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PharmD Class of 2022 celebrates graduation in person
By Levi Gadye / Tue Jun 7, 2022
On May 27, in front of hundreds of friends, family, and faculty and staff members, the UCSF School of Pharmacy’s PharmD Class of 2022 graduated together at Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall—the School’s first in-person commencement ceremony since May 2019.
Whoops of joy and cries like “That’s my sister!” echoed throughout the large auditorium as the names of each of the 122 new PharmDs were read aloud. It was an appropriate return to celebration, worthy of the newest generation of UCSF pharmacists.
“In your first year of pharmacy school, the worst pandemic in a century swept the globe, and you did not skip a beat,” said Interim Dean Thomas E. Kearney, PharmD, in opening remarks. “In addition to adjusting to a first virtual and later hybrid model of learning, you bravely joined in the fight against COVID, organizing PPE drives, staffing vaccination campaigns, and safely providing patient care in the community.”
Universal masking and vaccine checks at the door bolstered COVID-19 safety during the event, which was also broadcast online for guests who could not attend. The tone of the day remained upbeat, however, with students revealing wide smiles during their walks across the auditorium stage, and students, faculty members, and family and friends reuniting outside at the conclusion of the ceremony.
“It’s incredible to see a lot of people that we haven’t seen in person, for some of us over two years later, and to feel the same way about the camaraderie we had with one another [in our first year],” said Usman Aslam-Mir, PharmD ’22, MS. “It was a really great feeling to graduate in a format where we’re celebrating collective achievement together.”
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The Class of 2022, whose 126 members hail from across the nation and globe, has already begun to make its mark on the pharmacy profession and health care more broadly, with over 90 graduates headed to pharmacy residencies and the remaining beginning fellowships and jobs this summer.
“With such a diverse group of students, we increased the likelihood of producing practitioners with fresh and varied perspectives, reflecting the broad swaths of society—domestic and international—that you are now poised to serve,” said Kearney. “Friends, family, faculty members, and guests, I’m delighted to introduce you to this distinguished new class of graduates.”
Kearney also commended the graduating class for catalyzing the School’s recent efforts with diversity, equity, and inclusion, beginning with a petition demanding that School leadership take a stronger stance on issues like racism. He noted that this petition was the first of many instances where students worked with faculty members to improve the School.
“You’ve trailblazed a new path for the School community to hold itself accountable, setting an example of self-betterment for us all,” he said.
Kearney introduced two members of the Class of 2022 before each delivered remarks reflecting on their time at UCSF.
Jennifer La, PharmD ’22, reminisced on connecting with faculty members and classmates alike over the course of three years of classwork, skills training, and patient care experiences.
“During our cardiology block our physiology professor, Dr. Igor Mitrovic, scared us by screaming in class to teach us how our sympathetic nervous system works,” she said. “And despite spending less than a year together in person we found ways to persevere and stay connected as a class—I made it through an entire year of rotations in Fresno without a car, and that was only possible because of the help that my classmates gave me.”
Alexandra “Ale” Cutuli, PharmD ’22, riffed on biology as a metaphor for her experiences in pharmacy school, comparing life to metabolic pathways. “These pathways are messy and confusing,” she said.
Cutuli related lectures and discussions to proteins, calling them the “building blocks for the knowledge we will continue to rely on throughout our lives and careers,” and then thanked the people who had supported the class’s hard work in pharmacy school.
“Our friends and family are lysosomes, proteasomes, and peroxisomes, entering our life to remove toxic chemical byproducts and bring homeostasis,” said Cutuli. “And second messengers are our beloved advisors, who guide and inspire us to take a step towards the next reaction in our pathway.”
It takes a village to train each new class of UCSF pharmacy students, and an exceptional cadre of instructors guided the Class of 2022 through the School’s PharmD program as the COVID-19 pandemic waxed and waned.
“As I look behind me, I see the very best educators in any school of pharmacy, many of whom have been recipients of multiple awards,” said Kearney, before announcing faculty members and mentors chosen by the Class of 2022 for their excellence.
- PharmD year 1: Leslie Floren, PharmD, MA
- PharmD year 2: Stephanie Hsia, PharmD, MA
- Long Teaching Awards for Outstanding Preceptors, by region:
- Francisco Ibarra, PharmD (Fresno)
- Janeane Giannini, PharmD (Greater Sacramento)
- Michelle Nguyen, PharmD (Los Angeles and Orange County)
- Shedrick Martin, PharmD (North Bay)
- Hai-Au Luu, PharmD (San Francisco Bay Area)
Kearney next introduced keynote speaker Sandra Leal, PharmD, MPH, to congratulate the Class of 2022.
Leal, who is president of the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) and vice president of collaborative innovation and clinical strategy for Aetna, a CVS Health company, described how pharmacists had cared for her family when she was younger, inspiring her to pursue a career in the field.
“The pharmacist was the person who we trusted,” she said. “With trust comes great responsibility to act in the best interest of the patient, and many times that means that you will become their biggest advocate for care issues—safety, affordability, health literacy.”
Leal’s experience working with diabetes patients opened her eyes to the social determinants of health, she said, which could matter “as much or even more than their [prescription] refill history, adherence, or lab results.”
Over time, via collaborations with groups outside of pharmacy, like the National Center for Farmworker Health, and eventually via leadership roles in organizations like the APhA, Leal went from directly providing patient care to influencing policy on a broader scale—an unexpected turn for her career, but a necessary one for improving the lives of many.
“I wish you the same success in forging your own path. If you see injustices or things that you don’t like, don’t complain—activate and advocate for them to change,” said Leal. “It won’t be easy, but if you don’t do anything, then things will continue to be the same. And that’s simply not good enough.”
Halfway through the ceremony Kearney announced La, one of the student speakers, as the 2022 winner of the Bowl of Hygeia. Cheers accompanied La as she accepted the bowl from the president of the UCSF Pharmacy Alumni Association, Mahtab Jafari, PharmD ’94.
Kearney described the first-generation graduate as, “the epitome of the pharmacy student.”
The other nominees—Darra Drucker, PharmD, Mitchell Tam, PharmD, and Christopher Nowak, PharmD—also took the stage to receive their plaques and acknowledgement from Kearney. The final nominee, Richard Ishimaru, PharmD, who was unable to attend the event, tuned in virtually.
Kearney welcomed UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS, to the stage to confer the doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree on the graduates.
Hawgood commended the students for their exemplary efforts as pharmacy trainees during a time of immense change before declaring them, by the power vested in him by the Regents of the University of California, PharmDs.
“We cannot predict what the next wave of change will look like, nor what that change will demand of each of us,” said Hawgood. “What we do know is that the future is in your hands. I look forward with great anticipation to watching you shape the future for us all.”
Vice Dean Sharon L. Youmans, PharmD, MPH, then assumed the podium to read the names of the graduates.
The Class of 2022 approached the stage in groups and removed their masks for the walk across the stage. The audience spared nothing in cheering on each graduate, and Kearney and Hawgood personally congratulated each one as they exited the stage.
Jafari led the students in a final reading of the Oath of the Pharmacist—the same oath the students read during their White Coat Ceremony in 2019.
“Families, friends, faculty and students, I proudly present the Class of 2022, the nation’s—no, the world’s—newest and finest doctors of pharmacy,” Kearney said, concluding the ceremony. “I wish you all a day filled with great joy, pride, and love.”
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.