990.
The Michigan Society of Health-System Pharmacists in 1996 established the annual Joseph A. Oddis Leadership Award in Oddis’ honor.
Oddis is survived by son Joseph, daughter Marie Newman, their spouses, and four grandchildren.
Oddis will be interred at the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Silver Spring, Maryland, in a private ceremony. A memorial service will be held April 9 and can be viewed remotely here. Friends are encouraged to sign the online guest book at Robert A. Pumphrey Funeral Homes.
Gifts in memory of Dr. Oddis can be made to the ASHP Foundation at ASHPFoundation.org.
ASHP is undertaking many activities to celebrate the life and legacy of Joseph A. Oddis. Prominent among these is a special AJHP tribute issue, slated for publication this year, that will include in-depth commentary and recollections from some of the many people whose lives Oddis touched.
Milestones in career of Joseph A. Oddis
|1950||Graduates from Duquesne University with B.S. degree in pharmacy
|1950-1||Serves as staff pharmacist at Mercy Hospital, Pittsburgh|
|1951-53||Serves in U.S. Army, first at Fitzsimons Army Hospital in Denver, Colorado, and then in Landstuhl, Germany|
|1953–54||Serves as assistant director of Pharmacy, Mercy Hospital, Pittsburgh|
|1954–56||Serves as chief pharmacist, Western Pennsylvania Hospital, Pittsburgh|
|1954–56||Serves as president, Western Pennsylvania Society of Hospital Pharmacists|
|1956–57||Serves as member of ASHP Committee on Program and Public Relations|
|1956||Appointed as full-time Staff Representative, Council on Professional Practice, American Hospital Association, Chicago|
|1957–58||Serves as vice president, Illinois Society of Hospital Pharmacists|
|1960||Hired as first full-time executive officer of ASHP; replaces Paul F. Parker as director of American Pharmaceutical Association (APhA) Division of Hospital Pharmacy|
|1970||Receives ASHP’s Harvey A. K. Whitney Lecture Award|
|1975||Receives first of six honorary Doctor of Science degrees|
|1977-82||Serves as president, FIP Section on Hospital Pharmacy|
|1978||Receives Distinguished Alumnus Award from Duquesne University School of Pharmacy|
|1983||Receives Hugo H. Schaefer Award, presented by APhA|
|1984||Elected vice president, FIP|
||Receives Donald E. Francke Medal, presented by ASHP|
|1986-90||Serves as president, FIP|
|1990||Receives APhA’s Remington Honor Medal|
|1994||Receives FIP’s André Bédat Award|
|1996||Joseph A. Oddis Leadership Award established by Michigan Society of Health-System Pharmacists|
|1997||Retires from ASHP|
|1998||Named as honorary member of ASHP|
|2013||ASHP headquarters building at 7272 Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda, Maryland, named Joseph A. Oddis Building|
|2013||Becomes first recipient of Joseph A. Oddis Award for Exceptional Service to FIP|
|2017||New ASHP headquarters offices at 4500 East West Highway in Bethesda, Maryland, named as ASHP Joseph A. Oddis Global Headquarters|
|2018||Named as Fellow of FIP|