A Special Message from Dean Vassilios Papadopoulos

Dear Students, Faculty, Alumni, Staff and Friends,

The events of the past several weeks are likely to extend into the foreseeable future. For most of us, something like this happens only once or twice in a lifetime. But for all of us, the COVID-19 pandemic strikes at the heart of our chosen professions.

Whether you are an alumnus, student, faculty or staff member, we are all healthcare providers. We have chosen our careers because of our desire to serve the greater good. Although still in training, our student pharmacists are already healthcare providers, licensed as intern pharmacists, even as their learning process continues. Student pharmacists are the only health professional students licensed by the state of California.

Some of us may not view our clinical contributions as particularly impactful or heroic; we may view our work as relatively routine. But, for all of us, our medication expertise is critical to optimizing patient health and saving lives. In times of emergency, that expertise becomes even more important for our patients and the public at large. They come to us for optimal medication therapy. They need understanding, they are concerned, they need reliable and accurate information — and they trust us to help them.

I am proud that the School of Pharmacy community and, most critically, our students, have answered the challenge to offer whatever services we can to be part of the solution to the healthcare crisis upon us.

A potential vaccine was administered this week by a pharmacist to a healthy volunteer in a first-stage clinical trial in Seattle. While the results of such research will not likely be widely available for at least a year, pharmacists everywhere will be at the forefront of innovations to combat the coronavirus.

In the meantime, I am deeply committed to the health, safety and well-being of our entire USC School of Pharmacy community. We remain accessible to you through every modality.

As you have noticed in the media, the situation is fluid and unpredictable, with constant updates from federal, state and local government sources. We do not know the extent of the pandemic or how long this crisis will last. However, we have been working with our accrediting bodies to ensure continuity of our educational programs.

To our students, the instructional process has changed — and I have been impressed with how fast you have adapted. While we have temporarily taken our academic programs online, we remain committed to our academic excellence. For those of you who are currently interning or participating in rotations at hospitals and other health care settings, if you are worried about the environment in which you train being at the forefront of a health crisis, we will try to accommodate you. If the healthcare clinic or hospital where you are receiving training closes or reduces staff, we will try to reassign you.

To our MS and PhD students, your research will be impacted, but we know you are ready to continue your vital work in a coordinated and responsible manner.

To our faculty and staff, you have shown amazing flexibility, creativity and commitment in addressing this growing national need, in spite of the seriousness of the circumstances. We will accommodate individual needs as much as possible (particularly as many of us are moving to remote work locations). Meanwhile, we remain a healthcare provider with a mission, never more important to believe in and exercise than now.

Most of all, your willingness to be that dedicated healthcare provider — who is not only there in everyday life but also steps up in a national emergency — gives me the confidence in the future of our profession and that we will prevail. Pharmacists improve and save lives and give hope in the process while scientists in the pharmaceutical field look for solutions to healthcare problems, whether this is an anti-viral or a health economic analysis of the pandemic. Our confidence and resilience, coupled with our professional expertise and our learning environment, can and will change our world for the better. That is one of our key missions in life and at the School of Pharmacy.

I am proud of your strength and dedication during this crisis. I am always available, for any reason you may have. Please feel free to reach out to me or any of our staff members.

Thank you all.

Vassilios Papadopoulos, D.Pharm., Ph.D., D.Sc. (Hon)
John Stauffer Dean’s Chair in Pharmaceutical Sciences
Professor of Pharmacology & Pharmaceutical Sciences