UCSF School of Pharmacy celebrates Commencement 2018

On a sunny day in San Francisco, the 122 members of the UCSF School of Pharmacy graduating class of 2018 received their doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degrees at commencement, held May 4 at Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall.

“Class of 2018, in the eyes of the staff and faculty, you have been a special class that has left a positive imprint on the School and the profession,” Dean B. Joseph Guglielmo, PharmD, told the assembled graduates, who were joined by more than 1,000 friends, family, and colleagues.

The class is already working in the worlds of health care and research. After graduation, some members of the class will head to postgraduate fellowships, one will pursue a PhD at UCSF, and an astounding 58 percent will begin residencies to further hone their expertise.

audience in auditorium

A large audience of family, friends, and colleagues filled Davies Symphony Hall.

Guglielmo praised the class’s diversity, adding that a third of the class was born outside the U.S. and that together they spoke 20 languages. Just over four years ago, the graduates wrote admissions essays on the “human condition,” Guglielmo recalled, before reading from a few that highlighted the group’s passion and varied backgrounds.

“Genocide took the lives of almost one million people, among whom were my own parents and siblings. I lost a year and a half of my schooling, but that did not deter me from going back to school to pursue my dreams,” one applicant wrote.

“Growing up in a rural village, my interest in pharmacy brewed in my grandmother's kitchen,” another said.

“You have been academically stellar. Community service to others has been unparalleled. You have excelled in every way,” Guglielmo told the class.

Distinguished Alumnus of the Year

The honorary marshal of the ceremony was Kathleen B. Kennedy, PharmD ’78, dean of the College of Pharmacy, Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans and the UCSF School of Pharmacy’s 2018 Distinguished Alumnus of the Year.

Kennedy graduated from UCSF and also completed a residency at the School. As a dean, she guided Xavier to fulfill its mission to “prepare pharmacists to impact the medically underserved communities, particularly African Americans, in an effort to eliminate health disparities through patient-centered care, community service, and scholarly work.” She also helped the school through the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Kennedy is the recipient of numerous awards, including Pharmacist of the Year from the Association of Black Health Systems Pharmacists, the Lyman Award for the best publication in the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, and the Malcolm Ellington Professor of Pharmacy Endowed Chair at Xavier. She also serves as chair of the Greater New Orleans chapter of the American Heart Association, chair of the Association of Minority Health Professions Schools, and co-chair of the transition team for the first African American woman elected as mayor of the city of New Orleans.

She is known for the saying, “If you can’t relate to your patients, you’re wasting your time,” Guglielmo said when introducing her.

Student speakers represent the Class of 2018

The first student speech was given by Steven Samuels, PharmD ’18, who was the president of his class as a first-year and fourth-year student. He will begin an ambulatory care residency this summer with the Veterans Administration Northern California Health Care System in Sacramento.

Samuels said the class had the power to improve health care and to transform the care patients receive.

Samuels at podium

Steven Samuels, PharmD Class of 2018

Academia at podium

Emmeline Academia, PharmD Class of 2018

The second speaker, Emmeline Academia, PharmD ’18, was vice president of policy for the California Pharmacists Association board of directors. She will soon begin a pharmacy practice residency at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, Colorado.

Academia (“yes, that’s my real name,” she said) gave a rousing speech with quotes from Kanye West and Drake. “Go out and do damn good and put your UCSF education to work,” she said to cheers.

Long Teaching Awards announced

The dean used the ceremony to announce and honor the Long Teaching Award winners. The award was established three decades ago and honors outstanding instructors, who are chosen by the class.

This year, fourth-year students selected an outstanding teacher at each of the six sites in California where they completed their advanced pharmacy practice experiences. The winners were Jeremiah Duby, PharmD, Davis; Nicole Lu, PharmD ’10, Fresno; Robert Fellin, PharmD, Los Angeles/Orange County; Kirsten Balano, PharmD ’91, North Bay; Julie Wilson-Ganz, PharmD, San Francisco; and Melissa Yeganeh, PharmD, South Bay.

Keynote speaker inspires the audience

The commencement address was delivered by Marie Chisholm-Burns, PharmD, MPH, MBA, dean and professor at the College of Pharmacy and professor of surgery, College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.

Chisholm-Burns, who has authored more than 310 papers, book chapters, and books, pressed the class to discover what she called “real magic,” the path where they can find purpose, love, possibility, success, happiness, and excellence.

“Think big about your future, be agents of change, promote changes that make the world a better place,” she challenged the graduates.

Tham receives Bowl of Hygeia Award

The dean then announced the Bowl of Hygeia Award, the School’s highest honor bestowed on a graduating student, which is given annually to a graduate who “best exemplifies the qualities most desirable in a pharmacist,” as voted by their peers.

The 2018 Bowl of Hygeia Award winner was Kenneth Tham, PharmD ’18, who will begin a pharmacy practice residency with the University of Washington in Seattle. “Dr. Tham combines the drive to excel with the patience to help others, giving generously in service of others,” Guglielmo said.

Tham with award.

Kenneth Tham, PharmD Class of 2018, received the Bowl of Hygeia Award.

The other nominees were the student speaker Academia, praised by Guglielmo as an “organized leader and engaged professional, who worked diligently on behalf of her classmates”; Jessica Lee, PharmD ’18, a class officer and the president of Associated Students of the School of Pharmacy; student speaker Samuels, who also addressed the class and was described as “intelligent, professional, thoughtful, collaborative, curious, friendly”; and Cathy Wu, PharmD ’18, “a role model, mentor, and outstanding representative of UCSF,” according to the dean.

UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS, extolled the class of 2018 before officially conferring the doctor of pharmacy degree. They were ceremoniously hooded by Dean Guglielmo, assisted by Shawn Houghtaling, PharmD ’03, the president of the UCSF Pharmacy Alumni Association, Associate Dean Donald Kishi, PharmD ’68, and Vice Dean Sharon L. Youmans, PharmD ’85.

In a somber moment, Guglielmo paused to remember Sarita Wanichpan, a student who died before completing her fourth year. The faculty recently voted to award a posthumous PharmD degree to Wanichpan, in recognition of her being on the way to completing her final year. She was remembered by Guglielmo for her “huge heart, infectious laugh, and warm smile.”

“I grew up wanting to be someone remembered, someone great, someone who made a difference in the world. I wanted to be someone's superhero,” she wrote in her application essay.

The dean led the class in a moment of silence before presenting Wanichpan’s family with her degree, and the gown, hood, and cap she would have worn.

Kennedy administered the Oath of a Pharmacist, in which the class promised to “consider the welfare of humanity and relief of suffering my primary concerns” and to devote themselves to “a lifetime of service to others through the profession of pharmacy.”

“I wish you all a day filled with joy and pride,” Guglielmo concluded, before the class left the auditorium to the celebratory melodies of bagpipes.

Dinh looking in mirror

Truc Dinh, PharmD Class of 2018, prepares backstage.


Liriany Pimentel, PharmD Class of 2018, takes a last-minute phone call.

Li and Tu

Wilson Li and Kenneth Tu, PharmD Class of 2018, celebrate after the ceremony.


Margarita Chernova, PharmD Class of 2018

Kyle Brown

Kyle Brown, PharmD Class of 2018


A passion for health equity: 2018 Distinguished Alumnus Kathleen B. Kennedy


School of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, Department of Clinical Pharmacy, PharmD Degree Program

About the School: The UCSF School of Pharmacy aims to solve the most pressing health care problems and strives to ensure that each patient receives the safest, most effective treatments. Our discoveries seed the development of novel therapies, and our researchers consistently lead the nation in NIH funding. The School’s doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree program, with its unique emphasis on scientific thinking, prepares students to be critical thinkers and leaders in their field.