UCSF PharmD Class of 2020 celebrates an end and welcomes a new beginning

Members of the UCSF School of Pharmacy Class of 2020 have officially earned their doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degrees, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they won’t be walking on stage in commencement regalia quite yet.

When the pandemic hit, the class’s commencement was delayed, as was the class banquet. So, class members decided to recognize their accomplishments and wish each other well—from the comfort of their homes.

The students’ solution required flexibility, nimbleness, and good humor. Class officers Tiffany Guan, PharmD; Jacey Nishiguchi, PharmD; Andrea King, PharmD; and Ashley Yam, PharmD, conferred with classmates and came up with a plan fit for the times: an April 30, 2020 party on the ubiquitous video conferencing tool, Zoom.

For a night, the backdrop of the pandemic fell to the wayside as students reminisced about their time together and anticipated their careers ahead.

“I hope everyone is staying safely indoors,” Guan said as she opened the party to the Class of 2020, which is 122 students strong.

Sporting his own commencement gown, B. Joseph Guglielmo, PharmD, dean of the UCSF School of Pharmacy, presided over the meeting, joined by Vice Dean Sharon L. Youmans, PharmD, MPH, and ten School faculty members.

The class recently achieved the highest residency match rate of any pharmacy school in the U.S., with 78 of 85 applicants from this class matching, for a rate of 92 percent.

Deans and faculty members on a video call

School of Pharmacy deans and faculty members gathered virtually to join the celebration.

“By every measure, you are truly distinguished,” said Guglielmo. “The number and percent of your class that has successfully matched with residencies, fellowships, and other post PharmD opportunities is truly historic, never seen before in the School. You have also been distinguished with respect to the impact of COVID-19 on your class, your school, and the profession.”

The tone was fun and light. The dean’s opening message gave way to a video montage, assembled by Nishiguchi, that celebrated the class’s past four years together. School faculty members offered remarks, while one—Conan MacDougall, PharmD, MAS, with the aid of an app on his computer—did his best to approximate the School’s traditional commencement performance by a solo bagpiper.

The class made jokes and gave out class superlatives: the most likely to cure COVID-19, the least likely to have washed their white coat, and the most likely to go on the reality TV show, ‘Love Is Blind.’

“The Class of 2020 showed their resilience and optimism—turning a difficult day into an opportunity to celebrate together,” said Cynthia Watchmaker, MBA, MEd, associate dean of student affairs. “What struck me most was the strong sense of community they found at UCSF. It was inspiring to see and feel the connection they have as a class. We cannot wait to bring them together to celebrate their tremendous accomplishments individually and collectively."

With a world brimming with new health care needs from the coronavirus pandemic, it is a serious time to graduate into the pharmacy profession, and the gravity of the moment wasn’t lost on the class.

“I’m personally glad that I got training from UCSF in these times,” Guan said. “With our training we’re in a unique position to help our communities. It’s weird, but I’m glad we’re graduating at this time, because we really can make an impact.”


School of 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.