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Finance professor provides insider’s view of FDA operations

by Kenneth Best - January 22, 2007

Students studying with John Vernon are gaining an extraordinary insider's view of how economic policy is developed at the highest levels of the federal government.

In addition to teaching, Vernon, an assistant professor of finance and an expert on financial aspects of the pharmaceutical industry, spends one week a month on loan to the federal Food and Drug Administration in Washington, D.C.

There, he is a senior economic policy advisor to the FDA and to the agency's commissioner, Andrew von Eschenbach.

Vernon has testified before committees of the U.S. Congress about his research on the economic consequences of re-importing U.S. drugs from other nations, specifically the regulation of drug prices from nations that have cost controls on drugs.

Initially, the FDA tried to entice Vernon into taking a full-time position.

"I did not want to leave academia, but I was very interested in government policy and working with the FDA," he says.

Vernon, who also holds a joint faculty appointment in community medicine at the UConn Health Center, says his students enjoy learning how theories taught in the classroom play out in actual practice.

"It's enriching what we teach in the classroom theoretically. The real beneficiaries of my work are UConn students," he says.

John Vernon, an assistant professor of finance
John Vernon, an assistant professor of finance with a joint appointment at the Health Center, spends one week a month in Washington, D.C., as a senior economic policy advisor to the FDA.
Photo by Peter Morenus

"They get to see how the FDA operates and how some of the things I teach in class are actually implemented on Capitol Hill. It's really exciting to me, personally."

Another beneficial aspect of Vernon's FDA work is collaboration with other UConn faculty in related disciplines.

He works with faculty members both in the School of Pharmacy and at the UConn Health Center.

"The School of Pharmacy is one of the best in the country. Their expertise is second to none. The collaborations have been very symbiotic and synergistic," he says.

"There are opportunities for additional research involving the business school, the pharmacy school, and the Health Center," he adds.

"It's unique to UConn, with an extraordinary pool of resources with respect to health care economics and finance."

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