ACP’s Dr. Richard Nicholas Appointed to State Rare Disease Council

OAKWOOD, VA (OCTOBER 5, 2021) – Dr. Richard Nicholas, pharmacy practice department chair at the Appalachian College of Pharmacy, has been appointed by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam to the state’s new Rare Disease Council.

Appointments to the council, created by the General Assembly earlier this year, were announced by the governor last month. The new council is charged with advising the governor and the General Assembly on the needs of individuals with rare diseases in the Commonwealth; identifying challenges that such individuals face, including delays in obtaining a diagnosis or the receipt of a misdiagnosis, shortages of medical specialists who can provide treatment and lack of access to therapies and medication used to treat rare diseases. Additionally, the council is charged with identifying funding for research related to rare diseases and the development of new treatments for rare diseases; and identifying funding for supports for persons with rare diseases in the Commonwealth.

“We are very proud of Dr. Nicholas’ recent appointment to the statewide Rare Disease Council,” said ACP Dean Susan Mayhew. “We are certain with his credentials and experience that he will bring a valuable voice to the table from the profession of pharmacy. We congratulate him on his appointment and we look forward to hearing more about the council and its important work in the future.”

The council, which is comprised of residents in a variety of medical and research fields from across the state, held its first meeting last week.

“Virginia is one of 17 states thus far that has adopted the formation of a Rare Disease Council,” Nicholas said. “North Carolina was the first and we learned at the meeting that seven other states are currently preparing legislation to form their own councils.

Nicholas noted one of the primary purposes of the council is to address the challenges those with rare diseases face in not only delays in getting a good diagnosis, but lack of screening, treatment and more.

“I really hope to be able to advocate for rural care access,” Nicholas said of one of his goals as a member of the council. “I hope that my experience as a community pharmacist will add to the council and I’m honored to have been appointed. I look forward to the opportunity to serve the residents of Southwest Virginia.”

Nicholas said he expects the council initially will work to refine its focus to determine specific areas and issues it needs to address from access, to diagnosis, to treatments and medications.

Within the first year, the council will hold public hearings, make inquiries and solicit comments from the public to assist the council in understanding the scope of rare diseases in the Commonwealth and the impact of rare diseases on individuals in the Commonwealth.

Additionally, the council will conduct research and consult with experts to develop policy recommendations related to:

  • improving access to health care and other services for individuals with rare diseases, including access to health insurance, specialists, health care services and other necessary services for individuals with rare diseases;
  • the impact of health insurance coverage, cost sharing, tiers, or other utilization management procedures on access to health care and other necessary services; and
  • the impact of providing coverage under the state program for medical assistance services for approved health care services and medications for rare diseases.

Nicholas has been a professor at ACP for the past 11 years. Originally from Las Vegas, Nevada, he has more than 25 years of experience in pharmacy practice. He started his career in pharmacy stocking shelves and making deliveries in his father’s pharmacies during high school and interned at local independent pharmacies throughout his pharmacy education. After graduating from Idaho State University with his Doctorate in Pharmacy in 1992, he owned and operated a home infusion pharmacy and managed community pharmacies in Las Vegas, Nevada and in Seattle and Kennewick, Wash.

Believing in preventive care and a holistic approach to medicine, he moved to Seattle in 2001 to attend naturopathic medical school at Bastyr University. His training at Bastyr included nutrition, herbal medicine, physical medicine, homeopathy and counseling. He completed his Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine in 2007.

Nicholas is married to Wendi and has two children, Mackenzie and Caleb.

The Appalachian College of Pharmacy is the only three-year Doctor of Pharmacy program in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Founded in 2003, the college accepted its first students in 2005. It is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Its mission is to cultivate a learning community committed to education, community outreach and the professional development of pharmacists. Its graduate pharmacists are now practicing throughout the United States.

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