Peter Solyom Jr., former ASHP vice president and past president of the California Society of Health-System Pharmacists (CSHP), died April 13, in Katy, Texas. He was 96 years old.
Solyom started out as a pharmacist in Illinois but spent most of his career at the Kaiser Foundation in California, where he was a founding member of CSHP. He was the organization’s president in 1975 and was honored as CSHP Pharmacist of the Year in 1978. Solyom received the CSHP Distinguished Service Award in 1986 and was named an honorary CSHP member in 1989.
Max Ray, who served in 1985–1990 as CSHP's first full-time executive vice president, remembered Solyom as a visionary leader and a pillar of the state pharmacy society.
"Pete provided me with invaluable counsel and historical perspectives," Ray said. "He was a kind man, a gentleman in every sense of the word. He was generous in sharing his experiences and was very supportive of me during the transition of CSHP from a largely volunteer-run organization to one with a full-time, staff-run headquarters in Sacramento."
CSHP Chief Executive Officer Loriann De Martini called Solyom an innovator and a passionate steward of the pharmacy profession.
“His leadership was instrumental in advancing pharmaceutical care and services in California hospitals, which provided a model for the rest of the nation,” said De Martini. She said CSHP and its members are “universally grateful for his leadership and will continue to honor his legacy.”
Solyom was born April 5, 1927, in Cook County, Illinois, to Peter and Mary (Liptak) Solyom, who had emigrated from Hungary. After his arrival in the United States, Peter Sr. worked for many years as a janitor in an apartment building.
As a teen, Peter Jr. worked for a local drugstore and then at Wilson Laboratories in Chicago. He served in the U.S. Army in 1945 and 1946, then went on to study pharmacy at the University of Illinois, graduating in 1951. He married Dorothy Hogle Sept. 28 of that year.
Solyom began his career in hospital pharmacy at St. Luke’s Hospital in Chicago before being recruited by the University of Chicago Clinics, where he worked as assistant chief to Chief Pharmacist Paul F. Parker. When Parker left in 1956 to direct the American Pharmaceutical Association’s hospital pharmacy division, Solyom was chosen to lead the university’s pharmacy department. He was later named chairman of the University of Chicago Clinics.
Solyom joined ASHP in 1955 and began a long period of service to the organization. At Parker’s recommendation, Solyom led ASHP’s newly formed committee on radiopharmaceuticals, which was created to help pharmacists take ownership of managing these materials for hospitals.
In 1960–1961, Solyom served a term as ASHP vice president, working alongside ASHP President Clifton J. Latiolais. At that time, Solyom was tasked with leading a special ASHP committee on hospital pharmacy administration, whose goal was to review, revise, and approve an outline for teaching administrative skills to student pharmacists.
Solyom led and served on other ASHP committees and councils in subsequent years; he was also a member of the ASHP Board of Directors in 1964–1966. He was named an ASHP honorary member in 1987.
“Peter Solyom was part of a generation of pharmacists whose work formed the backbone of how pharmacy is practiced today — and how ASHP and its affiliated state societies respond to evolving practice needs,” said ASHP Chief Executive Officer Paul W. Abramowitz. “I remain forever grateful for Peter’s groundbreaking work and his dedication to the profession.”
In 1962, Solyom relocated to California to serve as director of pharmacy at the Palo Alto–Stanford Hospital Center. He left the organization in 1966 to become director of pharmacy operations at the Kaiser Foundation Medical Care Program in Los Angeles. Solyom was later promoted to vice president of the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and regional director of pharmacy operations for Kaiser Foundation Hospitals in Los Angeles. He remained with the Kaiser Foundation until his retirement in 1986.
Steven Gray, who worked as a regional staff assistant to Solyom at Kaiser, credited him with establishing an academic detailing program whose goal was to augment — and sometimes counter — drug information that prescribers received from manufacturers.
“That program was key to a very successful prescription drug benefit program for Kaiser Permanente that, to this day, does not require any prior authorization for physicians to prescribe nonformulary drugs,” Gray said.
He added that Solyom helped launch Kaiser’s groundbreaking high-volume computerized drug-dispensing system. That effort led to the organization’s successful advocacy on pharmacy practice statues and regulations that govern computerized dispensing systems in the state.
Gray also praised what he called Solyom’s greatest achievement at Kaiser — the Today’s Action Creates Tomorrow (TACT) program. The initiative created an organization wide mindset that emphasized input from pharmacy staff at all levels, upending the traditional top-down management style that previously prevailed.
“It was truly a pharmacy family culture,” Gray said.
David A. Zilz, who served as ASHP president in 1980–1981, said it was a privilege to know Solyom and to see him in action with Latiolais, Parker, and the profession's other notable leaders.
"He was always a constructive force, very thoughtful, and always able to articulate clearly the issues he was facing and how they were being addressed," Zilz said. "He was always upbeat, and his presence was always positive and energetic."
After his retirement, Solyom remained active in volunteer work in his community. He continued to be recognized by his profession; in 2002, he was honored with the Award for Achievement from the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy.
Solyom was predeceased by his parents, his sister Helen Gann, and his sons Peter and Steven. He is survived by his wife of 72 years, Dorothy; son David Solyom; five grandchildren; and seven great grandchildren.
The family has requested those who wish to honor Solyom’s memory to make a donation to the American Diabetes Association.