Robert Buerki Receives AIHP’s Robert P. Fischelis Award

AIHP Secretary Robert Buerki

AIHP’s Board of Directors has awarded the 2020 AIHP Robert P. Fischelis Award to Robert Buerki, PhD, RPh, for his extraordinary contributions to the Institute and the field of pharmacy history. Dr. Buerki, who has been an AIHP member for more than 55 years, has served the Institute in numerous leadership positions, including President and Secretary.

The AIHP Robert P. Fischelis Award is conferred by AIHP’s Board of Directors to persons or organizations that have had an important impact on the field of the history of pharmacy or on the well-being of the Institute. The award is given in honor of the late Robert P. Fischelis, a gifted leader of the pharmacy profession and a generous benefactor of the Institute.

Dr. Buerki is Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University College of Pharmacy, where he has taught history of pharmacy and professional ethics courses for many years. He received a BS in Pharmacy and a MS in Social Studies in Pharmacy from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He earned a PhD from The Ohio State University.

Dr. Buerki served as AIHP’s President from 1983 to 1985, and led the organization when it hosted the 1983 International Congress for the History of Pharmacy. He has served as AIHP’s Secretary for the past 15 years. He also served on AIHP’s Council for more than ten years.

In awarding the Fischelis Award to Dr. Buerki, AIHP’s Board of Directors cited the key role he played in the creation of the George Urdang Chair in the History of Pharmacy at the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Pharmacy, AIHP’s host institution. That endowed chair is currently held by AIHP’s Historical Director, Lucas Richert, PhD, who is also an Associate Professor at the UW–Madison School of Pharmacy. 

Many individuals and organizations contributed to the campaign to raise the funds to endow the professorship, but according to former AIHP Executive Director Gregory Higby, PhD, it was “an extraordinarily generous gift from Bob Buerki and his wonderful wife, Leslie” that enabled the campaign to finally reach its goal.

“The importance of this gift to both the Institute and the field of pharmacy history cannot be overstated,” says AIHP’s President W. Clarke Ridgway. The gift made it possible for AIHP’s host institution to create the only chaired professorship in the field of pharmacy history in the United States. “Establishment of that unique position has served to not only cement the Institute’s long-term relationship with the UW–Madison School of Pharmacy, but it has also made it possible for a tenured member of the School’s faculty to serve as the Institute’s scholar-in-residence and to work in close collaboration with the Institute on all aspects of its operations,” said Mr. Ridgway. These benefits, according to Mr. Ridgway, “have been and will continue to be of momentous importance to the Institute.”

Bob Buerki (left) receives the 2004 Edward Kremers Award from W. Clarke Ridgway.
Robert Buerki (left) receives the 2004 Edward Kremers Award from W. Clarke Ridgway.

Dr. Buerki’s financial support for the field of pharmacy history did not end with the creation of the Urdang Chair. He and his wife subsequently made another significant gift to the UW–Madison School of Pharmacy to create the Robert and Leslie Buerki Graduate Fellowship Fund, which provides fellowship support to graduate students in the School of Pharmacy interested in the field of pharmacy history and related areas. Professor Richert, AIHP’s Historical Director, said that “the fellowship promises to bring graduate students interested in pharmacy history to the School where they can work and collaborate with the Institute and contribute to its programs.”

Dr. Buerki has published dozens of peer-reviewed articles in the areas of professional ethics and pharmacy history and education. He is also the author of several books, including Ethical Responsibility in Pharmacy Practice (with Louis D. Vottero) (AIHP, 2002) and Foundations of Ethical Pharmacy Practice (with Louis D. Vottero) (AIHP, 2008). Royalties from these books were donated to AIHP to create an endowed fund for the study of ethics and the humanities. 

Dr. Buerki was inducted into the International Academy of the History of Pharmacy in 2003. He is the 2004 recipient of AIHP’s Edward Kremers Award for his book entitled The Search of Excellence: The First Century of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. He also contributed numerous articles, book reviews, and notes to AIHP’s Pharmacy in History.

Other accomplishments include organizing the AACP History of Pharmacy Special Interest Group and developing innovative public history projects and professional education experiences in the field of pharmacy museums.

W. Clarke Ridgway, AIHP’s President, offered these comments on the Board’s decision to award the Fischelis Award to Dr. Buerki:

“The Board enthusiastically and unanimously approved the selection of Dr. Buerki as the 2020 recipient of the Fischelis Award. Veteran and newcomer Board members alike praised Bob for his long-time devotion to the Institute and noted the action “one of the easiest decisions the Board has ever had to make.”

AIHP’s Board of Directors established the Robert P. Fischelis Award in 2015. Past recipients include Louis Vottero, George Griffenhagen, and the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Pharmacy.

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