Honor recognizes William M. Heller for over six decades of leadership, service and commitment to USP
Rockville, MD, June 1, 2022 – The U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP) today announced that former USP Executive Director William M. Heller, Ph.D., has been awarded the first-ever USP William M. Heller Lifetime Achievement Award. The namesake award recognizes an extraordinary career contributing to USP’s impact and mission, expanding global access to quality medicines and improving public health.
“Dr. Heller’s lifetime contributions to USP’s mission, public quality standards and mentorship of other USP volunteers have had an extraordinary and far-reaching impact in expanding the supply of quality medicines and improving patient lives,” said Ronald T. Piervincenzi, Ph.D., CEO of USP. “His more than 60 years of service to USP as both an expert volunteer and Executive Director set a record that may never be surpassed. The USP William M. Heller Lifetime Achievement Award honors Dr. Heller’s remarkable example of leadership and volunteerism in public health.”
“It is an honor to be recognized by Ron and other peers, friends and colleagues at USP,” said Dr. Heller. “It is my hope that this recognition will serve to inspire future generations of USP volunteers. They are the pharmacists, physicians, scientists, academicians, regulatory professionals, healthcare practitioners and others who will continue to fulfill USP’s mission to help ensure the quality, safety and benefit of medicines.”
Dr. Heller served as both Executive Director of USP (the equivalent of chief executive officer before the CEO title was created) and Chair of the USP Committee of Revision from 1970 to 1990. His key roles also included serving as a member of the USP Committee of Revision from 1958-1969, a member of the Executive Committee of Revision from 1960-1969, Chair of the USP Drug Nomenclature Committee from 1985-1990, a consultant and advisor on drug nomenclature from 1990-2020, and Chair of the Pronunciation Expert Panel from 2010-2020.
Through his latter roles – including as a member and consultant to the USP Nomenclature & Labeling Expert Committee and founding Chair of the Pronunciation Expert Panel – and through his close work with the U.S. Adopted Names Council (USAN), Dr. Heller had a leading role in standardizing the pronunciations of drug names to help prevent medication errors. Today, these official pronunciations are published in the USP Dictionary of USAN and International Drug Names that Dr. Heller was instrumental in creating.
“Dr. Heller’s advocacy and foresight in advancing standardization in the pronunciation of drug names has served the public health by helping to prevent medication errors stemming from verbal orders in patient care settings,” said Jaap Venema, Ph.D., Executive Vice President and Chief Science Officer for USP. “We honor Dr. Heller’s legacy of leadership and tireless commitment to advancing the safe and beneficial use of trusted, quality-assured medicines.”
Important achievements during Dr. Heller’s tenure as USP Executive Director include the purchase of USP’s current headquarters location in Rockville, Maryland; acquisition of the National Formulary, allowing the combination of two separate official drug compendia into the current-day USP-NF; and purchase of the Drug Standard Laboratory to support drug research and testing. Together, these important additions helped lay the foundation for the continued growth of the organization.
Dr. Heller’s leadership also facilitated standardization of drug information to help make it more accessible for healthcare professionals and patients, including through USP publications titled “Drug Information for the Healthcare Professional,” and “Advice for the Patient: Drug Information in Lay Language.” These and other initiatives and programs championed by Dr. Heller as Executive Director helped USP meet the real-world needs of healthcare practitioners and others while supporting an enduring legacy of confidence for users of USP standards and trust in quality-assured medicines.
Serving in the U.S. Army during World War II before receiving his M.S. and Ph.D. in pharmacy from the University of Maryland, Dr. Heller’s career included work with the U.S. Public Health Service and 12 years as Director of Pharmacy Services at the University of Arkansas Medical Center. While at the University of Arkansas – at a time when innovative, safe medication systems were being pioneered in hospitals – Dr. Heller served as chief investigator of a multidisciplinary research team that conducted the first hospital-wide demonstration of a centralized unit-dose dispensing system.
Dr. Heller’s career has also included contributions to scores of books and scientific publications, volunteering with over a dozen pharmacy-related professional and academic organizations, and four honorary doctorate degrees. Through his work and the sharing of his knowledge and expertise with multiple institutions and organizations, including advising and lecturing at colleges of pharmacy, Dr. Heller has helped shape the practice of generations of pharmacists.
Dr. Heller’s past honors include the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists’ Harvey A.K. Whitney Lecture Award, the American Pharmacists Association’s Remington Honor Medal, and the American Foundation for Pharmaceutical Education’s William M. Heller Mentor of the Year Award.
USP’s Ron Piervincenzi presented Dr. Heller with the USP William M. Heller Lifetime Achievement Award at a small ceremony at the Volunteers in Medicine Clinic in Stuart, Florida, where Dr. Heller has also volunteered for over 20 years. The VIM Clinic provides free, comprehensive medical care to uninsured, low-income residents of Martin County.
The contributions of expert volunteers like Dr. Heller remain central to advancing USP’s mission, including through service on USP’s Council of Experts, Expert Committees and Panels. For more information about opportunities to volunteer with USP, click here.
USP is an independent scientific organization that collaborates with the world's top experts in health and science to develop quality resources and standards for medicines, dietary supplements and food ingredients. Through our resources, standards, advocacy and education, USP helps increase the availability of quality medicines, supplements and foods for billions of people worldwide.