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UCSF School of Pharmacy celebrates Commencement 2019
By Grant Burningham / Tue May 14, 2019
On May 3, in front of a crowd of more than one thousand gathered at Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, the 122 members of the UCSF School of Pharmacy graduating class of 2019 received their doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degrees.
“Out of more than 1,100 applicants, we chose each of you—122 bright lights who would clearly bring something unique to the School and the profession,” Dean B. Joseph Guglielmo, PharmD, said. “You have excelled in every way.”
Guglielmo noted the class’s diversity, pointing out that while some class members were second-generation pharmacists, 40 percent of students in the class were the first members of their families to earn a college degree. Further, a quarter of the class was born outside of the United States, and the students speak a combined 20 languages.
While the graduates entered the hall, the assembled crowd exploded with shouts and cheers of support. “No one reaches this day completely on their own,” Guglielmo said, before directing the class to turn to face the crowd of “mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, partners, wives and husbands, children and grandparents” and applaud “those who have been there for you through thick and thin.”
“Decades from now, each of you will have a list of accomplishments that will exceed those of us who are with you today,” he said.
Sixty-seven members of the Class of 2019 will enter post-graduate pharmacy residency programs. The residency match rate for this year’s graduating class is 80.7 percent, one of the highest in the nation.
At the outset of the program, the dean introduced Glen L. Stimmel, PharmD ’72, the UCSF School of Pharmacy’s 2019 Distinguished Alumnus of the Year, who was the event’s honorary marshal. Stimmel is a professor of clinical pharmacy, psychiatry, and behavioral sciences, and the associate dean of academic affairs at the University of Southern California School of Pharmacy and Keck School of Medicine.
Joining Stimmel on stage was Shawn Houghtaling, PharmD ’03, president of the UCSF Pharmacy Alumni Association. Houghtaling has been recognized with more than 20 UCSF School of Pharmacy Apple Teaching Award awards; no other School faculty member has received more.
The first of two student speakers was Troy Santos, PharmD ’19, “a natural leader who can look at the big picture,” according to one of his professors. Santos, who will be entering a pharmacy practice residency this summer at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, jokingly reminded classmates that the word “why” seemed to symbolize their shared experience in pharmacy school: The class took 12 tests in 10 weeks. Why? A fire alarm went off during a final exam, and “literally no one moved.” Why? Santos asked classmates to consider how their “whys” had changed over the past four years and encouraged them to keep asking the question as they embarked on their careers.
The second speaker, YeeAnn Chen, PharmD ’19, was introduced by Guglielmo as “an outstanding teaching assistant and tutor” who was recognized as Teaching Assistant of the Year. Chen, who is headed to a pharmacy practice residency in Ann Arbor, Michigan at the University of Michigan Health System, asked classmates to let their “why” questions lead to solutions of “what” actions to take, and to reflect on their career motivations when confronting professional challenges.
Acknowledging excellence in teaching
The dean announced winners of the Long Teaching Award, which was established three decades ago to honor outstanding instructors as chosen by the graduating 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 honorees were Michael Mott, PharmD ’85, Fresno; Rebecca Hluhanich, PharmD ’13, Greater Sacramento; Mark Baje, PharmD ’99, Los Angeles/Orange County; Laura Wong, PharmD ’91, North Bay; Valerie Clinard, PharmD, San Francisco Bay Area.
Guglielmo then highlighted the work of Betty Dong, PharmD ’72, a faculty member in the School’s Department of Clinical Pharmacy, who retires at the end of this academic year. Dong is a renowned expert on HIV and hepatitis C medication therapy and a staunch advocate for academic freedom. She recently received the 2019 Daniel B. Smith Practice Excellence Award from the American Pharmacists Association for her “superb teaching and on-the-mark clinical guidance around drug therapy.”
Wisdom from another graduate
The commencement speaker, Brian K. Komoto, PharmD '81, is the owner of several pharmacies in California and a pharmacist “who is always seeking ways to expand the role of pharmacists in providing value to patients,” Guglielmo said.
Komoto has made numerous contributions to the profession including as the past president of the California Pharmacists Association (CPA). He was honored as CPA’s Pharmacist of the Year and inducted into the California Pharmacy Hall of Fame. He was the former president of the UCSF Pharmacy Alumni Association and was named its Distinguished Alumnus in 2012.
The year he graduated with his PharmD degree, Komoto bought his first pharmacy in Delano, California, a small town in the Central Valley of California. The pharmacy had been owned by a pharmacist whose parents had been interned by the federal government during World War II for having Japanese ancestry and who wanted to sell to someone whose parents had also experienced internment.
“It's a community where over 40 percent of the population lives under the poverty line,” Komoto said. “I quickly began to see how the economy and the lack of health care access was impacting the health of the people who came into our drug store.”
“We were noticing that people were coming in because they were ill, not to shop, and it was up to us to meet their needs,” he added. As a result, he adopted a motto for his store and his employees: “People do not come to shop, they come because they have a problem, it’s up to us to help them find a solution. Let’s exceed their expectations, if they do, they’ll never leave us.”
“The alumni of UCSF, which you will shortly become, are the leaders of the pharmacy profession,” said Komoto as he called on the new PharmD recipients to “expand the limits of our profession.”
The dean then announced YeeAnn Chen, PharmD, as the 2019 Bowl of Hygeia Award recipient who he congratulated along with fellow award finalists Troy Santos, PharmD; Trung Ky, PharmD; Brian Ma, PharmD; and Ryan Ng, PharmD. The Bowl of Hygeia is the School’s highest honor, which is given annually to a graduate who “best exemplifies the qualities most desirable in a pharmacist,” as voted by their peers.
Before presenting the class with their degrees, UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS, said “our goal at UCSF has been to train you for a lifetime of caring, imagination, and discovery. We want you to make a difference in the world.”
The students were ceremoniously hooded by Guglielmo, assisted by Hawgood, Houghtaling, Associate Dean Donald Kishi, PharmD ’68, and Vice Dean Sharon L. Youmans, PharmD ’85.
The class had first taken the Oath of a Pharmacist as first-year students, and its final act before the ceremony ended was to take it again, led this time by Stimmel. “I promise to devote myself to a lifetime of service to others through the profession of pharmacy,” they swore before filing out of the packed auditorium to the cheers of their friends and family and the sounds of bagpipe music.
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.