Meet the School of Pharmacy 2024 Alum of the Year: Ruth Arnold Smarinsky, PharmD ’83

For over 50 years, the Distinguished Alum of the Year Award has been the highest honor bestowed by the UCSF Pharmacy Alumni Association (PAA), and this year it went to Ruth Arnold Smarinsky, PharmD ’83, who was also named Pharmacist of the Year in 2022 by the California Pharmacists Association (CPhA).

For the past 18 years, Smarinsky has worked for Direct Relief, a Santa Barbara, California-based nonprofit that has distributed more than $1.6 billion worth of medicine and supplies to 100 nations and sent $400 million in aid to Ukraine last year. She was formerly its director of pharmacy and clinical affairs and is now a senior adviser.

Before she joined Direct Relief, she set up pharmacy services and clinical pharmacy systems for Venice Family Clinic, then the nation’s largest free clinic. “I like starting new, efficient programs to help people. I try to imagine each person on the other end who’s in a crisis. I want to make things easier for them,” Smarinsky said. While at Venice, she was also a volunteer UCSF faculty member and a preceptor for fourth-year pharmacy students.

Described as “a strong force for good” by UCSF Magazine, Smarinsky said her motto is “See a need. Fill a need.” She also said she is untiring when she sees a problem, “like a bulldog sometimes, aggressive but not obnoxiously so. I don’t let obstacles stop me. I find a way to make things work.”



School of Pharmacy

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.