George Mason University
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George Mason University

Sharon Lamberton Awarded Distinguished Alumna of the Year from George Mason University College of Health and Human Services

April 16, 2020   /   by Michelle Thompson

Lamberton emphasizes the role of the mentors and professional network cultivated at Mason 

Mason alumna Sharon Brigner Lamberton (MS, Health Policy '01) wanted to build on her experience as a neurology nurse at the National Institutes of Health to advocate on behalf of patients’ health. To do this, she knew she needed to build the knowledge and credibility to navigate the legislative and policy process at the Capitol or at state Capitols across the country. Lamberton knew that the best way to gain this unique blend of skill and scholarship was to earn a master’s degree from George Mason University—but she wasn’t quite sure exactly which classes would put her on the path to success because there wasn’t exactly a degree to become a lobbyist. 

Enter Dr. P.J. Maddox, chair of the Health Administration and Policy department at the College. “P.J. helped me look outside the box of traditional degrees and helped me tailor and personalize a track that helped me achieve my goals. She listened to me—even when I couldn’t articulate exactly what I wanted to accomplish-- and she battled on my behalf to make it happen," says Lamberton. 

“Sharon is our first graduate of the MS in Health Policy – a degree that she helped us envision. She is a leader in her industry and a willing mentor to Mason students even today. The credibility that she has established with state and federal legislators is a testament to her knowledge and professionalism. She is very deserving of this honor,” says Dr. P.J. Maddox. 

The hard work paid off and Lamberton found career success as a health policy analyst at the General Accounting Office (GAO) and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security—culminating in becoming the deputy vice president of state policy for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), a trade association of 35 biopharmaceutical companies in Washington, D.C.  She brings her clinical care and policy experience to the table in her work with the National Governors’ Association, National Foundation of Women Legislators, American Association of Nurse Practitioners and other groups on important issues like prescription drug misuse, adherence/care coordination, insulin affordability and drug pricing. 

Lamberton was not able to receive the distinguished alumni award in person due to COVID-19—a disease that PhRMA and its members are fighting head-on. PhRMA members, who are often rivals, are now collaborating to find treatments and immunizations and to address the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). 

“I attribute my success to mentors like Drs. P.J. Maddox, Len Nichols, and Mary Wakefield who took time to help mold me and my professional goals early in my career."

Sharon Lamberton

 “The pharmaceutical industry is the hope and future for eradicating this virus. There is no way we would have promising vaccine candidates in trial this quickly if we had not invested in a robust pipeline for the past decade. It took 20 months to bring a SARS vaccine candidate to clinical trial, and for COVID-19 it has taken just three months and we have 333 clinical trials underway for treatments or vaccines for this virus,” says Lamberton. She is currently helping educate lawmakers on the ways in which the pharmaceutical industry is working to eradicate this virus and prepare for rapid dissemination of treatments and vaccines once approved, which is a tremendous public health challenge to ensure access. 

“I attribute my success to mentors like Drs. P.J. Maddox, Len Nichols, and Mary Wakefield who took time to help mold me and my professional goals early in my career, as well as the work experience and knowledge gained by working for Dr. Wakefield and with Marcia Bearo during graduate school at the Center for Health Policy Research and Ethics on rural health issues. We need to brag more about Mason’s amazing faculty so alumni can see who is teaching, the unique classes they offer, and personalize for the student and where the research is being utilized once completed,” says Lamberton. She remains active in the Mason community by presenting at the annual Health Policy Institute, mentoring Mason students through practicum assignments and internships, and collaborating on alumni development efforts for the College.

Lamberton received a BS in Nursing from Texas Woman’s University and serves on many boards including Women in Government Business Council, National Student Nurses Association, and the National Foundation for Women Legislators. She lives with her husband, John (a former Navy captain and healthcare administrator) and 15-year-old son in Arlington, Virginia. 

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