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Celebrating women leaders in the School of Pharmacy
By Levi Gadye / Tue Mar 28, 2023
As Women’s History Month 2023 comes to a close, we celebrate the groundbreaking leadership of women who continue to fuel progress in science, education, and health care here in the UCSF School of Pharmacy.
Today, the School is helmed by women, from the deanship to the chairs of our three departments, and women constitute the majority of our graduating PharmD classes. However, the world was a different place when the School of Pharmacy, then known as the California College of Pharmacy, was founded in 1872: most pharmacists were men, and women rarely, if ever, were welcomed into pharmacy school.
Thanks to the hard work, courage, and tenacity of women in the nearly 140 years since, the School is now a more welcoming place. While there is work yet to be done in pursuit of diversity, equity, and inclusion, from gender to race, accessibility, and beyond, we are proud of how far we have come.
A legacy of setting a high bar for pharmacy practice worldwide
In 1884, Josephine Eugenia Barbat became the first woman to graduate from the College of Pharmacy. Born and raised in San Francisco, she stayed in the city to continue her career and quickly became an influential presence in health care. She taught botany in the College of Pharmacy through the 1890s; earned a medical degree from the College of Medicine (today’s School of Medicine) in 1903; and helmed the Women’s Pharmaceutical Association of the Pacific Coast (WPAPC), as president, in the 1910s.
Within a few generations, women pharmacists routinely followed in Barbat’s footsteps. Mary Anne Koda-Kimble, PharmD, was one of 17 women in the School of Pharmacy graduating class of 1969, and like Barbat, she remained at UCSF to pursue her career.
Koda-Kimble was among the trailblazing pharmacists who integrated pharmacy practice into everyday operations at UCSF’s Moffitt Hospital, an innovation that was quickly adopted by leading hospitals worldwide. She was a founding co-editor of the textbook, Applied Therapeutics: The Clinical Use of Drugs—the first clinical pharmacy textbook to be based on patient case histories and a vital resource for today’s practicing clinicians.
Koda-Kimble served in a variety of leadership roles centering on pharmacy education and practice at UCSF, and in 1998, she became the dean of the UCSF School of Pharmacy—the first female dean of a top-ranked pharmacy school. In her tenure as dean, the School’s faculty grew by 25% and the School’s NIH research grants increased from $4 million to $27 million.
Upon Koda Kimble’s retirement in 2012, the UCSF School of Pharmacy Mary Anne Koda-Kimble Seed Award for Innovation was established, creating a funding source for blue-sky projects ranging from pharmacy education to the pharmaceutical sciences.
Giacomini and Youmans at the helm
With a world-renowned doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree program and a research body fueled by the largest sum of NIH grant dollars of any pharmacy school in the nation, the School of Pharmacy upholds its excellence in large part thanks to its women leaders.
The dean of the School, Kathy Giacomini, PhD, BSPharm, took the reins of the School in 2022 after decades of making waves as a UCSF scientist. Early in her career, she helped establish the field of pharmacogenomics, which uses an understanding of a patient’s genetic makeup to determine which drugs can be safely and most effectively used to treat them. Pharmacogenomics serves as a pillar of cutting-edge treatments for cancer and is poised to revolutionize the treatment of many other diseases and conditions.
Giacomini chaired the UCSF Department of Biopharmaceutical Sciences from 1998 to 2009, when it was renamed the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, a joint department of the Schools of Pharmacy and Medicine. She continued to chair the department until 2014. In 2016, in collaboration with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Stanford University, she co-founded the UCSF-Stanford Center of Excellence in Regulatory Science and Innovation (CERSI), which works closely with FDA members and provides modern technology and tools to help evaluate medical products for safety, efficacy, quality, and performance.
As dean, Giacomini has kickstarted new initiatives ranging from partnerships with industry to new opportunities for postgraduate training of PharmDs. Half of her new leadership support comes from women scientists and clinicians, including long-time educator and School leader Sharon L. Youmans, PharmD, MPH, who serves as executive vice dean.
Youmans earned her PharmD at UCSF in 1985 and went on to specialize in community health education via an MPH. Since 2007 she has served as a leader in the School, in particular supporting former deans B. Joseph Guglielmo, PharmD, and Thomas Kearney, PharmD, as vice dean, and now Dean Giacomini, as executive vice dean. She has been repeatedly recognized for her contributions to the fields of public health, communication, diversity and equity, and pharmacy education, and continues to advise on administration on the School’s PharmD program.
Arkin, Kroetz, and Kroon guide research in the discovery and clinical sciences
The School’s three academic departments are led by women who have each made indelible marks on their fields, not to mention the many students, staff, clinicians, and faculty members that they’ve mentored.
Michelle Arkin, PhD, is chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry. As a scientist whose career has spanned academia and industry, Arkin is an expert in protein-protein interactions (PPIs)—molecular interactions that can influence health and disease—and has played a critical role in developing more efficient tools for drug discovery. She co-directs the UCSF Small Molecule Discovery Center and co-founded Ambagon, a company that is using an understanding of PPIs to identify new druggable targets for fighting disease.
Deanna Kroetz, PhD, is chair of the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences. Trained in pharmacy and pharmaceutics, Kroetz specializes in the molecular basis of variability in drug response and toxicity across individuals. Her career has made a particular impact on cancer treatment, seeking to improve the safe use of chemotherapeutics in different cancer patient populations.
And Lisa Kroon, PharmD, is chair of the Department of Clinical Pharmacy, as well as assistant chief pharmacy officer for research, education, and clinical services at UCSF Health. Kroon has expertise in tobacco cessation, diabetes therapeutics, and innovative practice models in the ambulatory and community pharmacy setting, and has long advocated at the local, state, and federal levels for expanding the scope of pharmacy practice.
Over the course of each of their careers, and continuing to this day, the School of Pharmacy’s women leaders have broken down barriers, challenged assumptions, and pushed the boundaries of what is possible. Their contributions serve as a powerful reminder of the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the field of pharmacy and beyond. We are grateful for their leadership and their commitment to excellence, and we look forward to the many achievements that lie ahead.
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.