College is the catalyst for Lois Ann Healy Beaver ‘63 and a 46-year career with the Food and Drug Administration
A total of 12 patents bearing the name of Lois Ann Healy Beaver ‘63 have been approved around the globe, including by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. To put that achievement in perspective, Microsoft founder Bill Gates has nine patents to his name.
Beaver is modest when speaking about her accomplishments since graduating with degrees in chemistry and mathematics from Rosary Hill College, now known as Daemen College. Yet, she is very enthusiastic in pointing out that her remarkable career with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) got its start at the college.
“I have had an absolutely incredible career and I credit my college education as the foundation on which it was built,” she says.
Mixing a Sharp Mind With Hard Work
Growing up in Buffalo, N.Y., Beaver always had a mind for chemistry. A high school valedictorian, she says she wanted to attend a Catholic college and chose Rosary Hill for its chemistry program, noting the attraction of smaller class sizes compared to those at a large university.
“I loved Rosary Hill because of the way they set up the class programs,” Beaver recalls. “They allowed me to take any classes I wanted to – even outside the chemistry curriculum – as long as I stayed on the dean’s list. That meant I could take European history, advanced English courses and so on. The school gave me such beautiful opportunities, I would almost cry with joy.”
Beaver remembers the chemistry program as being very challenging, noting that she was among 35 women who started in the program her freshman year, and only a handful of those graduated with degrees in chemistry. “That shows you the seriousness of the program and the hard work that was involved,” she says. “I was very excited to be a part of it.”
A Regents scholar, Beaver stayed on the dean’s list all four years. She notes that her family was far from wealthy and she worked multiple jobs during college to support herself. One job was in the college chemistry stockroom, another was in a department store, and she also worked concessions at the city’s baseball stadium where she cultivated her love for baseball. On top of all that, she tutored high school students in math and Latin. It may have been this work ethic that caught the attention of recruiters from the FDA who had come to Rosary Hill for a campus job fair during Beaver’s senior year. The FDA reviewed her credentials and before she even graduated from college, she was invited to join the agency. It was the start of a career that would span 46 years.
International in Scope
Beaver began as an analytical chemist in the FDA’s Buffalo office and worked on different projects in Washington, D.C., where she eventually moved when offered a position in the FDA’s Office of Planning. Early in her career, she was performing gas chromatographic separations of trace unknown residues in food, a technique for chemical analysis. It was during this time that Beaver conceived an idea that resulted in a dozen patents on a system and apparatus for real-time, multi-dimensional chromatography. Her idea also resulted in the founding of an instrument company called Varex Corp., which operated for 10 years before it was purchased by another company.
To say her FDA career was multi-dimensional would be an understatement. “I never kept one position at the FDA for very long because I got bored easily,” Beaver laughs. “I was always up for a new challenge and the FDA was wonderful at accommodating me.”
Beaver worked in trace analysis, becoming a national expert in residue analysis, and, at one point, she oversaw work in FDA laboratories across the country. She also worked with pharmaceuticals and served on the FDA Council on Pharmaceutical Quality. It was this council that conceived and developed Quality by Design at the FDA, which provides guidance on pharmaceutical development to help maximize product efficacy and safety. In addition, Beaver was instrumental in leading the FDA to join the International Pharmaceutical Inspection Cooperation Scheme, meant to improve cooperation between countries and pharmaceutical inspection authorities. She has worked as a liaison with international organizations such as the European Union, the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Her work and personal interests took her to 60 different countries, including more than 25 visits to Egypt. While with the FDA, Beaver led international projects aimed at stopping the counterfeiting of medical products and manufacturing practices in emerging countries. It was in this role that she established a pharmaceutical information center in Cairo. “I would have stayed with the FDA for another 46 years if I could have,” Beaver says. “It was a wonderful organization.”
Staying on the Go
When she married Georges Guiochon, a world-renowned, French-born and now American scientist, author and Distinguished Professor in Chemistry at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, Beaver happily inherited a wonderful family that now includes seven grandchildren. She founded a regulatory consulting group upon retiring from the FDA in 2009. Beaver stays involved in the separation sciences, attending scientific meetings and helping with training. She also interacts with students and postdoctoral students in her husband’s laboratory at the university and assists with publications. Beaver says she returns to the Buffalo area two or three times a year to visit her siblings and, although she lives out-of-town, she organizes their annual family reunion. Looking back, Beaver recalls her college days with great fondness. She has attended a number of class reunions at Daemen where fellow students remember her as “the one who was always in the chemistry lab.”
“My college education was extremely valuable and it helped during every minute of my time at the FDA,” Beaver concludes. “Not just the chemistry program, but other courses such as mathematics and philosophy. Because of the foundation I received from college, I was given the tools needed for a successful career.”