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Update from the Dean: Ongoing excellence and new frontiers
By Kathy Giacomini / Wed Dec 14, 2022
Dear UCSF School of Pharmacy family and friends,
The challenges of health care have felt particularly overwhelming in the last few years, from COVID to barriers to access and more. In refamiliarizing myself with the scope of the School’s work during my first few months as dean, I have found my spirits buoyed by the compassion, talent, and drive present throughout our community—traits that fuel our excellence in all arenas.
In this update, I am excited to share the latest in such excellence, from science to patient care and our renowned PharmD program.
These successes are the result of years of committed effort and teamwork. In taking on leadership of the School, I felt it was important to broaden the leadership to include all the various efforts in the School and new efforts that will unfold in the coming years. To this end, I appointed over a dozen faculty members to new roles centered on critical work ranging from expanding our efforts in diversity, equity, and inclusion to creating opportunities for PharmD specialization in the sciences.
Key to carrying out these ambitious plans will be my executive vice dean, Sharon L. Youmans, PharmD, MPH. Sharon will not only serve as my trusted advisor, she will also provide crucial guidance with our education and DEI endeavors. I could not imagine embarking on any of these new ventures without her.
One of the first priorities of our new leadership group is to produce the School’s next Strategic Plan, work that began in October. In the coming months, we will reach out to all stakeholders, including alumni and our UCSF colleagues in medicine, nursing, and dentistry, for ideas and feedback on our vision for the School.
Even with our eyes toward the future, we remain engaged with the present. Just a few weeks ago, I received a ceremonial flu vaccination from one of our pharmacy students as part of our annual “Vaccinate the Dean” event. The event is an important reminder of how each of us can take meaningful action to ensure the health of the community.
As I hit my stride as dean, please feel free to reach out with thoughts or questions, memories of the School, or smiles and hello’s.
Kathy Giacomini, PhD, BSPharm
Troy C. Daniels Distinguished Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences
UCSF School of Pharmacy
Jump below to
- Laying the groundwork for tomorrow’s therapies
- A research enterprise to fight infectious diseases
- Optimizing patient care through pharmacy
- Innovation and celebration in our PharmD program
- Bringing equity and inclusion to all
- Honors for our students
- Faculty accolades
- Alumni recognition
- Welcome to new faculty and staff
- Campus news
Laying the groundwork for tomorrow’s therapies
A top priority of mine is to maximize the impact of each of our scientific advances, a priority that will be the shared responsibility of James Fraser, PhD, our vice dean of research, and Adam Renslo, PhD, our vice dean of entrepreneurship and industry relations. They will build the connections within science and between science and industry, respectively, that ensure that our discoveries are carried forward to the benefit of society.
As a testament to the impact of our research enterprise, three faculty scientists—Brian Shoichet, Nevan Krogan, and myself—were acknowledged as among the 1 percent most influential scientists in our fields, according to citations of our work over the last ten years.
In typical School fashion, our scientists often pair their discoveries about the causes of disease with molecular blueprints for the drug therapies that may follow.
Aashish Manglik, MD, PhD, recent biophysics graduate student Bryan Faust, PhD, and the School of Medicine’s Yifan Cheng, PhD, used cryo-electron microscopy to understand how antibodies masquerade as hormones in the most common autoimmune condition, Graves’ disease—which famously afflicted both former president George Bush, Sr., and wife Barbara Bush.
Brian Shoichet, PhD, applied his molecular docking technique to identify new compounds that might someday treat depression and pain more effectively than existing therapies.
Danica Galonić Fujimori, PhD, and recent chemistry and chemical biology (CCB) graduate student Kaitlyn Tsai, PhD, determined how an increasingly common—and deadly—form of antibiotic resistance had evolved. They then worked with James Fraser, PhD, to identify a molecular weakness in these drug-resistant bacteria.
And Charles S. Craik, PhD, developed a work-around for treating drug-resistant cancers: a molecular flag that unmasks hidden tumor cells so the immune system can mount an effective fight.
Additionally, many of our scientists also develop tools for studying biology and disease, tools that open the door to the development of new therapies.
Tanja Kortemme, PhD, and James Fraser, PhD, developed new computational methods for designing and predicting protein conformations, or shapes, which will enable scientists to more efficiently and accurately engineer proteins to carry out particular functions.
Michelle Arkin, PhD, teamed up with the School of Medicine’s Lea Grinberg, MD, PhD, to investigate the anomalies found in the Alzheimer’s disease brain, and discovered that fragments of tau protein were uniquely clumping up during Alzheimer’s disease, but not in other dementias. The research validated a molecular tool, developed in the Arkin Lab, for detecting such fragmented tau, which could be useful in diagnosis in the future.
I, along with several computational scientists who were part of a multi-campus Chan Zuckerberg Biohub Award, developed a predictive model for mutations to the gene, SLC22A5, mutations that can cause the rare, and sometimes lethal, metabolic disorder carnitine transporter deficiency. The model predicts which mutations lead to the disease and may aid in its early diagnosis and treatment.
Andrej Sali, PhD, and Nevan Krogan, PhD, used their Integrative Modeling Platform to map the structure of a histone complex—a key component of chromosomes—using data from genetic experiments. The method enables scientists to predict molecular structures without needing to chemically purify them, with potential applications across a wide range of biological questions.
Seth Shipman, PhD, invented a biological recorder of gene expression that enables scientists to observe the order in which genes become active in a cell, providing a window into health and disease at the cellular level.
And lastly, Jim Wells, PhD, was chosen to deliver the 64th UCSF Faculty Research Lecture in Basic Science. In his talk, Jim described his decades of pirating proteins for biomedicine, a career that has led to a therapy for pituitary cancer, more effective modern laundry detergents, and crucial leads for treating the coronavirus.
A research enterprise to fight infectious diseases
© Institut Pasteur / François Gardy
Our organized research unit, the UCSF Quantitative Biosciences Institute (QBI), continues to distinguish itself as a pioneer of collaborative basic research—a strategy that has produced numerous important insights into the biology of the coronavirus. On the heels of netting UCSF’s largest-ever research grant, which will fund a new center to fight current and future infectious disease, QBI signed a memorandum of understanding with the Institut Pasteur (France) that will bring the two institutions closer together in their shared research endeavors.
QBI Director Nevan Krogan, PhD, earned recognition for both his own contributions to science as well as his spearheading of QBI’s international collaborations. Nevan was inducted to two prestigious organizations in Europe: the European Molecular Biology Organization and France’s Legion of Honor.
Optimizing patient care through pharmacy
The School’s clinical researchers and providers will now be aided by our co-vice deans of clinical innovation and entrepreneurship, Jennifer Cocohoba, PharmD, MAS, and Kathy Yang, PharmD, MPH, who will bring our pharmacy advances to the health systems that need them.
Research continues to bear out the lesson long demonstrated by our hospital pharmacists—that good health outcomes depend on direct collaboration between pharmacists, physicians, nurses, and other care providers. A study led by Kirby Lee, PharmD, showed that routine medication reviews, as part of the UCSF Care Ecosystem, reduce the use of unnecessary and even dangerous prescriptions in dementia patients. The Care Ecosystem, already in use at twenty institutions nationwide, is under consideration for funding by Medicare.
On the regulatory side of pharmacy, Kathryn Phillips, PhD, was named editor-in-chief for the journal, Health Affairs Scholar. Phillips’ recent research into the impact of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services “coverage with evidence development” program revealed the need to more rigorously study whether the program—which fast-tracks partially-proven drugs for insurance coverage—leads to improvements in patient outcomes.
And lastly, I have enjoyed meeting alumni, friends of the School, and professional colleagues in clinical pharmacy fields in recent weeks. In October, I co-hosted the annual meeting of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy (ACCP) with Lisa Kroon, PharmD, chair of the Department of Clinical Pharmacy. And in November, I joined our Pharmacy Alumni Association, including Mahtab Jafari, PharmD ’94, in hosting a gathering of the California Society of Health-Systems Pharmacists (CSHP).
Innovation and celebration in our PharmD program
Over my career, I have seen just how interdependent science and pharmacy are for improving human health. I want our graduates to be part of the solution for bridging research with care. Igor Mitrovic, PhD, and Conan MacDougall, PharmD, MAS, who are co-vice deans of PharmD education; Brian Shoichet, PhD, and Rada Savic, PhD, who are co-vice deans of graduate pharmacy education programs; and Leslie Floren, PharmD, MA, who is associate dean of fellowships, are all tasked with shepherding our pharmacy students from the earliest days of their PharmD education through to advanced training in the sciences and clinical subfields.
As we develop these new programs, we are proud to again offer celebrations worthy of the accomplishments of our current pharmacy students. In May, the Class of 2022 joined faculty and staff at Davies Symphony Hall for a commencement ceremony led by then-Interim Dean Thomas E. Kearney, PharmD. It was the first in-person commencement for the School since 2019. Family, friends, and classmates joined together to enthusiastically cheer on the graduates, including this year’s winner of the Bowl of Hygeia Award, Jennifer La, PharmD ’22.
Likewise, in August, the Classes of 2025 and 2024 convened in-person for their respective white coat ceremonies, held sequentially at Cole Hall. The Class of 2024’s in-person robing had been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
I am excited to see what these talented classes achieve at UCSF and beyond.
Bringing equity and inclusion to all
We are pushing forward to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion at the School and UCSF. A more diverse student body and faculty is important to me both personally and professionally, and while I am encouraged to see that 34 percent of the PharmD Class of 2025 comes from an underrepresented background, I know we can do even better.
As co-vice deans of DEI, Ryan Hernandez, PhD, and Stephanie Hsia, PharmD, MEd, will work to unify and strengthen DEI initiatives across the different units and departments of the School, with guidance from Executive Vice Dean Youmans.
Ryan and Stephanie have extensive experience building programs to address DEI in their respective fields. Ryan was recently selected to co-direct an NIH-funded Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) at UCSF, which gives students from diverse backgrounds the training and support they need to pursue doctoral degrees in the sciences.
Similarly, the PharmD health equity curriculum block that Stephanie pioneered continues to bring a DEI lens to how we instruct our pharmacy students in patient care. Stephanie also oversees our PharmD Health Equity Internship, a student-faculty collaborative program that reviews the PharmD curriculum for bias.
Ryan also co-manages the UCSF PROPEL program, which helps historically excluded scholars who already work in UCSF labs to prepare for doctoral programs. Faculty and trainees who are interested should participate in the next PROPEL matchmaking session, scheduled for February 1, 2023. Registration for the PROPEL matchmaking session is open through January 6.
I am confident that together, Ryan, Stephanie, and Sharon will ensure the School of Pharmacy prioritizes DEI across all its operations in an ongoing, conscientious fashion.
Lastly, I am pleased to announce a new School partnership with Genentech that will provide fellowship opportunities to students who have historically faced barriers to accessing science careers in the private sector. Starting in 2023, students in the School’s PhD programs who have completed their PhD candidacy exams will become eligible to apply for the fellowship, which will include a summer conducting research at Genentech.
Honors for our students
On behalf of the entire School, I would like to highlight the following student award recipients for their exceptional work.
Roberto Efraín Díaz, PhD candidate in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Edison T. Uno Public Service Award (UCSF’s 2022 Founders Day)
Nicholas Young, PhD candidate in Chemistry and Chemical Biology
American Foundation of Pharmaceutical Education Award Pre-Doctoral Fellows in Pharmaceutical Sciences
Celeste Noelle Bustria, PharmD Class of 2025
CVS Health Minority Scholarship
Elissa Fink, PhD candidate in Biophysics
First place poster prize at 8th GPCR (G-protein-coupled receptors) Symposium in Medicinal Chemistry sponsored by Royal Society of Chemistry
Our faculty members continue to distinguish themselves as leaders in their fields.
Shuvo Roy, PhD, director of The Kidney Project
U.S. Presidential Volunteer Service Award, Gold Level.
Crystal Zhou, PharmD, with UCSF’s Kelsey Waier, PharmD; Stephanie Kang, DO; and Jonathan Hutchinson, PharmD
Vizient Pharmacy Vision Award
Katherine Gruenberg, PharmD, MEd, and Stephanie Hsia, PharmD, MEd
2022 Pharmacy Practice Section Best Paper Award from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (Exploring Multiple Perspectives on Pharmacy Students’ Readiness for Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences)
Last year, we lost one of our pharmacy family, Mark Baje, PharmD ’99. In the wake of his passing, his widow set up an endowed scholarship fund with support from Mark’s friends, colleagues, and other School alums. The scholarship will help carry Mark’s commitment to the pharmacy profession forward to future generations of pharmacists.
Don Kishi, PharmD ’68, was awarded Lifetime Honorary Membership (PDF) to the California Society of Health-Systems Pharmacists (CSHP). Kishi was a longtime faculty member and associate dean in the School and mentored many cohorts of PharmD students.
We invite you to follow our UCSF School of Pharmacy LinkedIn page, which will now feature news and information tailored to the pharmacy profession, research, and student and alumni communities. I’d be grateful for your help reaching more alumni and prospective students at the School by liking, commenting, and sharing posts with your colleagues.
Welcome to new faculty and staff
A warm welcome to our newest faculty member, Catera Wilder, PhD, who has joined the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences. Wilder, who is also a Chan Zuckerberg Biohub Investigator, uses systems biology approaches to study the immune system, with the goal of understanding the interplay between immunity and disease.
I’d also like to welcome Ryan Johannesen, my new executive assistant, to the School. Ryan brings over 20 years of experience in general and executive office administration to our staff, who keep the gears turning across the School’s many operations.
In case you missed it, UCSF Chancellor Samuel Hawgood, MBBS, delivered his annual State of the University address on November 3. He centered his talk on the theme of Science + Service and shared videos that sampled many of the university’s recent accomplishments.
The university’s plans to renovate and expand its Parnassus campus took another big step forward in September, when $66 million was allocated by the UC Regents for UCSF to begin its next phase of planning for the project. Among the improvements promised by the project are plans for a new research, academic, and education space—the Parnassus Research and Academic Building (PRAB)—as well as a green space connecting Golden Gate Park with Mt. Sutro.
And lastly, in just a few short weeks Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Dan Lowenstein, MD, will step down from his administrative role, remaining at UCSF to teach and carry out research. Highlights of Lowenstein’s seven years of service include his spearheading of the Parnassus revitalization plan, his advocacy for diversity and social justice, and his work on campus safety and wellness. We will miss Dan’s reassuring presence in leadership but look forward to seeing him around campus.
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.