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PharmD Class of 2023 celebrates Commencement
Mon Jun 26, 2023
On May 27, in front of hundreds of friends, family, faculty and staff members, and special guests, the UCSF School of Pharmacy’s PharmD Class of 2023 celebrated their graduation at Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall—a touching gathering for a class that began their journey online.
Cheers, chants, and cries of joy erupted from every level of the hall and echoed throughout the large auditorium, as the names of the new PharmDs were read aloud. The event was also broadcast online for guests who could not attend.
“When you arrived at UCSF in the summer of 2020, the world was mere months into the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dean Kathy Giacomini, PhD, BSPharm, in opening remarks. “What we thought would be a short pandemic turned into a life-changing experience for all of us and especially for your class.… You endured, you survived, and that story will be part of your story.”
The class, whose 116 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 most graduates headed to pharmacy residencies and the remaining beginning fellowships and jobs this summer.
“Class of 2023, whether carving a new path or continuing a family tradition, the future is yours to harness, and the possibilities are limitless,” said Giacomini. “It’s about expanding the playing field. It’s about creating new providers and professionals. It’s about access.”
Remembering Keith Barrett
Dean Giacomini led the class and the audience in a moment of silence for classmate Keith Barrett who began the class’s journey but who had passed away. The faculty honored Barrett with a posthumous degree, and his fiancée Puja Patel received it on behalf of his family.
Pobre and Castro provide class reflections
Jethro Pobre, PharmD ’23, reminisced on connecting with classmates and faculty members alike over the course of three years—at first only in the virtual environment, as necessitated by the pandemic, then increasingly in person before being scattered across the state for the final year of practice experiences. Pobre ended on a moment of mindfulness and reflection which brought the entire symphony hall to the present moment.
Angela Castro, PharmD ’23, riffed on the themes of success, failure, empathy, and the importance of having support through it all. She mused on the possibility that Vincent van Gogh’s vivid view of the world, including his famous Sunflowers painting, may have been affected by his taking Digitalis (foxglove) for epilepsy—made possible by his loving brother Theo who ensured the troubled artist received care.
Faculty members and mentors recognized by students
It takes a village to train each new class of UCSF pharmacy students, and an exceptional cadre of instructors guided the Class of 2023 through the School’s PharmD program as the COVID-19 pandemic waxed and waned.
“You are what makes UCSF SOP and this class the best.… As teachers, being recognized by our students is what keeps us going,” remarked Giacomini after announcing faculty members and mentors chosen by the Class of 2023 for their excellence.
- Madeleine Norris, PhD, MSc
- Igor Mitrovic, MD
- North Bay: Neeta Bhasin, PharmD
- Fresno: Christopher Hajou, PharmD
- Southern California: Lee D. Lam, PharmD
- Sacramento: Anne Liu, PharmD
- SF Bay Area: Michael Trillanes, PharmD
Kenkare-Mitra delivers keynote
The keynote was delivered by Sara Kenkare-Mitra, PhD, president and head of R&D at Alector, a biotechnology company focused on treatments for neurodegeneration. She spent 24 years in leadership roles at Genentech, including overseeing all of translational sciences. UCSF has been central in her scientific journey; she earned a PhD at UCSF and is lauded as an influential alum.
Kenkare-Mitra congratulated the Class of 2023 on their graduation and emphasized the value of education, stating, “I feel fortunate for the quality of education, the rich experiences, and the patient centricity... which is the hallmark of a degree from UCSF.”
Encouraging a mindset of continuous learning, she shared the words of Albert Einstein: “The questions are the same, but the answers are different every year.” Kenkare-Mitra emphasized the persistent change in health care: “You must stay constantly curious in order to keep up.”
Reflecting on the impact of inflection points in life, she shared an inspiring message: “Trust your gut, and know that something better is ahead... Embrace life’s inflection points with courage and hope.” She also highlighted the significance of building relationships and mentoring others, stating, “The most satisfaction you will get in life is that of imparting knowledge to someone else—helping another person in their journey.”
Kenkare-Mitra concluded with a quote from Dr. Seuss: “You’re off to Great Places. Today’s your day. Your mountain is waiting. So get on your way.”
Sallee receives the Bowl of Hygeia Award
Giacomini announced Jaimie Sallee, PharmD, as the 2023 recipient of the Bowl of Hygeia, the highest honor given to a graduating student. Cheers accompanied Sallee as she accepted the bowl from UCSF Pharmacy Alumni Association President Mahtab Jafari, PharmD ’94.
In the words of her peers, “throughout all three years at UCSF, Jaimie has shown how she is already the ideal pharmacist.”
The other four distinguished nominees— Jethro Pobre, PharmD; Jiyong Ahn, PharmD; Joshua Chin, PharmD; and Julia Jones, PharmD—also took the stage to receive plaques and acknowledgment from Giacomini and Jafari.
Graduates assume the responsibility of health care provider
UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS, commended the students for their exemplary efforts as pharmacy trainees during a time of immense change before conferring the doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree on the graduates.
“We cannot predict what the next big change will look like, nor what that change will demand of each of us,” said Hawgood. “What I 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, read the names of the graduates as the Class of 2023 approached the stage in groups and removed their masks for the walk across the stage. The audience spared nothing in cheering each graduate, and Giacomini and Hawgood personally congratulated each one as they crossed the stage.
To cap off the program, Jafari led the students in a final reading of the Oath of the Pharmacist—the same oath the students first read during their virtual White Coat Celebration in 2020—reaffirming their commitment to this profession of care.
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.