Update from the Dean: Excellence amidst change

Dear UCSF School of Pharmacy family and friends,

Change may upend the ways of the world, but change and continuous improvement is our North Star in the UCSF School of Pharmacy.

From our pioneering of the field of clinical pharmacy decades ago, to our rollout of a transformed, unparalleled, scientifically grounded doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) curriculum in 2018, to our 41st consecutive year leading all other schools of pharmacy in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding, commitment to change has enabled our scientists, educators, and pharmacists to stay one step ahead.

Consistent with the theme of change, after over 40 years serving UCSF as a pharmacist and faculty member, and beginning my 10th year serving as dean of the School of Pharmacy, I have decided to retire at the end of this calendar year.

It is with decidedly mixed feelings that I leave a position privileged to work with the most committed and talented faculty, staff, and students. However, I am confident the School will not only embrace but also capitalize on this change to uphold its well-recognized excellence.

In 2012, I inherited this role from esteemed School alumna and pharmacist Mary Anne Koda-Kimble, PharmD ’69. Mary Anne’s tenure as dean—the first major pharmacy school deanship held by a woman—saw the School cement its position as the top training ground for future pharmacists and the most productive incubator of NIH-funded research of any pharmacy school.

We honor Mary Anne’s legacy each year with the Mary Anne Koda-Kimble Seed Award for Innovation. The Koda-Kimble Seed Award winners for 2021 originated from all three academic departments as well as our PharmD educational program, epitomizing the breadth of our impact across biomedicine and health care.

Over my tenure, the School has nearly doubled its annual NIH grant awards to over $40 million, more than the next two highest-earning pharmacy schools combined; we established an organized research unit, the Quantitative Biosciences Institute (QBI), which leads the world in catalyzing groundbreaking scientific collaborations; and our students shepherded the first COVID-19 vaccines into the arms of UCSF essential workers at the end of 2020.

In this, my penultimate Update from the Dean, I am excited to share the latest updates on our School’s contributions fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, its efforts addressing issues of racism and equity, and the successes and legacies of our staff, researchers, clinicians, and pharmacy students. Please reach out as I enjoy the last months of my service to the School. It has been an honor.



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

Holding the line against the coronavirus

A cell infected with SARS-CoV-2 particles

A cell (blue) heavily infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus particles (green), isolated from a patient sample.

Families and friends are reuniting, and masks are being cautiously removed as COVID-19 cases and deaths plummet around the country. Nevertheless, the School’s scientists and clinicians are working diligently to prepare for any new surges of coronavirus infections.

Jim Wells, PhD, and colleagues developed a reliable test for COVID-19 immunity that can show not only whether a person has previously had the disease, but also whether they’ve received a vaccine and its associated immunological response. Wells Lab collaborators are exploring best approaches to rollouts in low- and middle-income countries.

Nevan Krogan, PhD, director of QBI, led a study that showed how the Alpha variant of SARS-CoV-2 evades the human immune system, allowing it to spread more rapidly than earlier viral variants.

And Brian Shoichet, PhD, and collaborators found that dozens of potential COVID-19 therapies, identified in 2020, would not be effective in humans, work that promises to make future drug discovery efforts more precise.

A pharmacist gives a practice vaccination to another pharmacist

Nicola Clayton, PharmD ’14, left, practices giving a shot to James Go, PharmD ’17, as part of a recent immunization training for pharmacists that was organized by School faculty members.

Although three quarters of San Francisco residents have received a full course of a coronavirus vaccine, the School continues to bring its vaccination expertise to communities in need. A team of School pharmacists led by Valerie Clinard, PharmD, organized a free vaccination certification and training program for California pharmacists, ultimately certifying 72 clinicians to deliver the COVID-19 vaccines. Lisa Kroon, PharmD, shared her experience overseeing the vaccination training (PDF) of student pharmacists and licensed pharmacists with the California Society of Health-System Pharmacists.

Walking the talk in our ongoing anti-racist efforts

It has been over a year since the murder of George Floyd brought renewed attention to systemic injustice and racism in our community and to the need for anti-racism to be a pillar of all of the School’s endeavors.

Student holding prescription bottle with patient

A PharmD student (right) helps a patient determine prescription drug coverage under Medicare Part D as part of an annual outreach event. The School continues to explore new ways to incorporate antiracist and equitable approaches into its clinical, scientific, and educational activities.

A panel of students, faculty members, and staff members from across the School evaluated how the doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree program approaches issues of race and inequity and provided targets for improvement. Based on this report, PharmD curricular changes are being drafted by faculty members and leadership.

Stephanie L. Hsia, PharmD, and Rupa L. Tuan, PharmD, received the Innovation in Teaching Award from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy for designing a curriculum unit addressing health equity, entitled “A Remote Health Equity Curriculum: Teaching Pharmacy Students to be Advocates for Social Justice.”

Tejal Desai, PhD, moderated a panel discussion organized by QBI on how to use institutional change to promote equity and inclusion (YouTube video), with a particular call to increase funding for Black scientists. The panel featured academic researchers as well as representatives from the NIH.

Excellence and resilience in pharmacy education

Celebrating two commencements


Former surgeon general Richard H. Carmona, MD, MPH, spoke at both of this year's commencements.

This past spring, not just one but two cohorts of students earned their doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degrees. The simultaneous graduations of the last class to complete the previous four-year curriculum (2021P) and the first class to complete the School’s revamped three-year, year-round curriculum (2021T) resulted in this unusual occurrence. All 223 students who graduated completed the final year of their respective curriculums, including the provision of patient care throughout California as part of their Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences (APPEs), amid the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Commencements honoring each class were broadcast online on separate weekends and featured addresses by Distinguished Alumnus of 2020 James Knoben, PharmD ’71; Distinguished Alumnus of 2021 John Skahl, PharmD ’71; and former surgeon general Richard H. Carmona, MD, MPH.

The Bowl of Hygeia winner for the Class of 2021P was Jordan Brooks, PharmD, and the Bowl of Hygeia winner for the Class of 2021T was Ellen Berkley, PharmD. Congratulations to all!

Innovative programs

Pharmacy students Afshar Hassani, Kelly Lam, Sabrina Lin, and Venus Tong, all Class of 2022, formed a team that dove into the fields of pharmacoeconomics and health outcomes research to compete in the ISPOR 2021 Pharmacoeconomic Debate. The group, which received mentorship from faculty member Leslie Wilson, PhD, compared the relative benefits of employer-provided versus individually-purchased insurance plans, and bested a team from California Northstate University College of Pharmacy for the win.

Cathi Dennehy, PharmD, led a collaborative effort between UCSF and UC San Diego to build online training modules for pharmacy preceptors—the educators who oversee the experiential, or clinical, components of the PharmD curriculum. Over 130 pharmacy preceptors, responsible for teaching PharmD students in diverse clinical settings throughout California, have participated in the program since January.

Education accolades

Pharmacy students Michael Au and Joanne Wong, both Class of 2022, were selected as San Francisco Bay Area Schweitzer Fellows for their proposal to implement a comprehensive medication reconciliation program for low-income patients at high risk for medication complications.

The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy honored the School’s Office of Experiential Education and Professional Development its Award of Excellence “for the tremendous efforts of faculty and staff at keeping programs operating despite the unimaginable pandemic-related challenges.” The office is responsible for coordinating and overseeing second- and third-year pharmacy students as they undertake their application of pharmacy practice skills in experiential settings throughout California.

Research: past, present, and future

The School’s discovery science has continued to lend insight into many aspects of human biology and health, despite the disruptions of the pandemic.


Nadav Ahituv, PhD

Nadav Ahituv, PhD, and colleagues took a genomic approach to probe the differences between Neanderthals—our closest hominid ancestors—and humans. The group found over 400 differences in regulatory DNA between humans and Neanderthals, with implications, for example, on how vocal cords changed when the two species diverged, changes that weren’t preserved in physical fossils over the eons.


Mark Kelly, PhD

Mark Kelly, PhD, an expert in the use of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) imaging, noticed that UCSF was inadvertently wasting helium, necessary to keep NMR machines cool, by allowing it to escape into the atmosphere. He rallied a group of scientists and administrators to fund and build a helium recycling system, which has already saved the equivalent of over 500,000 birthday balloons’ worth of helium. The effort is one of many in the School to improve our sustainability and keep our operations clean and green. As part of a growing commitment to sustainability, UCSF also recently hosted its first Earth Day town hall.

Faculty honors and awards


Ian Seiple, PhD

Ian Seiple, PhD, was selected as one of five Amgen Young Investigators for his work using chemical building blocks to create new drug therapies. He was also selected as a 2021 Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar for his “outstanding independent body of scholarship” alongside a “deep commitment to education.”


Balyn Zaro, PhD

Balyn Zaro, PhD, earned the 2021 Beckman Young Investigator Award, given to early-career scientists with the intent of fostering “the invention of methods, instruments, and materials that will open new avenues of research in science.” Zaro’s research uses chemical biology and proteomics to understand the immune system and blood, with the goal of developing novel therapeutics.


Lei Wang, PhD

Lei Wang, PhD, received the Emil Thomas Kaiser Award by The Protein Society. The award recognizes “a recent, highly significant contribution in applying chemistry to the study of proteins.” Wang is an expert in the field of protein therapeutics and has pioneered methods for controlling the behavior of proteins in living cells.


Sophie Dumont, PhD

Sophie Dumont, PhD, won the 2021 Byers Award for Basic Science. In her award lecture, Dumont recalled becoming enamored by the process of cell division upon reading a book of scientific papers she picked up while waiting for her car to be serviced. Her training as a physicist ultimately translated into a trailblazing career evaluating how chromosomes are redistributed during cell division, a phenomenon with implications for understanding and treating cancer.


Kathryn Phillips, PhD

Kathryn Phillips, PhD, was appointed to the National Academy of Medicine Roundtable on Genomics and Precision Health, which aims to foster the wide adoption of and equitable access to the benefits of genomics and precision health. Phillips also contributed to a Science magazine essay on the value and affordability of precision medicine: “Complicated legacies: The human genome at 20.”

Recent retirements

As I begin to plan for the next phase in my own life, I am reminded that I am not the first nor the last to bid farewell to the school. Recent retirements in the School include:


Associate Dean Cindy Watchmaker, MBA, MEd, delivered the faculty address for the Class of 2021T’s commencement in May, her last commencement as the director of the School’s Office of Student and Curricular Affairs (OSACA).

Cindy Watchmaker, MBA, MEd, served as associate dean and director of the School’s Office of Student and Curricular Affairs (OSACA) for over 22 years. Students, faculty, and staff alike respect her as a consummate professional, student advocate, and trusted resource. Any engagement with the School’s PharmD degree program revealed Cindy’s impressive leadership and knowledge. Fittingly, Cindy was selected by students as the faculty speaker for the Class of 2021T’s commencement ceremony. Her focus was professional responsibility, values, and work/life balance. Cindy’s retirement is effective as of June 30.


Patrick Finley, PharmD

Patrick Finley, PharmD, served as a faculty member in the Department of Clinical Pharmacy for 25 years. Patrick, a member of the PharmD Class of ’87, is a nationally recognized expert in the pharmacological management of mood disorders. As a clinician and researcher in psychopharmacology and behavioral health, his work demonstrated his commitment to optimizing medication management for patients with mental illness. He also conducted research on depression in special populations, including gaps treating and identifying depression in pregnant or new mothers. Patrick was committed to ensuring that pharmacy students and residents received learning opportunities with respect to the pharmacist’s role managing mental illnesses. His retirement is effective June 30.


Michael Nordberg, MPA/HSA

Lastly, earlier this year, Michael Nordberg, MPA/HSA, concluded his time as associate dean of finance and administration. Nordberg joined UCSF as an administrator in 1992 and the School of Pharmacy in 2004. I can confidently state that Nordberg’s leadership and broad abilities provided the School with strength and a stable fiscal status. I am personally grateful for his even-keeled, commonsense approach. A testament to his many talents is that Nordberg is consistently sought by other administrators for his counsel and assistance, and among his many honors has been the Chancellor’s Award for Exceptional University Management. His retirement was effective as of January 31.

Welcome our new associate dean


Alesia Woods

Alesia Woods took the reins as associate dean of administration and finance this past March. She comes to the School of Pharmacy with over 20 years of leadership and financial management experience at UCSF, previously serving as chief administrative officer for the Department of Physiology in the School of Medicine. Alesia has long demonstrated her ability to manage financial and administrative issues while maintaining superb vision and strategies, and she was recognized in 2019 with the Chancellor’s Award for Exceptional University Management. We are indeed fortunate to have her join the Dean’s Office team.

Alumni recognition

Shaily Arora, PharmD ’12, received the 2021 UCSF Alumni Early-Career Award for her accomplishments as a pharmacy leader in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Shaily Arora, PharmD ’12 received the 2021 UCSF Alumni Early-Career award, which honors one of the last decade’s alums for significant professional achievements and leadership, pushing the boundaries of science and health care. Arora, who was also the 2012 Bowl of Hygeia recipient, forged her own path in pharmacy by pursuing a career at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A specialist in hematology-oncology, she is currently acting associate director for safety in the FDA’s Office of Oncologic Diseases.


John Skahl, PharmD ’71

John Skahl, PharmD ’71, was selected as the Distinguished Alumnus of the Year for 2021 by the UCSF Pharmacy Alumni Association. John spent numerous years as a leader in the profession, helping build the California Pharmacists Association into its current form and starting a number of pharmacy-centric businesses. Skahl addressed this year’s commencement for graduates of our transformed curriculum, remarking on the possibilities the UCSF PharmD opened for his career—as well as his efforts regarding health care access and being cognizant of patient outcomes. In addition to his professional contributions, John served as a leader in the alumni community for decades.


Rita Jew, PharmD ’90, MBA

Rita Jew, PharmD ’90, MBA, was named executive vice president of operations at the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP), a non-profit organization “devoted entirely to preventing medication errors.” Jew served as the director of pharmacy for UCSF Health from 2013 to 2018 before founding a pharmacy operations consulting firm.


Brian Komoto, PharmD ’81

Brian Komoto, PharmD ’81 will begin his two-year term as president of the Alumni Association of UCSF in fall 2021. Komoto is a champion for a wider role for pharmacists in the health care system and broader community, most recently advocating for pharmacists to make real use of California’s advanced practice pharmacist (APh) licensure. Komoto also serves on the Pharmacy Alumni Association Board of Governors.

Pharmacists train on the eve of the Great Depression

The career of alumnus Robert L. Day, PharmD ’59, spans 54 years as a pharmacist, faculty member, mentor, associate dean, and now faculty emeritus. He has served as an inspiration for our students for decades. He also acted as the School’s de facto historian, and his writings of the School’s past, published regularly in the Pharmacy Alumni Association newsletter, have also given alumni the chance to reflect on the pharmacy profession over the years.


Bob Day, PharmD ’59

If you recall, my March 2021 Update began the inclusion of the first of a series of history highlights selected by Bob. This Update’s history highlight is from a newsletter published in 1979. Bob recruited Sigmund Oppenheimer, PharmD ’30, to reminisce on what it was like to become a pharmacist as the Great Depression loomed. Oppenheimer wrote about characters on the School’s faculty of the time, from its strictest to most beloved, and about both the rigor of the School’s curriculum and students’ approaches to work-life balance, which included one who moonlit as a boxer and another as a maker of moonshine.

Thanks to the generosity of donors, Bob’s legacy is now embodied in a fund for students and a new student center. The Bob Day Student Support Fund, an endowed fund in the UCSF School of Pharmacy, will support a variety of student activities and priorities in perpetuity, and the Bob Day Student Center continues to provide a physical space for students to connect and build community.

Campus updates

Across UCSF, students, faculty, and staff are sharing personal stories demonstrating their dedication to mental health as part of Faces of Ability Part II–Mental Health Resilience. The campaign is shifting the conversation away from stigma toward open discussion, support, and inclusion, as well as UCSF’s mental health resources.

Rendering of new building
ZGF Architects

The 150,000-square-foot Nancy Friend Pritzker Psychiatry Building will fully integrate outpatient mental health care for patients of all ages, nation-leading programs in psychiatry and psychology training, and clinical research on brain disorders.

On a similar note, the new home of UCSF’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavior Sciences, supported by a gift from philanthropists John Pritzker and Lisa Stone Pritzker, is named in honor of John’s sister, Nancy Friend Pritzker. Honoring her memory in this manner heals and pushes back against the stigma associated with mental health and suicide.

In March the University of California made advances to make scientific knowledge more accessible through open access. Elsevier, a publisher with whom the university system had previously cut ties, and UC reached an agreement that allows UC lead authors to publish their work with open access by default, in both hybrid and open access journals, including the Cell and Lancet families. This agreement is the largest of its kind, likely to double UC’s open access publishing.

And finally, a quick update on campus return-to-work plans as we cautiously move toward an exit from the COVID-19 pandemic. Recently we’ve seen laboratory research, long considered essential, return to full capacity. Masking rules have been relaxed, though masks are still required in all clinical settings. For those working from home during the pandemic, return-to-work is generally slated for October 1, with some employees gradually returning to campus when warranted starting now. That said, some amount of telework will now be the norm for many positions throughout the University, including in the School of Pharmacy, where the Dean’s Office and our departments are all developing plans for the new hybrid workplace.


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.