So named ASHP fellow: “Pharmacy is a lifetime-learning career”

The status of fellow of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) recognizes a high standard of excellence and sustained commitment to health-system practice––a fitting description of Department of Clinical Pharmacy volunteer faculty member Kethen So, PharmD, MBA, who will continue teaching at the School upon retiring from his role as pharmacy operations manager at the Parnassus Inpatient Pharmacy at UCSF Health.

A self-described “connector and cheerleader,” So has become a fixture of the UCSF campus over the past 32 years, since emigrating from Hong Kong in 1986 and beginning his career as a volunteer at UCSF Medical Center (now UCSF Health) in 1989. He lectures on topics related to oncology, hematology, and pharmacy practice, and has served as a discussion facilitator of the pharmacy management class.

So is active in several pharmacy professional organizations, which is something he encourages for his students. “Even though I’m getting ready to retire, I’m not ready to leave the pharmacy field,” he said. “I’m still learning. Pharmacy is a lifetime-learning career.”

In addition to becoming a 2024 fellow in ASHP, where he is also a diplomate of the ASHP Foundation Pharmacy Leadership Academy, So is a past president and fellow of the California Society of Health-System Pharmacists (CSHP). He is also vice president of the UCSF Pharmacy Alumni Association.

The importance of networking

“I’ve met so many great mentors and great friends,” So said. “I always tell students not to be afraid to meet people they don’t know at conferences. Building a network and making connections is very important. So is understanding the latest trends and advocating for the profession.”

So recalled that he has reported to 15 different directors during his time at UCSF. “Each director taught me so many skills and provided so many opportunities to grow,” he said. “That's the beauty of UCSF. Change is never easy, but it makes you become a better pharmacist and a better practitioner.”

The value So places on real-life experience and the ability to pivot is something that informs his work as course coordinator of the APPE Pharmacy Operations rotation at UCSF Health. In 2017, the rotation received the APPE Site of the Year award, which he credits to giving his students longitudinal projects based on their strengths in addition to clinical rotations.

“Not everything is textbook every day. I always give students opportunities to think on their feet,” So said. “I’ve seen students create their own positions and excel.”

The evolution of pharmacy education

So said he has seen a lot of changes in the School’s curriculum, including a growing emphasis beyond retail pharmacy, toward pharmacogenomics and industry.

“UCSF is very unique place, as far as its prestige,” So said. “The faculty really want us to be practicing at the top of our license, and they will challenge us to think outside the box. At UCSF we always have pioneers.”

So said he genuinely loves working with students and is inspired by their diversity and cultural competency. “It’s important to continue expanding our practice,” he said. “Artificial intelligence can make our patient care practice more efficient, but we still have to put in our personal touch with patients, and the School offers a lot of hands-on experience. We all can learn from different practices to become better pharmacists and serve the public.

“In the past, there might have been very limited types of practices that pharmacists can be in,” So said, “But pharmacy is ever-changing, and the best is yet to come.”


School of Pharmacy, Department of Clinical Pharmacy, PharmD Degree Program

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.