Update from the Dean: Building community while staying safe

Our COVID-19 response

Dear UCSF School of Pharmacy Family and Friends:

Since my last Update from the Dean on May 8, UCSF has begun a gradual, phased return to work for faculty members and staff.

The campus guidelines and the guidelines released by the CDC earlier this week for higher education articulate how different our campus, clinics, and hospitals will be in this COVID-19 world. All campus workers will have to pass an online health screening. Face coverings will be mandatory, and people will need to stay six feet apart. Surgical masks will be required in hospitals and in clinical settings.

As we return to campus, everyone’s well-being is our top concern. But we also need to consider the need to maintain and strengthen community. Safety and community cannot be mutually exclusive. We still need to see each other in person, to meet mentors and colleagues, and to build friendships. This is especially important for our incoming first-year students who will be coming to campus in a few weeks.

Bringing students to campus

Classrooms, offices, and other workspaces will need to be cleaned frequently. Social distancing requirements will result in carefully limiting the number of people in a classroom. We may hold classes in shifts. While large classes will remain remote and rely on video conferencing, many, including skills classes, will take place in person.

Sharon L. Youmans, PharmD, MPH, vice dean of the School, is working closely with the School of Dentistry, the School of Nursing, and the School of Medicine to establish how we will all equitably share the limited resources on campus.

Cindy Watchmaker, MBA, MEd, the School’s associate dean of student affairs, who leads the Office of Student and Curricular Affairs (OSACA), has been a tireless advocate for the holistic needs of our learners. In a first, OSACA will welcome the Class of 2023 with a webinar on Monday, June 1. This new first-year class will arrive on campus in July.

Resuming work

The University has also released its protocol for working onsite. If employees can carry out their duties remotely, they should continue to do so. Employees should not perform duties on site unless they have been authorized.

We also recently received guidance to gradually increase onsite laboratory research, clinical research, and animal model research. Beginning the week of May 18, we began to increase the number of researchers on campus at approximately ⅛ of capacity. In other words, for every eight-chair bench, only one laboratory employee can be on site.

As Tejal Desai, PhD, chair of the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, previewed for us two weeks ago, making the most of our space may require the staggering of schedules and other creative solutions. Face coverings will be required, as will virtual group meetings and the regular disinfection of frequently touched areas. Routine screening of laboratory personnel will take place at the entrances to buildings.

Preparing for a pandemic budget

As I mentioned in my last Update, the State of California is facing a severe fiscal shortfall due to the pandemic. Governor Gavin Newsom’s proposed California budget includes a 10 percent funding reduction for the University of California. Independent of that funding reduction, UC President Janet Napolitano sent a letter on Monday informing us that the UC system lost nearly $1.2 billion between mid-March and the end of April.

In response, President Napolitano has instituted a systemwide freeze on salaries for policy-covered staff employees, a systemwide freeze on salary scales for policy-covered, non-student academic appointees, and a 10 percent pay cut for UC chancellors.

After President Napolitano’s communication, Chancellor Sam Hawgood called for scenario-planning potential budget reductions of 5 to 10 percent for each of his reports, including the School of Pharmacy. Our goal will be to weather our new budget without losing any functionality and without losing jobs. As the Chancellor wrote in his recent communiqué on the shortfall, “furloughs, staff reductions, and changes to compensation are among the last options we will consider.”

Pharmacist testing of COVID-19

In my last Update on May 8, I wrote that UC San Diego School of Pharmacy Dean James McKerrow, PhD, MD, and I had joined together to support California’s implementation of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services guidance that would allow licensed pharmacists to order and administer FDA-approved tests for COVID-19.

On May 12, Governor Newsom announced efforts to expand the state’s ability to provide more COVID-19 testing, including the ability for pharmacists to order and collect specimens necessary to perform tests for the virus. As a result, the director of the California Department of Consumer Affairs waived existing code restrictions (PDF, 2 pages, 484 KB) that otherwise prohibit pharmacists from physically collecting specimens necessary to perform such COVID-19 tests. The waiver is in effect for 60 days starting May 12, 2020, unless further extended.

While I don’t know if our opinions on the topic impacted the Governor’s action, we are encouraged and will continue to push for expanded roles for pharmacists, including advocacy for pharmacists as essential members of our health care response.

A journey back to health

Last month, Marilyn Stebbins, PharmD, shared her very personal story of overcoming COVID-19 after falling ill during a ski trip. Her story is critical reading for anyone interested in any aspect of the health care response to this pandemic, and her takeaways for her students and fellow health care providers are insightful. Marilyn’s post has received quite a bit of media coverage, and I invite you to read about it.

But Marilyn left us with a bit of a cliffhanger. When she wrote her piece, Marilyn had been released from the hospital and was improving, but she was continually dogged by positive tests for the virus. She required two negative tests at least a day apart before she could be released from isolation. I’m happy to report that Marilyn tested negative for COVID-19 on May 4 and May 6.

I thank Marilyn for bravely sharing her story.

There is much going on in our School and I’m happy to be able to share it with you.

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

An impressive P&T win for our PharmD students

A team of our doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) students came in 1st place at the Annual National Student Pharmacist Pharmacy & Therapeutics (P&T) Competition this spring, besting teams from 68 other pharmacy schools in the country. Impressively, this was the fifth 1st-place finish for a UCSF School of Pharmacy team over the 20-year history of the competition, which is hosted by the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP).

Among the many paths our pharmacy students may take after graduation is managed care pharmacy, a field at the nexus of science, patient care, and industry. Managed care pharmacists are essential members of Pharmacy and Therapeutics (P&T) committees at hospitals and health insurance companies. In this role, they are tasked with determining the safest, most effective, and most cost-effective drugs worthy of coverage or provision. The AMCP competition gives students the opportunity to make a written and oral case for or against a particular drug’s inclusion on a health entity’s formulary, or provided drug list.

Congratulations to our winning team: Ryan Thaliffdeen, Monica Vuong, Dat Le, and Jimmy Nguyen, all P3 students in our PharmD program. Also, congratulations to all 23 teams who competed this year. That number is more than double the number of teams that Marilyn Stebbins, PharmD, coordinator of UCSF’s local P&T competition, has ever seen in a given year.

A virtual Alumni Weekend

There will be no in-person Alumni Weekend 2020 this year, but events will continue virtually. The week of June 8–12 the UCSF Alumni Association will be offering online events.

On June 9, Jennifer Cocohoba, PharmD ’01, from the Department of Clinical Pharmacy, will sit on a panel discussing how the lack of affordable housing negatively affects physical and mental health. Sharon L. Youmans, PharmD ’85, MPH, vice dean of the School, will discuss UCSF's approach to professional education in the time of COVID-19 on June 12.

While we will miss the physical event, the virtual presentations will expand access to Alumni Weekend 2020 to a much wider audience. I hope you take advantage and tune in.

Knoben receives Alumnus of the Year

Although he will need to wait until next year to receive his award in person, I want to congratulate Captain James Knoben, PharmD ’71, MPH, the 2020 UCSF Pharmacy Alumni Association Distinguished Alumnus of the Year.

James has had a distinguished career, working at the U.S. National Center for Health Services Research, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the National Library of Medicine. He also served with distinction in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and retired with the rank of captain in 2005 after 33 years of active service.

James is the founding author of the Handbook of Clinical Drug Data, which was a critical reference for decades. Over his entire career, James has tirelessly forged new paths for advanced pharmacy clinical practice, expanding the scope of practice for all pharmacists.

James will be honored at Alumni Weekend 2021, scheduled for April 16–17, 2021. Congratulations, James!

Study on roots of asthma points to potential of birth cohort project

Esteban G. Burchard, MD, MPH, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, has been probing the genetic roots of asthma for 20 years. His latest paper looks at early-life viral infections and the development of asthma in Puerto Ricans. The research reveals compelling questions regarding Puerto Ricans’ high asthma rates. He is hopeful his next project will answer those questions.

The culmination of decades of work, Burchard and his researchers will follow 3,000 Puerto Rican children from birth, tracking changes in their health and examining why some develop asthma.

Wells pioneers new collaboration for synthetic antibodies

Under a new agreement pioneered by Jim Wells, PhD, Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, the pharmaceutical company Bristol Myers Squibb will invest in the Recombinant Antibody Network (RAN), a consortium of research groups from UCSF, the University of Chicago, and the University of Toronto. RAN’s work focuses on antibody engineering. Antibodies are naturally produced by the body to fight infections and other diseases. Jim is creating synthetic antibodies to inhibit disease processes or mark cancer cells for destruction by the immune system.

The partnership aims to create a whole series of novel medicines for a variety of diseases.

COVID-19 references


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.