Remembering David Adler

David Adler, PharmD ’70, who began his studies at the School in 1966 and among many accomplishments earned recognition as the 2016 Distinguished Alumnus of the Year by the Pharmacy Alumni Association, passed away at his home on Saturday, November 4, 2023, surrounded by family.

Adler was a pioneer in clinical pharmacy whose 45-year career began as an assistant clinical professor at the School in 1971. Shortly thereafter, he accepted the position of vice chair of the clinical pharmacy department and agreed to move to San Diego to establish and coordinate a new program for UCSF pharmacy students to complete their fourth year of clinical rotations at UC San Diego (UCSD). The first six PharmD students arrived in 1975, and the program grew to provide clinical opportunities for 20 students each year.

The success of the UCSF pharmacy program in San Diego formed the basis for the development of a school of pharmacy at UC San Diego, the second in the UC system. Adler’s tenure at the UC San Diego Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences—during which he was a professor of clinical pharmacy and a founding associate dean of academic affairs and appointed to leadership positions in pharmacology and family and preventive medicine in the UCSD School of Medicine—included guiding and mentoring over 500 future doctors of pharmacy prior to his retirement in 2016.

Modeling collaboration to manage chronic diseases—and spreading the model

Adler played leading roles in expanding and enhancing clinical pharmacy education and practice at UCSF, in California, and beyond. At UCSF, he established the School’s first satellite program, which provided advanced pharmacy practice experiences (APPEs, then called clerkships).

He also created some of the first chronic disease and ambulatory clinics in which pharmacists played a leading role, collaborating with physicians to manage outpatients’ medications, and training students and residents to export the practice model across the United States.

Adler advocated for California pharmacists working under protocol with physicians, spearheading one of the School’s finest public service efforts: a UCSF program that enabled more than 100 disenfranchised Vietnamese refugee pharmacists to regain their professional livelihoods.

He later collaborated with hematology pioneer Samuel I. Rapaport, MD, establishing one of the first pharmacist-led and pharmacist-managed clinical anticoagulation practices in the nation.

Passion for social justice

Adler consistently pursued social activism and volunteer work. He helped to establish the Haight-Ashbury Free Medical Clinic while he was a student pharmacist in San Francisco, after launching a student-run drug education committee that visited schools. His efforts contributed to the UCSF chapter of the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) Academy of Student Pharmacists receiving a public education award.

Building on that experience, Adler became the founding pharmacy director of the UCSD student-run Free Clinic Project. His guidance and support helped institutionalize the free clinic as a core component of the pharmacy and medical school clinical curricula.

Advancing the profession of pharmacy

Adler was devoted to professional organization service. He held numerous positions within the American Society for Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), the California and San Diego chapters of ASHP (CSHP and SDSHP), the California and San Diego chapters of the American Pharmacists Association (CPhA and SDCPhA), the San Diego Poison Center, the Vietnamese Pharmacists Association in the United States, and the National Invitational Anticoagulation Conferences.

Among many other roles for CSHP, he served as president, board chair, and parliamentarian, influencing countless pharmacist trainees to engage with professional organizations. His commitment to high quality, interdisciplinary, empowering care with underserved communities, especially those who had nowhere to turn, cemented his legacy as a role model for social justice, education, and service in the field of pharmacy.

David Adler tribute and scholarship fund

Adler is survived by his wife Penny, three children, and granddaughter. A tribute in his honor is planned for January 13, 2024, in San Diego. The Adler family requests that remembrances be made as contributions to the David and Penny Adler Endowed Scholarship Fund.


David Adler: Expanding and enhancing pharmacy education and practice


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.