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Nilofar “Nellie” Jafari has been named the 2017-18 Congressional Healthcare Policy Fellow by the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Pharmacy in collaboration with the American College of Clinical Pharmacy and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.

Jafari now is completing a two-year postgraduate residency in health-system pharmacy administration at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh and also is working on a Graduate Certificate in Health Systems Leadership and Management. She holds a multidisciplinary master of public health degree from the University of Pittsburgh and a Pharm.D. from VCU. Her interest and involvement in health care and public service, however, had their roots in her undergraduate years at the University of Virginia, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

Her volunteer experience in medical services at U.Va. also piqued her interest in pharmacy. As a student pharmacist, advocating for pharmacy and public health became a passion. She began to focus on community outreach projects and research in the areas of global health and underserved communities.

Jafari describes the fellowship program as a “unique opportunity to be involved in legislative and regulatory policy as well as to be able to provide my perspective as a pharmacist in the policy-making process.

“In addition to preparing me to be a strong advocate for pharmacy and health care,” she says, “this fellowship aligns with my long-term career goal of working in government affairs for a professional society.”

David Finegold, director of the University of Pittsburgh’s multidisciplinary M.P.H. program, recommended Jafari for the fellowship, without reservation, “as an outstanding representative of our very best students.”

“From our very first conversation,” he wrote, “she showed a focused and dedicated commitment to contributing an impact at the population level.”

Linda C. Wieloch, manager of medication safety and inpatient operations for Allegheny General Hospital, referred to Jafari as “an extraordinary advocate on behalf of our patients. … Nellie’s interest in advocacy and policy has been evident throughout her residency. She took classes at the University of Pittsburgh to expand her understanding of the policy process, and she in turn educated the department.”

The policies on which Jafari would like to focus revolve around health care, medication accessibility, population health and health disparities. “I believe the most meaningful policies are the ones that explore ways to reduce health care costs and increase access to health care in underserved communities.”

The fellowship program, now directed by VCU School of Pharmacy associate professor Kristin Zimmerman, was founded 11 years ago under the leadership of professor Gary R. Matzke.

Participating pharmacists have the opportunity to gain real-world insight into health care policy analysis and development via immersion in the congressional environment. Fellows are actively mentored in legislative evaluation, policy development, research and writing while integrating practical experience with theory.

The Congressional Healthcare Policy Fellow program, which expanded last year to 59 weeks, will begin July 10. Jafari will spend one week at the Brookings Institution and three weeks at ACCP with Edwin Webb, associate executive director, and John McGlew, director of government affairs. She’ll spend another three weeks with Joe Hill of ASHP’s government affairs staff. Finally, she will embark on her placement within a congressional office or on congressional committee staff in Washington through August 2018.

For more about the ACCP-ASHP-VCU Congressional Healthcare Policy Fellow program, click here or contact director Kristin Zimmerman at


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