Alumni Profile: Richard Lalonde

Clinician, scientist, educator: Richard Lalonde credits the College of Pharmacy with enabling him to become all of these things over his 38-year career

Richard Lalonde

From teaching aspiring pharmacists at the University of Tennessee to becoming global head of clinical pharmacology at Pfizer, Lalonde (Pharm.D. ’80) has enjoyed an impressively wide range of roles over the past nearly four decades – and the University of Minnesota, he says, “helped to open all these doors. It’s probably what allowed me to have the career I’ve had.”

"The University of Minnesota helped to open all these doors"

“It’s up to you to decide what path you want to take – a degree doesn’t make anything automatic – but it allows you to have the opportunities,” Lalonde says. “The clinical expertise and scientific training I received in the College of Pharmacy gave me the foundation to build on for my career.”

A native of Hawkesbury, Ontario, Lalonde was drawn to the college because of its stellar reputation. The faculty and his overall experience lived up to his high hopes, he says.

“They put high demands on us that allowed us to rise to the level they expected of us. It was very demanding and fulfilling,” Lalonde recalls. “I have extremely fond memories of my time at the U. I found the clinical clerkships in the doctor of pharmacy program, and all of the instructors I had, to be outstanding.”

And they were accessible outside of the classroom, he adds. “Many of our professors were not that much older than us. So they could easily relate to what we were going through as students – and it was not uncommon for us to get together in social settings to celebrate the end of the semester.”

Lalonde, who retired from Pfizer in 2017, is an adjunct professor at the U and at the University of Florida. In the decades since he earned his degree, he’s seen significant changes in the field of clinical pharmacology.

“There's a greater focus on quantitative approaches. That's something that’s always interested me,” he says.

He points to the emergence of pharmacometrics – the quantitative analysis of interactions between medications and patients – as a boon to drug development that’s enabling more fine-tuning of patient therapy.

“Developing new drugs is extremely challenging: most drugs that we test never make it to the market because they’re not sufficiently effective or sufficiently safe, compared to existing medications,” Lalonde says. “You’re looking for a needle in a haystack, and a tremendous amount of expertise from numerous scientific disciplines is required. The [College of Pharmacy] is training scientists to find the needle in the haystack.”

Lalonde’s service to his field includes deep involvement in professional organizations; he’s been president of the American Society for Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics and been associate editor of its journal. He’s also a fellow of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists, the American College of Clinical Pharmacology, and the American College of Clinical Pharmacy. He’s proud of helping other scientists – through professional organizations, teaching, and mentoring – “reach their full potential and develop new treatments for patients.”

And he remains proud of his degree from the College of Pharmacy.

 “It's consistently highly ranked – and those things don't happen by magic or resting on your past accomplishments. The skills students are acquiring at the U are going to be very helpful in moving the discipline forward.”