Update from the Dean – November 2019

Dear UCSF School of Pharmacy Family and Friends:

During his sixth State of the University address this past month, Chancellor Sam Hawgood characterized the current age of exponential change as a “dramatic punctuation in the scientific equilibrium” caused by breakthroughs ranging from genomics to technology. The chancellor cautioned that UCSF must develop the institutional will to recognize future forces early and embrace innovation, while committing every day to our shared PRIDE values: Professionalism, Respect, Integrity, Diversity, Excellence.

It’s an exciting time for UCSF, as well as for the School of Pharmacy. Distinguished by a drive to seek and apply new knowledge, an entrepreneurial spirit, and a patient focus, the School is well-suited for this era. I am pleased to share several recent examples.

With warm regards,


B. Joseph Guglielmo, PharmD
Troy C. Daniels Distinguished Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences
UCSF School of Pharmacy

Igniting change

The Herfindals

Patt and Toby Herfindal, PharmD

The chancellor’s comments with respect to embracing innovation could find no better example than Toby Herfindal, PharmD ’65. As former chair of our Division of Clinical Pharmacy (now the Department of Clinical Pharmacy) and later as a successful entrepreneur, Toby never hesitated to question the status quo, address problems with fresh perspectives, and, according to Kevin Rodondi, PharmD ’85, always ask “what if.”

We just announced the establishment of the Toby Herfindal Presidential Chair for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, an endowment made possible by the generosity of Kathleen Brodowy, PharmD ’83 and Bret Brodowy, PharmD ’83; Leslie Cunningham and Michael Cunningham, PharmD; Gordon Dow, PharmD ’65; Patricia Herfindal and Toby Herfindal, PharmD ’65, MPH; and Lisa Chun Rodondi, PharmD ’84 and Kevin Rodondi ’85, who matched a $500,000 fundraising challenge by the University of California Office of the President.

The annual payout of the endowment will support faculty members and/or graduate students in the UCSF School of Pharmacy who are involved in innovation and entrepreneurship in a pharmacy setting. The endowment is a permanent reminder of Toby’s passion for developing innovative ways of better serving our patients.

Putting pharmacy to practice


Janet Balbutin, PharmD

Two recent stories emphasize the School’s patient-centered focus and dedication to the community.

The first is the story of Janet Balbutin, PharmD ’68, whose pharmacy in Paradise, California, burned to the ground during one of last year’s devastating wildfires. Undeterred, Janet ensured her Paradise patients had continued access to life-saving medications. This is an inspiring story about community and commitment to patient care, and I urge you to read it.

UCSF Magazine cover art
Cat Sims

The second story is in the most recent UCSF Magazine highlighting the work of the California Poison Control System (CPCS), which is administered by the UCSF School of Pharmacy and Executive Director Stuart Heard, PharmD ’72, Department of Clinical Pharmacy. CPCS consistently has been at the front line of numerous health crises—including the latest opioid crisis. In addition, CPCS answers 700 calls per day, 24/7, from panicked parents and informs the public about potential health issues that range from wild mushrooms to Halloween candy.

Thinking critically by example

Innovating and iterating the PharmD curriculum

Just as our PharmD students learn to apply a scientific mindset in identifying and solving problems, our faculty members continually assess and iterate to improve our novel PharmD curriculum. As Vice Dean Sharon L. Youmans, PharmD, MPH, states, “Our mantra to students—to continually ask why, why not, what if, how—applies equally to us [all].”


Sharon L. Youmans, PharmD, MPH

One assessment tool of tremendous value to the faculty is the Pulse Survey, which is completed by students after every major curriculum block. The survey reveals student insights and identifies student concerns, enabling rapid and efficient resolution by the faculty.

We’re also continuing to fund innovative scholarship-of-teaching research projects. The Impact of the Curriculum Transformation Awards are made possible by the Troy C. Daniels Distinguished Professorship in Pharmaceutical Sciences, an endowed fund honoring pharmacy curriculum innovator and former School of Pharmacy Dean Troy C. Daniels, PhD.

New partners

Dickinson and Diaz receive white coats
Susan Merrell

Class of 2022 PharmD students Drew Dickinson and Ricardo Diaz donned their white coats.

As we continue to roll out the new PharmD curriculum, 127 students in the Class of 2022, donned their white coats and took the Oath of a Pharmacist in August. Our newest students hail from Armenia, Bangladesh, China, France, Hong Kong, India, Iraq, South Korea, Macao, Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, Syria, Taiwan, Trinidad and Tobago, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam. Underscoring the diversity of the class, 16 percent come from groups underrepresented in the PharmD program. Welcome to the profession!

Research that improves lives

Patient care with a new vision

Cortopassi wearing VR gear

Postdoctoral scientist Wilian Cortopassi, PhD, manipulates a protein structure in virtual reality.

For decades, our School has pioneered new ways of visualizing the molecules that promote health or trigger disease. The UCSF Resource for Biocomputing, Visualization, and Informatics, led by Thomas Ferrin, PhD, Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, recently adapted its flagship visualization software, Chimera, for virtual reality (VR). The new software, known as ChimeraX, provides pharmaceutical chemists with the ability to “walk” through 3D models of proteins and small-molecule drugs, accelerating the drug discovery pipeline.

Matthew Jacobson, PhD, chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, and two of his postdoctoral scholars, Wilian Cortopassi, PhD, and Diego Garrido Ruiz, PhD, worked with UCSF pediatric oncologist Beth Winger, MD, PhD, to identify a promising new therapy for drug-resistant leukemia using ChimeraX. Be sure to check out our video and related article to see how ChimeraX is revolutionizing science at UCSF and beyond.

Neurons in petri dish
UC Regents

Human neurons (red) grown in a petri dish, are shown here with toxic accumulation of tau protein (green), which can contribute to the development of Alzheimer's disease.

A clue in neurodegeneration

School scientists are making progress in the fight against neurodegenerative disease in the labs of Charles Craik, PhD, and Jason Gestwicki, PhD, both in the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry. They’ve uncovered how neurons recycle damaged or old proteins, including how this process malfunctions during Alzheimer’s disease. These discoveries open up new avenues for treating neurodegeneration.

Beyond dialysis

Roy holding device

Shuvo Roy, PhD, holding a prototype of the bioartificial kidney.

Work on The Kidney Project (TKP) to create an implantable bioartificial kidney progresses. In April, TKP technical director Shuvo Roy, PhD, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences and TKP medical director William Fissell, MD, Vanderbilt University, were awarded competitive funding from KidneyX, a public-private partnership to spur innovation in challenging kidney disease. Shuvo and Bill will use the funds to further develop a device for dialysis patients to filter their blood at home. The device—a hemofilter—represents one of two primary components of the full bioartificial kidney.

Shuvo delivered more exciting news this month. The second component of the implantable bioartificial kidney—the bioreactor—was successfully implanted in large animals. Importantly, the implantation of this device, which is the size of a deck of cards and contains human kidney cells, did not trigger a harmful immune reaction or create blood clots. This preclinical result moves the full artificial kidney one step closer to human trials.

Disparities in cystic fibrosis

Scientists in the lab of Esteban G. Burchard, MD, MPH, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, found that patients with cystic fibrosis (CF) in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic are more likely to have rare gene mutations when compared with other groups. The finding is significant because the latest CF medications are tailored to benefit patients with more common CF-causing mutations, leaving these Hispanic CF patients with few treatment options.

Welcoming women and fueling science

The Quantitative Biosciences Institute (QBI), an organized research unit (ORU) led by Nevan Krogan, PhD, and reporting to me, continues to forge new international collaborations and foster groundbreaking research initiatives.

Leadership on diversity


Jacqueline Fabius

QBI’s chief operating officer, Jacqueline Fabius, received the 2019 UCSF Chancellor’s Award for Advancement of Women for her impressive efforts promoting women in science. Jacqueline spearheaded the creation of the QBI Scholarship for Women in Developing Nations, which was given to its first awardee, Jacqueline Kyosiimire-Lugemwa, PhD, earlier this year. Jacqueline has also led QBI’s efforts to ensure that women constitute at least 50 percent of invited speakers at QBI conferences. Congratulations, Jacqueline!

A global enterprise

Mosquito in test tube
AFP/Martin Recinos

USAID is studying new ways to interfere with mosquito reproduction with the hopes of preventing the spread of Zika.

With the partnership of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the UCSF Institute for Global Health Sciences, QBI hosted Stronger There, Safer Here, a photo exhibit highlighting USAID-sponsored efforts in Latin America and the Caribbean to reduce the impact and spread of Zika. The exhibit was a prelude to the QBI Arthropod-Borne Diseases Symposium, held in June, which brought together leading experts on diseases like Lyme disease and West Nile fever. The symposium was spearheaded by two women faculty members, Seemay Chou, PhD, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, UCSF School of Medicine, and Andrea Swei, PhD, Department of Biology, San Francisco State University.

QBI also recently announced a partnership with University College Dublin (UCD), which cements the bond between UCSF and UCD with the goal of better leveraging the computational scientific research under way at both institutions.

Developing better drugs for pain

QBI recently received a $25 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) that will be used to develop painkillers that are more effective, less addictive, and with less potential to overdose compared with available drugs. The project, led by Brian Shoichet, PhD, Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, builds on Brian’s work to identify new targets for pain medications and more efficient methods for screening millions of potential drug compounds. Other School of Pharmacy and School of Medicine faculty members involved in the collaborative project include Nevan Krogan, PhD; Mark Von Zastrow, MD, PhD; Matthew Jacobson, PhD; Allan Basbaum, PhD; and Aashish Manglik, MD, PhD.

New associate dean roles

Assemi and Clinard

Mitra Assemi, PharmD (left) and Valerie Clinard, PharmD

To meet the changing needs of our continuously evolving PharmD degree program, I’m pleased to announce that two members in our Department of Clinical Pharmacy have accepted new associate dean roles. Both positions report to Vice Dean Sharon L. Youmans, PharmD, who oversees our Education Unit, and ultimately to me.

Mitra Assemi, PharmD ’97, has served the School as associate dean of assessment and quality improvement since 2009. Her position has now been reconfigured as associate dean of accreditation and quality improvement. Valerie Clinard, PharmD, the director of experiential education for the PharmD curriculum since 2015, is our associate dean of experiential education and professional development, a new position.

Well into the second year of a new PharmD curriculum, while still delivering our legacy curriculum, we’re preparing for the 2021 accreditation review. It’s our good fortune to have Mitra and Val in these critical roles.

Faculty recognitions

Todd Dubnicoff

Tejal Desai, PhD

“[To better support female scientists] I think we need to cultivate a community—even at the earliest years—where girls and young women know they don’t need to conform to a certain stereotype. Show them you can do STEM, you can do art, you can do both. Beyond that, provide encouragement and active—instead of passive—mentorship. Identify women early on, promote them, and encourage them to take risks.” Tejal Desai, PhD, chair of the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, recently shared these words of wisdom with the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Tejal’s words reflect her role as a strong and unwavering mentor to young female scientists and a farsighted leader. She was also recently honored among the 2019 class of fellows of the International Academy of Medical and Biological Engineering for her in research in microparticle and nanoparticle engineering.


Lisa Kroon, PharmD

Lisa Kroon, PharmD, who leads the School’s Department of Clinical Pharmacy as chair, was recently named the 2019 Pharmacist of the Year, the most prestigious award offered by the California Society of Health-System Pharmacists. Lisa has worked tirelessly to expand the scope of practice for California pharmacists. She is also well known for her clinical work in diabetes and her advocacy around tobacco cessation.

Ortiz de Montellano

Paul Ortiz de Montellano, PhD

We recently hosted a symposium in honor of the career of Paul Ortiz de Montellano, PhD, emeritus faculty member in the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry. The event was sponsored by the Dean’s Office, the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Gilead Sciences, and Genentech. Paul, past winner of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy Volwiler Award, is renowned for his work with cytochrome P450 enzymes.


Conan MacDougall, PharmD, MAS

Congratulations to infectious diseases pharmacist Conan MacDougall, PharmD ’02, MAS, Department of Clinical Pharmacy, the recipient of the 2019 Vincent G. Pons Award in Clinical Teaching. This annual award for teaching and mentoring excellence is given by the Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, School of Medicine.


Carol J. Ou

PharmD students

Congratulations to Carol J. Ou, Class of 2020, for her receipt of the Student Leadership Award from the California Society of Health-System Pharmacists.


Andrew Munoz

Andrew Munoz, Class of 2021, is being honored this year by the National Hispanic Health Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the National Hispanic Medical Association, which aims to improve the health of Hispanics and other underserved groups through research and education. He has been awarded a scholarship that will be renewed for the next two years.


Connie Chen

Connie Chen, Class of 2021, received the Walmart Health and Wellness Endowed Scholarship through the Student National Pharmaceutical Association, an affiliate of the National Pharmaceutical Association.

PhD student


Kwadwo (Kojo) Opoku-Nsiah

Also, congratulations to Kwadwo (Kojo) Opoku-Nsiah, a PhD candidate in the lab of Jason Gestwicki, PhD. Kojo won the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership award, one of the 2019 UCSF Chancellor Awards for Diversity. Kojo is the founder and president of Scientists for Diversity, a group that provides mentorship to incoming students to ensure that UCSF will be a safe and supportive environment for their studies.


I’m proud and pleased to share the news that Fred Mayer, RPh ’54, MPH, is the 2019 recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Public Health Association’s Pharmacy Section. Fred’s success as an outspoken pharmacist advocate is legendary. As president of the Pharmacists Planning Service, Inc. and the Pharmacy Council on Tobacco Prevention, he has promoted consumer awareness and education and disease prevention for many decades.

Barbara K. Uenaka, PharmD ’77, received the Distinguished Service Award from the California Society of Health-System Pharmacists. The award announcement highlighted Barbara’s “passion for improving health care by working with professional pharmacy associations.” She retired in 2008 after a distinguished 30-year career with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Congratulations to all.

Four new faculty members

Since my last Update we’ve welcomed four new faculty members to the School:


Tram Cat, PharmD

Tram Cat, PharmD: Department of Clinical Pharmacy. Tram, who trained as a critical care pharmacist, is the School’s experiential education program director of the San Francisco Bay Area and coordinator of our Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience program for the greater Bay Area.


Jason Sello, PhD

Jason Sello, PhD: Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry. Jason develops chemical tools for the study of complex biological phenomena, with the goal of creating new therapeutics for the treatment of infectious diseases, cancers, and neurological disorders. In addition, Jason will be a Chan Zuckerberg Biohub Investigator and serve as associate director of diversity in basic science faculty for the UCSF campus.


Erika Wallender, MD, MPH

Erika Wallender, MD, MPH: Department of Clinical Pharmacy. Erika is an expert on infectious diseases and has spent much of her career studying how antimalarials can be optimally used for malaria prevention in Uganda.


Balyn Zaro, PhD

Balyn Zaro, PhD: Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry. Balyn’s work seeks answers to why patients are more or less susceptible to cancers and infections. She hopes to identify individual differences in cellular metabolism to develop new, targeted treatments.

Welcome to all.

Guided by PRIDE

The UCSF community is enriched by diverse ideas, experiences, and perspectives and linked by a commitment to health, discovery, and education. All of this is guided by PRIDE values—Professionalism, Respect, Integrity, Diversity, and Excellence. Here are a few recent examples of how our School and the greater UCSF community live by these values.

Professionalism and new UCSF campus leaders


Won Ha

Welcome to three new extraordinary campus leaders in human resource management, communications, and government and community relations.

Communications. Won Ha, UCSF’s new vice chancellor of communications, joins us from the San Francisco-based Energy Foundation where, as vice president of strategic communications, he set the strategic vision for the country’s longest-operating foundation focused on climate change and clean energy policy. He brings more than a decade of combined communications leadership in health care and research. His extensive professional experience managing issues in large, complex, decentralized organizations like UCSF will serve us well.


Francesca Vega

Government and Community Relations. Francesca Vega’s leadership portfolio as UCSF’s new vice chancellor of community and government relations covers almost 20 years and includes her most recent assistant vice chancellor position at California State University, Northridge where she promoted collaboration between the campus and the greater Los Angeles region. We welcome Francesca’s working knowledge about the complexities of higher education and her years of experience as a civic leader.


Corey Jackson, JD

Human Resources. We also welcome Corey Jackson, JD, who now serves UCSF Health as senior vice president of human resources, and the UCSF campus as associate vice chancellor of human resources. An experienced human resources executive dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion, Corey’s expertise is talent management, and his professional track record includes positions in the federal government, academia, sports, and health care. He joins us from Parkland Health & Hospital System in Dallas.

Respect for the planet

The inside of a freezer.
UC Regents

Just one freezer in the School of Pharmacy consumes the same amount of energy as a medium-sized house!

It’s our belief that the R in our PRIDE values includes respect for the well-being of the planet. I’m very pleased to report that in the latest annual campus event to recognize UCSF sustainability champions, the School received more LivingGreen certifications than any other unit on campus for actively decreasing our impact on the environment.

On a related note, I’m leading a School of Pharmacy and School of Medicine pilot program to decrease our carbon footprint by reducing energy consumption associated with our research freezers—which consume a surprisingly large amount of electricity to stay cold. I’ll update you on this project as we gather more data.

Inclusion in planning for a revitalized Parnassus Heights

An architectural rendering of the Irving Street campus entrance.

The UCSF Parnassus Heights revitalization plan includes a new Irving Street campus entrance.

I mentioned the revitalization of the Parnassus Heights campus in my last Update. After receiving valuable input from our neighbors, community thought leaders, city agency partners, and UCSF faculty and staff members, we've publicly released the blueprint for Parnassus. The new Parnassus is a part of—not apart from—the community, while setting a high bar as a place for discovery, patient care, learning, and working. In the near term, Parnassus will include a new hospital, a new research and academic building, and a new Irving Street campus entrance, as well as more housing for our students and trainees. Realization of the full plan will be a 20- to 30-year effort.

Diversity and DACA


Angel Ku, PhD

Angel Ku, PhD, came to the U.S. from Mexico at 18 months of age. Thanks to the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, he earned a PhD in our Pharmaceutical Sciences and Pharmacogenomics program guided and encouraged by members of our faculty. Ku is now a full-time cancer scientist at a Bay Area oncology company and an example of our School’s and the UCSF campus’s shared commitment to DACA and underrepresented students.


Min Ku Choi

PharmD student Min Ku Choi, Class of 2020, is also a DACA recipient and will graduate with his PharmD degree this spring. DACA changed everything for Choi, and allowed him to pursue his education. “A pharmacist is the most accessible and approachable person in the health care profession. They are able to make an impact in everyday people’s lives,” Choi said. “That is my dream. The only thing hindering me is my status.”

The Supreme Court of the United States is due to rule on DACA in a lawsuit brought by the Regents of the University of California in June 2020.

Excellence in combating HIV/AIDS

“They Were Really Us: The UCSF Community’s Early Response to AIDS”
UCSF Library

The next time you’re on the Parnassus campus, I encourage you to visit the exhibit in the UCSF Library called They Were Really Us: The UCSF Community’s Early Response to AIDS. UCSF confronts the unknown in science and health in countless ways. This exhibit highlights how UCSF and the larger San Francisco community joined forces to fight HIV nearly 40 years ago. The exhibit is open through September 2020.

A story that began with so many fatalities is now being rewritten thanks to effective treatment options that we hope will stop the virus in its tracks. In the School of Pharmacy, the fight against HIV continues in all our departments, with work ranging from the creation of new drugs to improving access to HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis and increasing medication adherence.


School of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, Department of Clinical Pharmacy, PharmD Degree Program, CCB, PSPG, Bioinformatics, Biophysics, BMI

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.