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The School of Pharmacy’s White Coat Ceremony returns to Cole Hall
By Deborah Giattina / Tue Sep 6, 2022
This year, the UCSF School of Pharmacy’s White Coat Ceremonies marked a couple of firsts.
It was the first time two classes of pharmacy students—the Classes of 2024 and 2025—donned their white coats on the same day, due to the postponement of last year’s in-person proceedings. The two ceremonies were also the first to be led by the School’s new dean, Kathy Giacomini, PhD, BSPharm.
During both events, held sequentially on August 20 in Cole Hall at the UCSF Parnassus Campus, Giacomini officially welcomed the students to the pharmacy profession while friends and family tuned in virtually. The dean’s opening remarks addressed the rapidly changing field of pharmacy, one in which pharmacists are being increasingly empowered to prescribe certain drugs, such as Paxlovid, a COVID-19 treatment.
“The new models of care that you will use in your profession live [and] are being born, tested, and adopted as we speak,” said Giacomini. “A scientific way of thinking extends into the PharmD curriculum that you began this year. It will continue to frame your academic journey and you will carry it throughout your profession.”
Diversity and an innovative curriculum draw an exceptional new class
For this year’s newest students, the PharmD journey began in July with a week of both online and in-person orientation sessions, followed by a festive meetup in Golden Gate Park.
Pharmacy student Laura Formosa, Class of 2025, said her first weeks at UCSF made her feel like life in the pandemic was finally starting to feel normal. “[Orientation] was exciting for two reasons,” she said. “First, you get to meet all these people that are going through the same experience with you. They're all excited to be there. Second, we've been in this pandemic for so long, but now, we can see each other in person and meet new people.”
Formosa, who wants to use her PharmD to build on her career in tech, looks forward to volunteering with UCSF’s Shelter Clinic and hopes to bring her 10-year-old daughter with her to see firsthand how pharmacists can care for the most vulnerable people. She was also glad to meet other moms during orientation.
Another first-year student, Narjes Nadimzadeh, said she was attracted to the PharmD program’s student body diversity, which she noticed in online videos. The Iranian-born émigré, who grew up in Southern California, really appreciated that “there are other students here who wear a scarf, like me.”
The School’s diversity spans many dimensions. Among the Class of 2025’s 122 students, seventy-nine percent identify as female and 11 percent identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community. Thirty-four percent come from underrepresented backgrounds (Black, Vietnamese, Filipino, or Hispanic), which is 10 points higher than last year. A majority of students come from a University of California or California State University school, with 25 percent coming from out of state.
With classes just a few weeks underway, Nadimzadeh was won over by the program’s emphasis on study groups—something she didn’t take part in during college—and the organization of coursework around organ systems and disease.
“I'm very excited for the oncology section because my aunt had cancer, and she had to go through immunotherapy,” said Nadimzadeh. “And it was really exciting for me to see how a small pill could make her go back to how she was before.”
Alumni and faculty preside over a treasured tradition
Following Dean Giacomini’s opening welcome at the White Coat Ceremonies, students heard from other leaders in UCSF’s pharmacy community, including alum Mahtab Jafari, PharmD ‘94, outgoing President of the Pharmacy Alumni Association.
Jafari reminded the students that the alumni association is always available to support them. “We are only a phone call, and an email, and a text message away.”
The keynote speaker for both ceremonies, Yoona Kim, PhD, PharmD ‘09, spoke about how UCSF taught her perseverance, which was critical for getting her health care startup, Arine, off the ground.
Not only did her experience at UCSF catalyze the idea for her startup, but she also met her company’s future vice president of clinical product in pathology class, when she asked to borrow his notes to study for a test.
“I didn’t know where my path would go from [UCSF] onwards, but I’m so glad I ended up in this spot,” she said. “So keep persevering, it will pay off. And take advantage of every opportunity that you have here, every relationship. The friendships that you’ve formed will last a lifetime.”
Vice Dean Sharon L. Youmans, PharmD, MPH, called esteemed faculty members and alumni to the stage to coat the students. She then announced the names of each student, who took their places in groups and slipped into their white coats.
Lisa Kroon, PharmD, chair of the Department of Clinical Pharmacy, asked the students to turn and face the camera on the back wall so that they could recite The Oath of the Pharmacist to their families, who watched from afar.
Student speakers and Vice Dean Youmans close with words of wisdom
Following the oath, student speakers Cally Chung, Class of 2024, and Stephanie Yoonji Do, Class of 2023, shared words of encouragement with their peers.
“As opportunities for pharmacists continue to develop, don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone,” Chung said, addressing the Class of 2025. “You never know in what great place you might land and how it will ultimately help you flourish into an incredible health care provider.”
Third-year pharmacy student Do told the Class of 2024 that she learned what it truly meant to join the profession when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out during her first year at UCSF. Even as the PharmD curriculum shifted to remote learning, Do worked in clinics treating COVID patients and educated them on the importance of vaccines.
Youmans closed each ceremony with a reminder to students that, just like the event’s featured speakers, “you are joining a profession and a community in which you have a wealth of opportunity to make a difference in your own unique way.”
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.