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Class of 2026 steps into white coats and begins PharmD journey
PharmD class welcomed to opportunities and responsibilities of the profession with 22nd annual White Coat Ceremony.
By Suzan Revah / Fri Aug 4, 2023
The UCSF doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) Class of 2026 officially entered the profession on July 21 at the 22nd annual White Coat Ceremony. Led by Dean Kathy Giacomini, PhD, BSPharm, the poignant event was held for the first time at San Francisco’s Herbst Theatre.
In her opening remarks, Giacomini said the white coat represents an official transition from layperson to student pharmacist. “You will now have new responsibilities––new roles as you begin to care for your patients,” said Giacomini. “Today, we become partners in pursuit of the shared goal of providing safe, effective, and cost-effective drug therapies to all patients.”
World-class scientific enterprise and innovative clinical practice models
Giacomini spoke to the School of Pharmacy’s excellence, noting that it has led all U.S. schools of pharmacy in NIH funding for 43 consecutive years. From clinical pharmacy to drug discovery and pharmacogenomics, Giacomini said, the world turns to the UCSF School of Pharmacy for leadership in ideation, methods, and novel scientific discoveries.
“Our drive to seek and apply new knowledge is not isolated to our research but extends into our patient care and our PharmD education,” she said. “The transformation of the profession into a more clinical discipline began over 50 years ago at UCSF…and your School has played a crucial role in providing health care during the COVID-19 pandemic, from managing vaccination campaigns to rolling out new therapies for sick patients.”
Exceptional new class brings diverse perspectives
The White Coat Ceremony was the capstone of a week of orientation sessions that began the PharmD journey for the School’s newest students.
Diversity was proudly on display. Of the Class of 2026’s 122 students, 12% come from out of state, and 25% were born outside of the United States, hailing from:
- Korea (the Republic of)
- and Taiwan, among others.
This year’s class gender ratio is 75% female and 25% male, with 8% identifying as part of the LGBTQIA+ community, and 42% of the class are underrepresented.
A treasured tradition infused with inspiration
Following Dean Giacomini’s welcome, students heard from other leaders in UCSF’s pharmacy community.
Pharmacy Alumni Association President Lucy Saldaña, PharmD, Class of ’84, invited students to use their white coats––embroidered as a gift to UCSF School of Pharmacy students and considered to be an important rite of passage––as a personal reminder to take care of their mental and physical health.
“You will be a much better healer if you are healthy and happy,” she said before offering the support of the alumni association.
The students then heard sage advice from keynote speaker Iris Tam, PharmD, Class of ’91, and a highly experienced health care professional with over 30 years working in various sectors, including hospital pharmacy, managed care pharmacy, and the pharmaceutical industry.
“Be proactive, volunteer, contribute, be a solution, and do more than expected, to create and connect,” said Tam, who is currently senior vice president and head of medical affairs and health economics and outcomes research at Coeus Consulting Group. “Lead by example. Build your track record and reputation of success.”
Tam’s vast experience, leadership, and contributions to the field of healthcare—along with her deep insights into medical affairs, market access, and patient care—make her a living example of the potential of a PharmD.
“Remember that you get to go to pharmacy school and earn a PharmD, which is a privilege and opportunity that’s not available to everyone,” Tam said. “Reframe your perspective and outlook in difficult times. Savor it, be proud, work hard, be grateful, and enjoy the journey.”
Preparing for challenges and rewards
The presentation of the incoming students was facilitated by Executive Vice Dean Sharon L. Youmans, PharmD, MPH, Class of ’85. She called esteemed faculty members and alumni to the stage to coat the students and announced the names of each student, who took their places in groups of eight before slipping into their white coats.
After the coating, the audience heard from a student speaker, soon-to-be-doctor Wilsen Lance Calaguas, a third-year student in the PharmD program. Calaguas came to UCSF with a strong background in microbiology and chemistry and spoke candidly about the difficulties he has faced on his path toward becoming a pharmacist. He urged the incoming students to use their time at the school as a catalyst for making a positive impact on the field of pharmacy and health care.
“Keep getting back up, and don’t be afraid to speak out in trying situations,” Calaguas said. “Advocate for yourselves and others. Engage yourself to your own capacity and potential. And don’t compare yourselves to others, because it’s your future, and yours alone.”
An oath to a lifetime of service, responsibility to public trust
The freshly coated students were then asked as a group to turn and recite The Oath of a Pharmacist to their friends and families.
The oath was led by Department of Clinical Pharmacy Chair Lisa Kroon, PharmD, who also serves as the assistant chief pharmacy officer for research, education, and clinical services at UCSF Health.
A class of pioneers facing a crossroads for health care
Giacomini concluded the ceremony by welcoming students to the UCSF health care community.
“You are the most distinguished students to enter the most distinguished school of pharmacy in the world,” she said. “And we are at a crossroads for health care.”
“For some, such a crossroads represents a barrier––a time of confusion, a time for concern,” she continued. “However, for this class of pioneers, this crossroads simply represents another opportunity, a welcomed challenge.”
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.