Kotis joins leadership of UCSF Health as chief pharmacy executive

New role promises to enhance PharmD education in the School


Desi Kotis, PharmD

Pharmacists provide critical services from home to hospital, ensuring that patients consistently receive safe, effective, and affordable medications. UCSF Health’s new pharmacy executive wants to make sure that every patient in the system gets care that reflects those values.

In May, Desi Kotis, PharmD, joined UCSF Health as chief pharmacy executive and also joined the UCSF School of Pharmacy as an associate dean and faculty member. Her role with UCSF Health entails streamlining and improving pharmaceutical services from hospitals like the UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital to affiliate organizations like Hill Physicians Medical Group and Washington Hospital in Fremont.

“Desi has that big picture vision and common sense approach, vital to the appropriate use of medications for UCSF Health,” said School of Pharmacy Dean B. Joseph Guglielmo, PharmD, who helped recruit Kotis to the position.

As chief pharmacy executive for UCSF Health, Kotis now oversees an annual budget of over $420 million, which goes toward medications, drug supplies, and pharmacy services for hundreds of thousands of patients. Her role in the School of Pharmacy ensures that students in the doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree program have seamless access to interdisciplinary patient care opportunities at UCSF.

“What drew me to UCSF was the level where this position can make a difference, and a really big part of it was this partnership with the school,” said Kotis. “At Northwestern [Memorial Hospital in Chicago], I was the orchestra conductor, but my new role is true owner of the entire enterprise, not just the academic hospital but everything including clinics, new business lines and strategies, working at a high level to make sure we’re being proactive and strategic in how we work.”

Her arrival at UCSF couldn’t come at a more opportune moment, as the university, including the School of Pharmacy and UCSF Health, doggedly pursues its mission of excellence in health and science education, research, and patient care. Between a global pandemic, a renewed reckoning with structural racism and inequality, and record levels of unemployment, UCSF is at the forefront of supporting communities in the city and throughout the state.

“UCSF Health is probably the largest entity in the state health system, and our caregivers are at bedsides and clinics, not to mention online, serving countless communities,” said Kotis. “Our specialty clinics and 340B program [a federal source of health care funding] also provide revenue for UCSF to create additional lines of patient support, from teen programs and diversity enhancements to local help for vulnerable patients.”

Kotis also sees her educational role in the School as a critical part of serving the health of the community.

“Pharmacists can make the biggest impact working not only with the nursing, medical, and dental fields, but also with case managers and social workers, and taking advantage of digital tools to provide the highest level of patient care,” said Kotis. “Our students will engage across all of these areas in preparation for effective pharmacy careers.”

Kotis will not be tackling these challenges alone. Four assistant chief pharmacy officers (ACPOs) will report to her, including the School’s own chair of the Department of Clinical Pharmacy, Lisa Kroon, PharmD, who will oversee pharmacy research, education, and clinical services for UCSF Health.

“As a learning health system, UCSF is constantly testing new, innovative models of care, which we want to disseminate widely,” said Kroon. “With these new assistant chief roles, we’re really seeing how the School and the pharmacy enterprise work better together. From pharmacy faculty to pharmacists to our learners, providing pharmacy care throughout the system, we bring different skill sets, and with this teamwork can we achieve our shared missions.”

Along with Kroon, Kotis’s vision for pharmacists at UCSF Health will be supported by Tania Chopra, PharmD (ACPO in ambulatory care), Fred Hurt, PharmD (ACPO in acute and institutional services, Linda Panofsky, PharmD (medication safety officer and director of regulatory compliance), and Jessica Galens, PharmD (ACPO in business services).

“Having a capable chief pharmacy executive at the leadership table has reinvigorated the School’s relationship with UCSF Health,” said Guglielmo. “I am pleased beyond words that Dr. Kotis is a member of our team, making good on our commitment to continuously improve medication use for all.


School of Pharmacy, Department of Clinical Pharmacy, PharmD Degree Program

About the School: The UCSF School of Pharmacy aims to solve the most pressing health care problems and strives to ensure that each patient receives the safest, most effective treatments. Our discoveries seed the development of novel therapies, and our researchers consistently lead the nation in NIH funding. The School’s doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree program, with its unique emphasis on scientific thinking, prepares students to be critical thinkers and leaders in their field.