Back-to-Back White Coat Ceremonies Celebrate Two PharmD Classes

The treasured tradition of the annual white coat ceremony—marking the beginning of Doctor of Pharmacy students’ journey to joining the profession—returned to campus with a dual celebration on Wednesday, Aug. 18.

In back-to-back events, the classes of 2024 and 2025 were welcomed to the Broad Center Lawn on the USC Health Sciences Campus and to their role as part of the healthcare continuum focused on saving lives and improving the human condition.

Students recited the Oath of a Pharmacist at a ceremony held Wednesday, August 18 at Broad Lawn on the USC Health Sciences Campus. (Photo by Isaac Mora)

The ceremony was particularly poignant for the 181 members of the Class of 2024, who are entering their second year of the program but their first on campus. USC School of Pharmacy Dean Vassilios Papadopoulos thanked the students for their leadership and vision during a time of uncertainty and hardship. USC pharmacy students are licensed pharmacy interns and played key roles vaccinating people throughout Greater Los Angeles.

“Many of you spent your first year of pharmacy school on the front lines of this global health crisis,” he said. “When the vaccines arrived in mid-December, during winter break, so many of you immediately asked, ‘How can I help?’ In just your first year as USC pharmacy students, you showed the true Trojan spirit to Fight On. As Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti has said about the impact that USC pharmacists had in the pandemic over the past year, ‘You are all angels in the City of Angels.’”

Looking to the future

The prominent role of pharmacists in the city and across the nation inspired many of the 192 members of the Class of 2025 to enter pharmacy school. Dean Papadopoulos told the incoming class, “You have made a wise decision to study at a leading research university and at a school that is redefining the role of the pharmacist.”

Students entered the ceremony carrying their new white coats, each of which contained a letter from an alumnus of the School in the pocket. (Photo by Isaac Mora).

At the morning ceremony for the Class of 2025, clinical pharmacist Komal Patel, PharmD ’04—who leads clinical product development at health technology company Catalia Health—served as alumni keynote speaker. “Your career and your future are not bound by traditional norms,” Patel said. “Explore ideas on how to innovate pharmacy practice.”

Michael Pazirandeh, PharmD ’11, senior clinical value and outcomes liaison at Seattle Genetics, provided the afternoon’s alumni keynote address to the class of 2024. “During the city’s darkest COVID hour, you answered the call,” Pazirandeh said. “You volunteered at vaccine clinics in record numbers. You literally saved lives.”

At both ceremonies, Kari Franson, associate dean for student affairs and admissions, and Irving Steinberg, associate dean for faculty affairs, called each student to the stage to be officially coated by a member of the faculty.

Franson said: “The donning of the white coat brings with it great expectations and privilege. The coat symbolizes to your patients three things: 1) your commitment to the mastery of the pharmacy education you are about to embark upon; 2) your recognition that caring for patients is a great privilege, and 3) your commitment to the oath of a pharmacist.”

Steinberg directed students to look in the pocket of their new white coat, where each found a letter from an USC School of Pharmacy alumnus. “This is to remind you that the Trojan family is always with you,” he said.

At the morning ceremony Assistant Professor of Clinical Pharmacy Tatyana Gurvich administered the Oath of the Pharmacist, while Assistant Professor of Clinical Pharmacy Scott Mosley performed those duties for the Class of 2024 at the afternoon event.

A family affair – in person

Second-year pharmacy student Kathryn Perkins was coated by Mel Baron, Professor of Clinical Pharmacy. (Photo by Isaac Mora).

Second-year pharmacy student Gilberto Pena shared how several of the nine members of his family in attendance drove in for the ceremony from the Coachella Valley early in the morning. “I’m a first-generation college student and the first in my family to pursue a doctorate,” he said. “Having my family out in the stands, them being able to see my accomplishments, it just means a lot to me.”

Kathryn Perkins, whose parents traveled from Washington state for the ceremony while her grandparents watched from Southern Oregon via live stream, said she was thrilled to spend time with her classmates in person, after initially meeting online and while volunteering at vaccine clinics last semester. “It’s really exciting,” she said. “We had all last year to get to know each other virtually and now it’s like a reunion.”

Second-year pharmacy student Jason Jang was coated by Richard Dang, assistant professor of clinical pharmacy. (Photo by Isaac Mora).

Second-year pharmacy student Ieeshia Otarola said the in-person rite of passage was all the more meaningful after missing college graduation in spring 2020. “My grandmother and my sister flew in from Costa Rica just for this moment so it really means a lot to me,” Otarola said. “You have those few seconds on the stage and it shows how far you have come.”

“Today means a clean slate, a new start,” added second-year student Jason Jang.

“I have this fire in my heart. Now is the moment we’re starting our journey of becoming a pharmacist.”

“As you embark on this next leg of your educational journey, remember that you are a driver of innovation,” Dean Papadopoulos told both classes in his closing remarks. “Use this time to dream big. Wear your white coat proudly. We are counting on you and the change you will bring to the world.” (Photo by Isaac Mora)

Class of 2025 White Coat Ceremony

Class of 2024 White Coat Ceremony