Class of ’23 joins ranks of pharmacy at White Coat Ceremony

The UC San Francisco doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) Class of 2023 may not be practicing pharmacists yet, but they’ve already mastered a crucial skill for their future careers: resilience.

Like most things in 2020, the White Coat Ceremony on August 28 was a little different than in years past. With the COVID-19 pandemic precluding in-person on campus events, the ceremony, which marks students’ transition to student pharmacists, took place remotely. But just as they've adjusted to remote learning and bonded as a class mostly over Zoom, the Class of 2023 made the most of the circumstances.

“It is our differences that make us strong and distinguished,” said School of Pharmacy Dean B. Joseph Guglielmo, PharmD before mentioning that the students came from across America and from all over the world to attend the School.

Students still found a way to connect, with a hashtag, #UCSFPharmD, on Twitter and Facebook. Freed from the confines of a physical auditorium, the virtual ceremony had no limitations on audience size and got nearly 2,000 views. The ceremony got nearly 2,000 views.

Students with online comments

The online format gave friends and family a new way to interact during the ceremony.

Loved ones and family members were also free to make shoutouts to students throughout the ceremony, their words of encouragement appearing in a streaming chat box to the right of the video and in comments at the bottom of the YouTube page.

As a reminder of the pandemic spreading outside, Guglielmo mentioned how the students’ chosen profession of pharmacy would play a critical role in the fight against the virus, be it with testing, treatment, or a future vaccine.

“Pharmacists will be administering the majority of these vaccinations and the state of California and the nation are recommending COVID testing to take place in pharmacies,” said Guglielmo. “Is there any doubt in your mind whether or not your profession is essential?”

UCSF Pharmacy Alumni Association President Gregory Allen Smith, PharmD ’92, welcomed the class to the profession and announced a gift. Each student received personalized business cards courtesy of the alumni association.

The keynote speaker, Vice Dean Sharon L. Youmans, PharmD ’85, MPH, reminded students that the AIDS epidemic was devastating the San Francisco Bay Area and the country at large when she became a pharmacist in the 80s. She challenged the class to think about the pandemic and how they can serve the public.


Vice Dean Sharon L. Youmans, PharmD, MPH

“As you train to be a pharmacist, what will you do? In your own way you have begun to answer the call. Your contributions, no matter how large or small, will make a difference in someone's life or the lives of someone's family,” Youmans said.

In normal years, students are called on stage and don their white coats, presented by distinguished faculty and alumni. This year, students were asked to don their own white coats. They will share the experience in person in a second ceremony after the pandemic has passed.

Omar Gomez Estrada, Class of 2021, told the class how important pharmacists are to their communities. “Whether you encounter patients in a hospital or out in their community, the opportunity to optimize someone's care will always be in front of you,” Gomez Estrada said.

The newly coated members of the Class of 2021 then formally took the Oath of a Pharmacist, led by Lisa Kroon, PharmD, chair of the Department of Clinical Pharmacy. As Kroon recited each line, a student echoed it.

The ceremony concluded with a short video of congratulations from distinguished alumni and faculty. It wasn’t in person, and it may have lacked hugs and cheers, but for now, it would do.

Masked students hold signs that read "Congrats Class of 2023."

Students from other classes, faculty members, and staff gave their congratulations in a video.


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.