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Update from the Dean: A fond farewell
Dear UCSF School of Pharmacy family and friends,
As the fall days shorten, our School continues to be as productive as ever. As always, the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s patients ultimately remain at the center of everything we do.
In this, my final Update from the Dean, I remain humbled by the remarkable accomplishments and bold, can-do ways of our faculty, staff, and students.
Reflecting upon my nearly ten years of service as your dean, science has continued to underpin our mission. The UCSF School of Pharmacy has remained continuously #1 in NIH funding for over four decades. Our three academic departments continue to make tangible impacts on biomedicine and health care, improving the lives of patients in the U.S. and abroad. The School’s Quantitative Biosciences Institute (QBI), now five years old, has created numerous international research collaborations in pursuit of new therapies for COVID, cancer, psychiatric illness, and beyond.
That scientific way of thinking has not been isolated to our research. Our PharmD curriculum was completely revamped, producing a novel, integrated, competency-based, year-round curriculum unlike any other in the world. Earlier this year we graduated the first class to complete this curriculum as well as the last class to complete our legacy curriculum. Our preliminary curricular evaluation from the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) is stellar, including several commendations regarding our exceptional educational program.
The School of Pharmacy and the UCSF Health Department of Pharmaceutical Services are now serving as a remarkably collaborative enterprise in ways I could never have imagined—integrating the advances gained from pharmacy practice into interdisciplinary hospital and community health care.
Over the years, our community has tackled difficult issues outside of its unique expertise, ranging from diversity, equity, and inclusion to sustainability. The pharmacy profession and biomedical enterprise cannot succeed without deep commitment to societal and environmental activism, and it heartens me to see my colleagues take on these additional challenges in stride.
Looking toward the future, it is likely the chancellor will name an interim dean in the coming weeks. Michael Reddy, DMD, dean of the School of Dentistry, is chairing the search committee to identify my permanent successor.
While I will step away from UCSF this January, please know I will continue to closely follow my School of Pharmacy colleagues: always bold, unafraid, and impacting the world in ways yet to be imagined.
B. Joseph Guglielmo, PharmD
Troy C. Daniels Distinguished Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences
UCSF School of Pharmacy
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Since the start of the pandemic, the School’s scientists and clinicians have relentlessly pursued better tests and therapies for COVID-19. While our work with COVID continues, we continue to pursue answers to critical questions in a wide range of disease areas and disciplines, consistently laying the groundwork for the rapid development of more effective therapies.
Advances from the QBI, our organized research unit, exemplify this renewed focus on broad, interdisciplinary discovery. As one of many recent examples, Tanja Kortemme, PhD, led an effort to better understand a type of protein, a molecular switch that orchestrates the behavior of thousands of other proteins. The research uncovered how changes to this molecular switch can affect a wide variety of cellular functions, opening up new avenues for understanding and treating disease.
QBI also catalyzed several groundbreaking investigations of the role of protein networks in cancer, resulting in the publication of three papers in the journal Science. Led by QBI Director Nevan Krogan, PhD, and Trey Idekker, PhD, of UC San Diego, the research laid out a strategy for investigating groups of proteins, rather than genes, that drive cancerous growth and applied this strategy to cancers of the breast, head, and neck.
The Kidney Project
On the back end of the “bench-to-bedside” spectrum, The Kidney Project, led by the School’s Shuvo Roy, PhD, and William Fissell, MD, of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, announced its successful implantation of a prototype, fully-functional bioartificial kidney in a preclinical model. This model offers renewed hope for chronic kidney disease patients languishing on kidney transplant wait lists. The advance earned The Kidney Project a $650,000 award as part of the Artificial Kidney Prize, a competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the American Society of Nephrology.
And lastly, Rada Savic, PhD, and Payam Nahid, MD, MPH, realized a decade of efforts in the treatment of tuberculosis when the World Health Organization (WHO) chose to adopt their proposed drug regimen, the first new regimen for the disease in 40 years. This new regimen was the result of Savic’s analysis of previous clinical trials, which she and Nahid subsequently tested in a 13-country trial of their own. The new regimen is just four months long, sparing patients from more complicated and long-term drug therapies.
Sarah de Jesus and Kera Jewett
The health care needs of our communities remain substantial and broad. Our pharmacists, from trainees to alumni, have not wavered in their development of novel approaches to meet these needs.
Just weeks ago, I received my annual influenza vaccination from pharmacy student Lynna Davis, Class of 2023. In the now-annual event, organized by the UCSF chapters of the American Pharmacists Association - Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA-ASP) and California Pharmacists Association (CPhA), I also read aloud San Francisco Mayor London Breed’s proclamation of October as American Pharmacy Month. Pharmacists provide a critical link between the advances made in health care and the community—if you haven’t received your flu shot yet, there’s still time!
Alum Ana Najafi, PharmD ’21, is making waves as a young pharmacist in the pharmaceutical industry. Najafi recently contributed to a citizen petition advocating for more responsible FDA regulation of vitamin B6, which was improperly touted as a COVID-19 curative during the pandemic. The petition—the formal vehicle for FDA policy change requests from individuals and organizations—calls for realigning the regulation of B6 with its empirically demonstrated risks and benefits.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has posed challenges for the UCSF School of Pharmacy and its PharmD students. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the PharmD program’s experiential learning modules. Known as Introductory and Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences (IPPEs and APPEs), the modules give students valuable real-world experience interacting directly with patients in California pharmacies and other health care settings.
Early in the pandemic, the School quickly developed safer approaches to hands-on learning in the PharmD program. Our students have rolled with the punches, in the process further strengthening their empathy for the patients they serve. As the country cautiously considers the possibility that the worst of the pandemic is behind us, experiential education has made a full return to the PharmD program.
The School welcomed the Class of 2024 to campus with a hybrid orientation this summer. This past October, the new class received its white coats in a ceremony that was required to take place virtually as a result of the Delta variant surge. Our newest future pharmacists have taken these challenges in stride, following in the footsteps of their more senior PharmD peers. The PharmD program will continue in a hybrid fashion, providing students with the in-person education and camaraderie they need, however, not at the expense of their wellness.
Lastly, a congratulations for two of our pharmacy students, Jennifer La and Joanne Wong, both Class of 2022, who were among 20 recipients of the First Gen Scholarship, offered by UCSF’s First Generation Support Services in Student Academic Affairs. Each expressed how they intended to use their careers in pharmacy to give back to and strengthen their respective communities.
A hearty, albeit preliminary, nod of approval
In October, we received notice from the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) visiting committee that the School is preliminarily in full compliance with all 25 standards by which accreditation is measured. We expect full accreditation when the board meets in late January 2022.
The purpose of the accreditation process is to provide a critical judgment of the quality of a school of pharmacy’s professional program and to offer ideas for improvement, all based on our self-reporting process. With exceptional leadership from Mitra Assemi, PharmD, associate dean of accreditation and quality improvement; Sharon Youmans, PharmD, vice dean; and project coordinator Cheryl Cain, we submitted a 200-page report with 50 appendices. Four of us spent more than 18 months working on the report and a dozen others contributed sections. ACPE examiners described the finished document as the best self-report they had seen.
While the School was commended for the quality of our report, it’s important to recognize that our entire School of Pharmacy team of faculty and staff members accomplished this feat all the while teaching and graduating two classes simultaneously: the final class completing the four-year, three-quarter curriculum and the first class learning in the new three-year, four-quarter model.
Earlier this fall, the School drafted its vision for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), and fielded feedback and questions from the community on the statement during a town hall . The ensuing discussion demonstrated our concern, care, and introspection necessary to tangibly embody UCSF’s PRIDE values (Professionalism, Respect, Integrity, Diversity, Excellence).
The School’s final vision statement follows:
We strive for a School and community in which all members are valued and respected. We celebrate differences and welcome all voices to shape culture, policy, and outcomes. We advance our diversity, equity, and inclusion goals through shared responsibility, accountability, transparency, and continuous improvement.
Pharmacy students Sarah Temi Sofeso, Sheila Mohebbi, Laura Rambaran, and Anahit Tatarian, all Class of 2022, took a hard look at the PharmD curriculum and questioned whether it was designed to train truly compassionate and bias-aware future pharmacists. The work resulted in a paper, “A Student’s Perspective on Dismantling Racial Bias in Pharmacy School Education,” published in the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, that laid out tractable ways for the PharmD program to address DEI in the field of pharmacy.
I applaud these students for their ongoing courage to speak up and hold themselves and their community accountable while also encouraging growth. You can expect the School to regularly report on its ongoing efforts to build a more welcoming and equitable community, as well as a community to hold it to account.
Yet again, it has been a productive last few months for our faculty members.
Tejal Desai, PhD, received the 2021 Chancellor’s Award for Advancement of Women. The award, one of the UCSF Chancellor Awards for Diversity, is given annually to an individual who demonstrates “outstanding commitment and service to the advancement of women beyond the scope of their job, area of research, or training.” Desai, who recently stepped down as chair of the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, has been a tireless advocate not only for women in our faculty, staff, and student communities, but for equity among all groups.
Kathy Giacomini, PhD, received the 2021 Distinguished Pharmaceutical Scientist Award in October for her research on individual variation in drug responses and the mechanisms underlying drug absorption and disposition. The award, the highest honor given by the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists, recognizes an individual whose lifetime achievements resulted in substantial and lasting contributions to the pharmaceutical sciences. Giacomini is the first woman to receive the award and the first biracial recipient.
Marilyn Stebbins, PharmD, received the UCSF Academy of Medical Educators/Program for Interprofessional Practice and Education (PIPE) 2021 Interprofessional Teaching Award. Stebbins’ teaching focuses on Medicare Part D, geriatrics, innovative practice models, health policy, health insurance, and drug pricing. Her clinical work focuses on developing innovative pharmacy practice models in the physician group practice setting, primarily for underserved populations.
Furthermore, a team consisting of Stebbins and fellow UCSF researchers Shirley Wong, PharmD; Stephanie Hsia, PharmD; and Rose Pavlakos, PharmD, also won Vizient’s Clinical Practice Award, part of Vizient’s Pharmacy Vision Awards, for their work on blood pressure control in Black patients in UCSF Primary Care practices.
Deanna Kroetz, PhD, was the recipient of the Rawls-Palmer Progress in Medicine Award, given by the American Society for Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics. Kroetz’s career has long bridged the clinical with the discovery sciences, with a focus on the genetic underpinnings of human drug responses.
Esteban G. Burchard, MD, MPH, delivered the 20th Annual Faculty Research Lecture in Clinical Science on November 2. Burchard was chosen for the honor by the UCSF Academic Senate, in recognition of his internationally-recognized research into population differences in asthma and asthma treatment, as well as the interactions between genes and environment that drive health disparities.
Crystal Zhou, PharmD; Stephanie Hsia, PharmD; and Jennifer Cocohoba, PharmD, MAS, individually earned accolades from UCSF’s Haile T. Debas Academy of Medical Educators. Zhou and Hsia were inducted into the Academy, and Cocohoba received the AME’s Excellence in Teaching Award.
Deanna Kroetz, PhD, was named chair of the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences (BTS), a joint department of the Schools of Pharmacy and Medicine. Kroetz spent the early stage of her career studying pharmacokinetics in humans and investigating the molecular roots of these drug responses in the laboratory. Today, she works at the nexus of genomics, structural biology, and pharmacology. Kroetz assumed the chairship from Tejal Desai on October 1.
Pam Schultz, MBA, was appointed associate dean of student affairs for the UCSF School of Pharmacy’s PharmD program. She will provide leadership and management in the Office of Student and Curricular Affairs (OSACA). Schultz has worked within the University of California system for 10 years and most recently served as director of student affairs and advocacy for the UCSF School of Dentistry. Schultz began her new position in October and replaced outgoing associate dean, Cindy Watchmaker, MBA, MEd.
Bill Neely announced his retirement from his role as department manager for the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences. Bill has served as department manager of BTS since his interim appointment in August 2014 and was confirmed in that role in February 2015. He previously served seven years as finance manager for the department. Bill’s last day at UCSF was October 15, and we thank him for his 14 years of dedicated service to UCSF.
In my time as dean, climate change has gone from an inevitability to a day-to-day reality, particularly as wildfires—made more intense by ongoing drought and higher temperatures—have threatened Northern California and choked San Francisco with smoke. The Camp Fire of 2018, which took 85 lives and decimated the town of Paradise, CA, even destroyed a community pharmacy that was owned and managed by a School alum.
While the focus of our School and the broader university is patient care, research, and education, it is everyone’s job to create more sustainable habits and build sustainability into our operations. Over the last two years, Dean Shehu, research commodities manager in UCSF’s Supply Chain Management, rose to the task of ensuring the efficiency of the freezers on which our research and patient care work depends. In collaboration with myself and others, Shehu replaced 43 of the campus’s aging, ultra-low temperature freezers with energy-efficient models, almost all of which were in the School of Pharmacy. This effort halves the carbon footprint of the older freezers. This pilot has resulted in an approval to replace UCSF’s oldest freezers on an ongoing basis, ensuring that its freezer fleet remains efficient and reliable for years to come.
Please safely enjoy the coming holidays with your loved ones. My thoughts, as always, will be with you.
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.