A Message From Dean Papadopoulos

August 2020

Dean Vassilios Papadopoulos

Dear new and continuing students,

I hope this letter finds you well, safe and in good spirits. We will long remember the challenges that we faced together this year as healthcare providers, scientists, and community and family members.

To our newest students, welcome to our academic community. We are looking ahead to an unforgettable time at USC Mann.

To our new and returning students, I know you have been hearing a lot from the university as well as from your program advisers. I’m writing to you not about the day-to-day logistics of the fall semester but about what I hope we will achieve together over the coming year.

At the 2019 Commencement, I talked about this era of rapid change and immense challenges faced by our profession. I told our graduates, “You are the future and our hope for a better healthcare system.” As the novel coronavirus continues to rage through our nation, my comment about the need for heightening safety standards even as we continue translating basic science into pharmaceutical breakthroughs and using clinical knowledge to promote the best patient outcomes and policies for healthier lives is more pertinent than ever. So is the observation that our students will become the leaders who help transform the future of healthcare delivery, policy and research.

COVID-19 has disrupted our lives—but such disruption also brings meaningful change and innovation. In many ways, this crisis has brought pharmacy, pharmaceutical sciences and regulatory science to the forefront as essential in beating back the pandemic as we strive to develop vaccines and better therapies. It’s also demonstrated the dedication and spirit of our Trojan Family.

Generous alumni and friends donated to the school and helped ensure our USC-owned and -operated pharmacies were well supplied with personal protective equipment. Our students also stepped up, serving as intern pharmacists and volunteers providing frontline support.

Even as the crisis continues to unfold, we have much to celebrate and new people to meet.

Over the past few months we welcomed new faculty members Jennica Zaro, Amanda Burkhardt, Daniel Tomaszewski and Dima M. Qato. We celebrated the promotion of Fred Weissman and Steven Chen to full professor and Emi Minejima to associate professor. Our international summer program virtually hosted 19 students from China, Taiwan and Saudi Arabia. We launched ConnectSC, a way for students, alumni and supporters to connect and share career opportunities. We also welcomed Cory Reano, our new director of student success and engagement. And a number of our faculty were awarded significant grants for their research. Tiger Zhang was awarded a five-year, $1.9 million NIH grant to continue his groundbreaking work on ADP-ribosylation-dependent signaling. Annie Wong-Beringer was awarded a $269,955 grant from Merck for her study on risk factors and treatment outcomes for ventilated-hospital acquired bacterial pneumonia. Paul Beringer was awarded a $197,823 grant from Paratek Pharmaceuticals to study the antibiotic Omadacycline in cystic fibrosis patients.

In addition to providing service and research on the frontlines against COVID-19, our faculty members have been writing op-eds and have been quoted in media outlets ranging from The New York Times to Scientific American. They have published significant academic studies on improving testing methods, expanding the capacity of ventilators and boosting the body’s defenses against the coronavirus. Meanwhile, Richard Dang was elected president of the California Pharmacists Association for 2021–22 while leading its COVID-19 task force.

Notably, the school has recently received a number of major gifts that will create wonderful new opportunities. A $2 million gift from the family of alumnus Frank C. Abrahamian will create the Frank C. Abrahamian Endowed Fund for Technology, supporting our commitment to ensuring that all School of Pharmacy programs employ the most advanced instructional technology. To promote progress in improving senior health, a $3 million gift will create the Litvack Family Chair to Discover the Consequences of Aging.

We are launching a new minor in regulatory science and a new master’s program in biopharmaceutical marketing starting in spring 2021. A number of new undergraduate classes will also be available, including the course “Drugs and the Media,” a collaborative effort led by Terry David Church with faculty from the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

While we may be physically distant for now, I believe our sense of community will only grow stronger. We will provide as much in-person teaching and as many clinical learning opportunities to our students as possible, while following the strictest standards to keep everyone safe.

As always, I invite you to share your thoughts by emailing me directly at phardean@usc.edu, sending an anonymous message through the Comment Box on the school’s intranet site, or through virtual office hours for anyone who would like to connect. Please contact Judy Ibarra in my office (judyi@usc.edu, 323-442-1379) to set up a time. We will also have a School-wide Town Hall meeting at some point later this fall.

Thank you for your commitment to our shared mission, to our school and to USC. I wish you all the best in the coming year.

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