Update from the Dean: Looking forward to recovery

Our COVID-19 response

Dear UCSF School of Pharmacy Family and Friends:

It’s been 39 days since Mayor London Breed’s shelter-in-place order took effect for the City and County of San Francisco, and 37 days since a similar order by Governor Gavin Newsom went into effect for California. The early actions of local and state officials likely saved tens of thousands of lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, as estimated by our UCSF epidemiologist colleague George Rutherford, MD.

While the COVID-19 pandemic shows some signs of waning in California, the daily death toll remains sobering. This week, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cautioned that we could see, this fall and winter, a substantial surge in both COVID-19 and influenza infections.

Whether this scenario plays out as suggested or not, we’re remaining nimble and solution-oriented as the pandemic situation changes, and we’re collaborating across campus to a degree I’ve not seen during my more than 40 years at UCSF.

While until recently our campus recovery timeline seemed uncertain, we’re now beginning to plan an eventual and careful return to somewhat more-normal UCSF operations.

I write this with the caveat that our normal will be a new normal.

The campus has initiated early stages of recovery scenario planning in which the health and well-being of our students, staff, faculty, and patients are paramount. A timeline for any potential phase-in return to work at UCSF has not yet been determined. We won’t return with our colleagues to campus until the California Department of Public Health, state and local officials, and the chancellor determine it’s safe to do so.

As we look toward recovery, we’re also looking at the financial impact of the pandemic on the campus as a whole and on our School in particular. There is no doubt that the pandemic will impact our financial situation across the board; it already has. We’ve begun to plan for new budget realities.

The physical return to campus will be gradual, over weeks to months. And when our laboratories and classrooms do open their doors again, they’ll surely look differently than in years past. Some of our hospital protocols will be changed too.

Our traditional, large research symposia that bring together scientists and science students to develop and ignite new ideas will need to be rethought, as will the density and physical distancing of people in any given research group at any one time. The need to conduct our science in shifts is a real possibility.

Just yesterday UCSF Health began testing all asymptomatic hospital patients—an important new protocol that was not on anyone’s mind just months ago. Goals for this new normal include expanding diagnosis of COVID-19 cases, increasing the safety of inpatient health care staff, improving contact tracing and preventing the spread of the coronavirus, allowing the safe delay of surgeries, and better defining the prevalence of COVID-19 in our local population.

In terms of education, it’s hard to imagine if and when we’ll ever see hundreds of students together again in a crowded lecture hall. I applaud the leaders of UCSF’s degree programs in dentistry, medicine, nursing, and pharmacy who are coordinating their education recovery plans to ensure a novel delivery of our exceptional UCSF curricula in the health professions—a delivery focused now on remote education.

For an inside look at how we’re adapting our doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree program to the realities of the pandemic, be sure to watch the video of the April 23 School of Pharmacy town hall. Cynthia Zarate, interim director of our Office of Education and Instructional Services (OEIS), describes the giant leaps required of her team to enable delivery of a successful PharmD curriculum in radical new ways.

By being flexible and applying the same scientific way of thinking we instill in our doctor of pharmacy students, we’ll find creative solutions to the inevitable problems that will arise under these new circumstances.

While the intent of these more frequent Updates is to share COVID-19 information with you, I’ll be sure to share ongoing School news as well. A sample follows.

Until my next Update, I welcome your questions or comments.

Stay safe.

With warm regards,


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

School of Pharmacy news

A first-hand COVID-19 account


Marilyn Stebbins, PharmD

Our own faculty members lead by example when it comes to problem-solving. Marilyn Stebbins, PharmD, Department of Clinical Pharmacy, fell ill with COVID-19 in late February. Hers was among the earliest reported cases in the country. After more than a week in isolation and intensive care, I’m happy to report that Marilyn has returned home and continues to recover. Her tenacity, spirit, and resilience are on display in a piece she authored about her COVID-19 journey.

Marilyn’s closing thoughts in the piece focus not on what happened to her, but on what can be done to improve the kind of experience she had as a patient within the health care system of which she is a part. The piece is both deeply personal and insightful, and I strongly encourage all of you to read it.

An extraordinary match rate

Congratulations to our PharmD Class of 2020. Of those who applied for a PharmD post-doctoral residency, 92 percent matched—78 of 85 students. This match rate is the highest of any pharmacy school in the U.S. Residencies, fellowships, and other post-PharmD training opportunities are important steps to help ensure our students become visionary leaders in pharmacy.

In recognition of outstanding science


Jaime Fraser, PhD

Congratulations, as well, to biophysicist James Fraser, PhD, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, for a terrific lecture in recognition of his recent receipt of the 2020 Byers Award. Jaime’s lecture focused on his use of cryo-electron microscopy and X-ray crystallography to address antibiotic resistance. The Byers Award, established with a philanthropic gift from Brook and Shawn Byers and their family, is given annually to recognize outstanding research by a mid-career UCSF faculty member.

COVID-19 references

  • Refer to UCSF COVID-19 for details on how UC San Francisco is responding to the pandemic and anticipating needs.
  • Read how you can help during COVID-19.
  • Sign up to receive UCSF COVID-19 alerts by text message: Text 333 111 and enter UCSF.
  • Refer to UCSF School of Pharmacy COVID-19 for School-specific updates for faculty, students, and staff, and updates on the PharmD degree program.
  • Watch recordings of the School of Pharmacy town halls I am holding weekly for the near future.


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.