History event highlights School innovations in research, practice, education
Concluding a year-long celebration of the 150th anniversary of the founding of UC San Francisco, the School of Pharmacy presented its own “Making History” event in Byers Auditorium on the Mission Bay campus on May 30, 2015.
The fast-paced 90-minute program included a history video, a slide show of faculty and students hard at work and play, and most notably, on-stage interviews with key people who made and tracked the School’s history—from its emergence as a research powerhouse, to the creation of the clinical pharmacy model that has spread worldwide, to the continual improvement of its top-ranked doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) curriculum.
The event coincided with the launch of new in-depth history sections on the School’s website, covering the School and its three departments, and including a feature called Your Stories that encourages alumni, faculty, and friends to add their own anecdotes to these histories.
The history event was also marked by comic turns, from a student music video parody full of pharmacy jargon to a show-stopping visit from former associate dean Lorie Rice interrupting the proceedings in character, wig, and full period dress as Josephine Barbat, the School’s first female graduate (class of 1884) and also its first female instructor.
Barbat/Rice briskly quizzed the audience of alumni, faculty, staff, members of the public, and special guests with School exam questions from the 19th century, such as “Describe the process for making ammoniated mercury.” She returned at show’s end to lead a cheer from the School’s earliest days: “Ipecac, opium, tansy tea, California College of Pharmacy!”
Indeed, the show was packed with colorful characters and humor. Moderator Ian Pearson interviewed School historian, former associate dean, and lecturer emeritus, Robert Day, PharmD, touching on everything from an 1870s missing-funds scandal that threatened the fledgling institution’s survival (faculty worked for free to save it) to the beloved faculty member and dean of students, Frank Goyan, PhD, who kept a book of pre-signed checks available for any student in need.
Breaking new ground on the ninth floor
But the program did not stint on the decision making, hard work, and even frustrations with old systems that transformed the School into a perennial leader in pharmacy practice models, clinical education, and research.
Discussing the profession-transforming 1960s ninth floor pilot project at UCSF Medical Center, Eric (Toby) Herfindal, PharmD, MPH, former chair of the Department of Clinical Pharmacy (see 1973-1994: Herfindal), noted that three of the project’s original five pharmacists were present in the audience, all School alumni: William Smith, PharmD; Joseph Hirschmann, PharmD; and Richard DeLeon, PharmD.
“We were a product of a changed curriculum that said, ‘You’re going to be drug experts,’” said Herfindal, who joined the ninth floor team about a year into the project. “[But] there weren’t any jobs for drug experts … These guys were very unhappy with the status quo.”
Initially relocated from basement prescription filling to a satellite pharmacy on the surgical floor to improve drug distribution, the pharmacists quickly found themselves in historically new roles, consulting and rounding with physicians as part of patient care teams and even teaching medical residents about drug therapies.
Eventually—via visitors to the ninth floor from other institutions, students trained in the model, and therapeutics textbooks developed by its participants—the new practice of clinical pharmacy spread nationally and beyond.
Herfindal said this seismic shift set the groundwork for recent expansions of pharmacy scope of practice, as under 2014 California law SB493: “None of that could have happened if it wasn’t for the ninth floor project at UCSF.”
Educating a new kind of pharmacist
Also interviewed by Pearson, Dean Emeritus Mary Anne Koda-Kimble, PharmD, said that the new clinical role raised standards for educating students, too: “They had to be brilliant on the [hospital] floors.”
This eventually changed School admission processes to recruit and select more proactive, leadership-oriented students. It also changed the curriculum from learning about the chemistry of drugs in isolation to learning—through case studies and in patient-centered clinical settings—how drugs affected particular disease states and interacted with other classes of drug therapies.
“[Over the decades] ... we have transformed the way the profession practices,” she concluded. “We teach students how to think. We teach them to be change agents. And I’m really proud of that.”
Research leadership: collaboration and “fearless deans”
The School’s leadership in research—35 consecutive years of receiving more funding from the National Institutes of Health than any other pharmacy school—is also attributable to taking different approaches, said Irwin (Tack) Kuntz, PhD, faculty member emeritus in the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, and Leslie Benet, PhD, faculty member in the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences.
Both noted the highly collaborative culture of UCSF as a key factor. “I can tell my graduate students, my post-docs [that] they can go into any lab and talk to them and say, ‘I need your help’ and they will help … this is really unusual,” said Benet, who for more than two decades chaired the Department of Pharmacy, and then the renamed Department Biopharmaceutical Sciences.
The School thus created and exported pharmaceutical sciences as a cross-disciplinary field, he said. It exported the message, via its graduates, postdoctoral scholars, and faculty members who became leaders elsewhere: “Let’s work across boundaries, because that’s what has been so successful at UCSF.”
Kuntz attributed the School’s research ascendency to “fearless deans,” such as Dean Carl Schmidt, PhD (1937-1944), Dean Troy Daniels, PhD (1944-1967), and Dean Jere Goyan, PhD (1967-1992): “They weren’t afraid to hire people way outside their fields of expertise, as long as they could see how it could come back to a broad health care mission in the end.”
By way of example, he cited Goyan hiring Peter Kollman, PhD—a world-class quantum chemist who advanced the computational simulation and analysis of shape-shifting biomolecules—back when “the only computer we had as a campus was remote access to a machine at [UC] Berkeley.”
Benet added, “Troy [Daniels] believed that you needed to bring in outstanding scientists that weren’t necessarily pharmacists to bring science into the field at the cutting edge … that was very unusual in those days for schools of pharmacy.”
Exporting excellence: pharmacy alumni
On hand to exemplify the School’s exporting of its excellence via alumni leaders was 2015 Distinguished Alumnus of the Year, Rear Admiral Pamela Schweitzer, PharmD ’87.
Schweitzer took a less-traveled road, accepting remote postings in the Indian Health Service and Veterans Administration in South Dakota and Arizona, while rising to leadership in the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS). She is now USPHS Chief Pharmacy Officer and Assistant U.S. Surgeon General.
Asked by Pearson about taking the UCSF clinical pharmacy model out into the world, Schweitzer noted, “I came out of school and went to the Midwest. They didn’t have those clinical programs going. So right out of school, I had that experience, alright, let’s get them going. … They said, ‘You know how to do it?’ I didn’t, but I said, ‘Yeah.’”
When the laughter subsided, she continued, “I was ‘the expert from UCSF,’ so I kind of used that a little bit. And so then you get them going, get them off the ground … make sure it’s sustainable, make sure it’s going to stick, and then I’d move on to the next implementation.”
Making history, into the future
While reviewing the past, the program also looked to the future of pharmacy education, practice, and research.
“We will be leaders in producing 21st-century pharmacists,” said Vice Dean Sharon Youmans, PharmD, MPH, who is leading the UCSF Bridges Pharmacy Curriculum Project to transform the PharmD curriculum to better meet the needs of a new health care marketplace. She explained that curricular change will further enhance existing experiential, entrepreneurial, research, and interdisciplinary aspects of pharmacy education at UCSF.
“We want our students to say, ‘I came to UCSF because what I can get at UCSF I can’t get anywhere else,’” she concluded.
Kuntz predicted personalized medicine and pharmacy practice in the future will routinely apply computational analysis not only to patient genomes, but also to the genes of the bacteria that live in our bodies (microbiome), which outnumber our own cells and potentially play key roles in health and disease.
“We’ll be able to read out everything you need to know to be therapeutically efficient,” he said. “The doctor or the pharmacist won’t say, ‘How are you feeling?’ They’ll say, ‘Oh, we have the test results, let me tell you how you feel!’”
Benet stressed the ironically predictable prospect of unexpected discoveries: “We didn’t know anything about transporters [cell [membrane proteins that control the passage of drugs into and out of cells] until the 1990s, and now we spend all our time talking about them.
“So there’s lots of stuff out there that we haven’t yet discovered that is going to change our entire approach. … And the wonderful thing is being at UCSF to interact with the kinds of people who will make those jumps in the future.”
Update: The UCSF Bridges Pharmacy Curriculum Project is now known as the UCSF PharmD Curriculum Transformation Project: 2018 and beyond.
About the School: The UCSF School of Pharmacy is a premier graduate-level academic organization dedicated to improving health through precise therapeutics. It succeeds through innovative research, by educating PharmD health professional and PhD science students, and by caring for the therapeutics needs of patients while exploring innovative new models of patient care. The School was founded in 1872 as the first pharmacy school in the American west. It is an integral part of UC San Francisco, a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide.