UCSF

School community bids farewell to an impactful dean

Guglielmo concludes over 40 years of service to UCSF

When B. Joseph Guglielmo, PharmD, arrived at UC San Francisco in 1978, he joined an institution in the midst of pioneering new ways for pharmacists to collaborate with health care providers in the hospital setting.

Over four decades later, Guglielmo would hang up his hat as dean of the UCSF School of Pharmacy, having not only forged critical new paths in pharmacy but also having provided inspiration for generations of scientists and clinicians to go out on a limb to improve the status quo.

“Joe’s greatest gift was his support of our work,” said Joel Gonzales, director of admissions for the School’s doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree program. “Joe knew how to make the most of the talent around him. When Joe’s approval was needed, it was not uncommon for him to respond with ‘You are the expert. What do YOU recommend’ and his support would follow.”

This collaborative spirit defined Guglielmo tenure as dean. Since his appointment as dean in 2013, he oversaw the expansion of the School’s research activities via the founding of the Quantitative Biosciences Institute (QBI); led the School as it consistently earned more in NIH research grants than any other pharmacy school in the nation; and helped revamp the doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree program with a new three-year, year-round curriculum.

Yet what stands out for most about Guglielmo was his open mind and commitment to others—traits that thread through each of his career accomplishments.

“Joe has been the epitome of an ideal mentor, as he has continually and personally cultivated the potential of hundreds of future academic and clinical leaders and influenced thousands over his 31-year career at UCSF,” wrote faculty member Robin Corelli, PharmD, in her nomination of Guglielmo for UCSF’s Lifetime Achievement in Mentoring Award in 2010, which Guglielmo would go on to win. “He is a respected clinician, a gifted teacher and an accomplished researcher. These skills, while academically impressive, pale in comparison to his other attributes—which include being a trusted advisor, a good friend and a compassionate human being.”

Acting on the future threat of antibiotic resistance

From Guglielmo’s earliest days as a pharmacy resident and then faculty member in the Department of Clinical Pharmacy, his eye for gaps in health care was consistently followed up with action. Soon after his arrival in San Francisco, Guglielmo helped establish the UCSF Medical Center’s Antimicrobial Stewardship Program to ensure the safe, effective use of antimicrobials, with a focus on reducing antimicrobial resistance.

Guglielmo standing among clinicians in a hospital ward
Robert Levin Collection

Guglielmo, center, working with fellow clinicians in the intensive care unit at UCSF Medical Center, 1985.

It was the first antimicrobial stewardship program at any hospital in the nation, setting a standard that is followed by nearly all hospitals today.

“Joe was always a big-picture kind of person,” said Richard Jacobs, MD, PhD, UCSF professor emeritus and an expert on infectious diseases, who Guglielmo recruited to co-found the program. “It was really his idea to start this long before antibiotic stewardship became a clinical pathway, which it is now.”

Antibiotic stewardship encourages the prudent prescription of antibiotics, because overly liberal antibiotic use can accelerate the emergence of drug-resistant bacteria. Guglielmo had the interpersonal skills to provide the friendly “policing” of practices around antibiotics that UCSF needed to make such prudence standard at the hospital, according to Jacobs.

“It’s not easy to tell a liver transplant surgeon which antibiotics to use,” said Jacobs. “Joe always had everybody’s respect, not only for his knowledge, but for his extraordinarily diplomatic way of dealing with people. It rubbed off on me, and made our program successful.”

Unsurprisingly, the first interaction that Sharon L. Youmans, PharmD, MPH, the School’s vice dean, had with Guglielmo was when she was a UCSF pediatric clinical pharmacist in need of advice treating infectious diseases, back in the 1990s.

“I had to call him to get permission to use a certain antibiotic for one of my kids on the bone marrow transplant,” she recalled, “and that’s all I really knew about him.”

Little did Youmans know, she would soon be helping Guglielmo manage far more than antibiotic decisions in the hospital.

Leading the School through change

In 2001, Youmans returned to UCSF and herself became a faculty member in the Department of Clinical Pharmacy, which Guglielmo now helmed as department chair. Five years later, Guglielmo offered Youmans the chance to serve as his vice chair of education—her dream role at the time—kickstarting what would become a 15-year leadership collaboration.

“I have seen him as someone who has evolved over time, and someone who has been there during my own evolution,” said Youmans. “We were both new to leadership, and all of the politics, but he was always willing to listen, even when we disagreed.”

Youmans had ideas for revamping the School’s renowned PharmD degree program—a hefty task that would entail equal measures of intellectual and political wrangling spanning the School’s three academic departments. Guglielmo felt that the time for such change wasn’t far off, but encouraged Youmans to focus on improving the curriculum at the department level first.

Guglielmo and Youmans

Guglielmo, left, and Sharon L. Youmans, PharmD, MPH, ’13.

In 2013, Guglielmo assumed the role of dean for the School, and Youmans volunteered to serve as his vice dean— “My job is to help you solve problems,” she promised. The new positions created an opening for the pair of leaders to carry out their vision of an improved pharmacy curriculum.

“Neither one of us had created a curriculum from scratch before,” said Youmans. “But Joe was approachable to everyone, he always made the time to listen. And at the end of the day, he led the School on the curriculum transformation, which was huge."

The new curriculum debuted in 2018. Centered on critical thinking skills that would set up students for lifelong careers in pharmacy, the curriculum balanced foundations in scientific and clinical knowledge with skills and real-world pharmacy practice experiences.

In 2021, the first cohort of PharmD students trained under the new curriculum graduated alongside the last cohort of students from the legacy curriculum. The COVID-19 pandemic had disrupted coursework and pharmacy practice experiences in the final year for both cohorts, but students took their cues from the ever-steady Guglielmo, who provided regular video updates on School operations as well as reassurance and encouragement.

Leaving the School better than he found it

As Guglielmo approached his retirement, two other efforts borne of his service-oriented passions came to fruition. On the sustainability front, the School upgraded dozens of ultra-low-temperature freezers to be energy efficient—a project that Guglielmo had singled out for School sponsorship in 2018.

Boxes and bottles scientific samples in a freezer
Susan Merrell

A recent effort led by Guglielmo and UCSF Supply Chain Management’s Dean Shehu replaced 43 of the campus’s least-efficient freezers.

In 2020 and 2021, Guglielmo also led discussions on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), at School town halls and with the Dean’s office, welcoming feedback from students, faculty members, and staff members. These conversations led to the creation of a new DEI vision statement and webpage for the School’s DEI resources, supported by department-level DEI programs and events.

No matter the task or topic at hand, Guglielmo’s focus on helping others was apparent.

“I cannot count the number of times staff, faculty, alumni, friends, neighbors reached out to him in distress, asking for his guidance on medication, or simply to visit a loved one that was being treated at UCSF to make sure they were getting the best possible care,” said Liana Crosby, MFA, executive assistant to the dean, who worked for Guglielmo for 5 years. “He always helped, without any hesitation, setting an example for us all.”

An outsized impact on many

Below are further reflections on the impact that Guglielmo made on his colleagues over the years.

“I am so fortunate to have had Joe as my boss, mentor, colleague and friend. He opened opportunities for me and other faculty members-he’s an incredible sponsor, always thinking about others and their needs. Joe had an open door policy and always made time to meet with faculty, pharmacists, learners and staff. He’s an incredible listener and always provided sage advice. You always left Joe’s office feeling better with an action plan.” Lisa Kroon, PharmD, chair of the Department of Clinical Pharmacy and Assistant Chief Pharmacy Officer for Research, Education, and Clinical Services, UCSF Health.

“One distinct memory was when Joe offered me the position of Associate Dean of Academic Affairs for the School. With that offer came the advice that I could just be a minimalist or strive to improve the system. That notion, that I could improve the system from my new perch, has since stuck with me as my creed and guiding light.” Thomas Kearney, PharmD, interim dean.

“In leading the School forward, Joe consistently solicited input from a wide variety of diverse sources. He not only listened but truly heard people. Whether he agreed with an opinion or not, he weighed and respected all points of view. It’s but one of many examples of Joe’s focus on inclusion that marked his style as dean." Susan Levings, MS, former associate dean of planning and communications.

Guglielmo holding a prescription bottle and speaking to a group of students

Guglielmo provides guidance to students during a pharmacy practice event in 2014.

“Joe always placed discovery science front and center, whether he was talking about our science-focused professional curriculum or the many accomplishments of our faculty. I also appreciate Joe’s commitment to expanding translational sciences within the School and his recognition of the need to be leaders in the pharmaceutical sciences that define optimal use of current and future therapeutics and the application of engineering principles for novel therapeutics and biomarkers.” Deanna Kroetz, PhD, chair of the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences.

“Joe was a proponent of taking calculated risks—thinking through an idea and acting on it. He believed iterating was a way to avoid the ‘paralysis of perfection,’ and that approach fueled both large and small scale changes during his tenure as Dean.” Cindy Watchmaker, MBA, MEd, former associate dean of student and curricular affairs.

“Joining SOP leadership, I quickly realized how much I didn’t know about how the school and university function. Joe has been unfailingly patient, available, and transparent, addressing my questions, helping me solve challenges, and always trying to get to ‘yes.’ With this trademark humility, Joe expresses equal interest and provides equal candor to administration, faculty, staff, and students. As we would say in the South, he doesn’t act like he thinks he’s Somebody.” Michelle Arkin, PhD, chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry.

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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.