Tuesday, January 7, 2020

From a young age, Janet (Moylan) Ritter (’92 BSPh, ’94 PharmD) learned that almost anyone could be a good athlete with enough practice but that being a good student-athlete took a special sort of person, someone who could keep up with a rigorous physical regime, but also keep up with a weekly schedule of academic work that left barely enough time for a few hours of shut-eye. “Studying pharmacy and also playing women’s volleyball at the University of Iowa took immense focus,” says Ritter, who lives with her husband, Dave, and their five children in Tinley Park, Illinois. “Both activities demand considerable amounts of time, energy and effort. I had to be constantly ‘on’ in order to keep up with everything.”

Janet Ritter Credits Sports and Academics for Her Success
Janet Ritter
​​​​​'92 BSPh, '94 PharmD

My time at Iowa was invaluable for preparing me for my career in clinical practice, academia, and industry,” says Ritter. “I encourage all students to take full advantage of opportunities to interact with faculty members because this will help you understand complex material and provide a solid foundation for clinical rotations.

Volleyball shorts and lab coats

Ritter was recruited to play on Iowa’s women’s volleyball team despite the fact that she was small for the sport – standing at just 5-feet-7-inches. She served as starting setter for the Hawkeyes for all four years of her undergraduate career at Iowa and led the team in assists and digs each year. “Blocking was not my forte due to my relatively short height, but I made up for it with my agility on the court,” says Ritter, who was the first NCAA female athlete to graduate from the College of Pharmacy. During her years on the Iowa City campus, Ritter especially enjoyed the therapeutics courses she took. These courses taught Ritter how to work with patients, identify drug-related problems, and recommend care plans. Ritter, who is the medical managed care director for Sanofi Genzyme, a global pharmaceutical company, says she still uses the same approach to patient care today. “My time at Iowa was invaluable for preparing me for my career in clinical practice, academia, and industry,” says Ritter. “I encourage all students to take full advantage of opportunities to interact with faculty members because this will help you understand complex material and provide a solid foundation for clinical rotations.”

Raising Hawkeye kids

As a mother, Ritter talks often with her children about the value of education. Her oldest child, daughter Samantha, will graduate in May with degrees in biology and chemistry from Colorado Mesa University. Samantha also plays college volleyball, just like her mother, and is considering pursuing a graduate degree at the University of Iowa. Ritter’s oldest son, Jackson, already attends Iowa, and is a member of the Iowa football team. He is a student at the Tippie College of Business. “I’d love to have both Samantha and Jackson at the University of Iowa, and I know they’d love to be on the same campus together,” says Ritter. “They have grown up hearing stories about Iowa City and the incredible experience I had at Iowa.” Ritter’s three other children – sons Ben, DJ and Jacob – may also follow in their mother’s footsteps and attend Iowa. The three younger children play multiple sports, and balancing their athleticism and schoolwork is a common dinner table conversation, she says. “Sports teaches a lot of invaluable lessons, but ultimately, an athletic career is transient,” Ritter says. “My husband and I try to teach our children how to find the right balance between sports and academics, but we also stress that academics should always take precedence.”

Fitting it all in

Ritter did lots of juggling when she was a student at Iowa. During the volleyball season, she would miss an average of 10 days of school, which meant she had to make up for a lot of missed coursework, and she had to take summer courses to earn the credits she needed to graduate. During her third year at Iowa, the team changed its Tuesday practice time so she could take her Pharmaceutics Lab course. “I studied whenever I could and soon became an expert at studying on six-hour bus rides, bumpy airplane flights or well into the middle of the night,” Ritter says. “My goal was always to graduate pharmacy school with honors and to be an excellent teammate for the Iowa volleyball team. I stayed focused on that goal.” Her hard work paid off. Ritter was awarded many scholar/athlete awards, including All Big Ten (second team and honorable mention), Academic All Big Ten, the bronze, silver and gold medals for academic excellence awarded by the University of Iowa Board in Control of Athletics, and a Collegiate Scholar Senior Award. But of all of her awards, the most special was the Big Ten Medal of Honor. “This award speaks to the devotion and work ethic I displayed for both academics and athletics,” Ritter says.

Never a dull moment

Ritter’s day-to-day work routine is not routine at all. As director of medical managed care and the PharmD fellowship program at Sanofi Genzyme, Ritter can find herself presenting a disease state program in asthma or multiple sclerosis to pharmacy specialists or discussing clinical trials and pharmacoeconomic data with pharmacy benefit managers. “I have never been a person who talks about what needs to be done, I just do it,” says Ritter. “Having goals or a plan is valuable but spending too much time talking about what you need to accomplish can be a waste of energy.”