PharmD Class of 2020 formally celebrates graduation

School community gathers for a virtual commencement

When the UC San Francisco doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) class of 2020 delayed their commencement back in April, it was hoped that the COVID-19 pandemic would be contained in time for the class to celebrate their new degrees in person, surrounded by friends and family. But it wasn’t meant to be.

Even against the backdrop of a second lock-down in California, the message of the class’s belated and virtual graduation ceremony on December 26, 2020, was one of hope, although the pandemic wasn’t far from mind.

Dean B. Joseph Guglielmo, PharmD, opened the ceremony by highlighting frontline health care workers, physicians, nurses, pharmacists and scientists working to combat the disease, and said that the class’s entry into the field in such a critical time signaled a better future.

“While each of you has touched the lives of your classmates, you also profoundly influenced those of us privileged to work with you,” Guglielmo said. In a time of fractious politics, he called on the class to “continue their empathetic, responsible, and respectful ways of reaching out to others and doing your part to heal the nation.”

Student speakers


Jessica Li, PharmD

The first student speaker, Jessica Li, PharmD, praised the class’s perseverance from her home, wearing her cap and gown.

“Everyone had their own battles, whether it was health, relationships, family, loss, homesickness, or burnout, but together we took on those challenges,” Li said. She remembered receiving motivational emails the night before tests from faculty member Igor Mitrovic, MD, and the fear of being called on by faculty member Jaekyu Shin, PharmD.

“Quarantine brought a different type of anxiety but OSACA (the Office of Student and Curricular Affairs) updated us regularly (about licensing exams). Cindy Watchmaker talked to the Board of Pharmacy and our classmates posted information on the group chat,” Li said, before thanking her friends and family.


Loreen Atallah, PharmD

The second student speaker, Loreen Atallah, PharmD, said the graduation also served as the class’s first reunion, since “it feels like it’s been at least 100 years since we graduated this spring.”

“As doctors of pharmacy we now have the opportunity to directly confront the biggest health care challenge in the modern era, and as graduates of UCSF we’re well equipped with the training we need to do just that,” Atallah said.

Wisdom from past graduates

The commencement speaker, selected by the class, was Donald Kishi, PharmD ’68. Kishi, who retired this year, spent more than 50 years associated with the School and served the class as a faculty member and associate dean of student and curricular affairs.

Kishi implored the class to push the practice of pharmacy ahead, following in the footsteps of prior generations of UCSF graduates. “Your school of pharmacy has a long history of preparing students for a practice that does not exist at the time of their graduation, but rather for a vision of practice five to ten years into the future,” Kishi said.

In the face of today’s challenges, like COVID-19, global warming, and social unrest, Kishi advised graduates to “find a need and fill it” and to commit to life-long learning.

“In the current crisis you have the opportunity to dream up and create new ways to take care of your patients, our society, and our environment,” Kishi said. “Hopefully you have the courage and perseverance and energy to take actions that will improve our world.”

The class also asked that faculty member Conan MacDougall, PharmD ’02, MAS, speak. MacDougall began by joking he would be speaking at 1.5 speed, a nod to the fact that many students watch videos of lectures—a necessity in distance learning—sped-up to save time.

“One thing we have learned about our profession is that pharmacists are up for any challenge,” MacDougall, an infectious disease pharmacist, told the class. “Every step of the way pharmacists have helped lead the pandemic response, applying the same tools you began to develop during your time in pharmacy school.”

Bowl of Hygeia award


Kathy Le, PharmD, won the Bowl of Hygeia award.

Gregory Smith, PharmD ’92, president of the UCSF Pharmacy Alumni Association Board of Governors, introduced the Bowl of Hygeia award. Named after Hygeia, the Greek god of health, it is the School’s highest honor.

The dean announced Kathy Le, PharmD, as the recipient of the award, which is given annually to a graduate who “best exemplifies the qualities most desirable in a pharmacist,” as voted by their peers.

The other finalists were Julia Lee, PharmD; Allison Nguyen, PharmD; Jonathan Nguyen, PharmD; and Stephanie Sin, PharmD.

A message from the Chancellor

UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS, addressed the challenges of the unprecedented year the PharmDs graduated in and the pride he feels for how the university responded. “At times like these it is our values and our shared purpose that has empowered us to respond speedily and selflessly to the needs of our patients and the communities we serve,” Hawgood said.

“I look forward with anticipation to watching you define the future of pharmacy,” Hawgood said. “By the authority vested in me by the regents of the University of California I hereby confer upon you the degree of doctor of pharmacy. Congratulations to you all.”

A virtual graduation walk

Vice Dean Sharon L. Youmans, PharmD ’85, MPH, narrated the virtual graduation walk as “Pomp and Circumstance Marches” played. Each member of the Class of 2020 had their name read aloud, accompanied by a slideshow featuring student portraits, photos of friends and family, and meaningful quotes.

The ceremony concluded with Kishi leading the graduates in the Oath of a Pharmacist, which they first recited in 2016 in their White Coat ceremony.

In his final remarks, Guglielmo told the class to ensure that “patients receive the safest most effective and least costly medication therapy,” but also told them address the “gap (that) centers upon lack of respect for others, particularly for those whose opinions differ from yours.”

A video of greetings from faculty, staff and alumni concluded the ceremony.

Although there would be no walk across a stage in front of a cheering crowd, the event was a reminder that these graduates had already proved their resilience in the face of historic events, and that distance can’t stop a well-earned celebration.


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.