Taking their first steps in the journey to become Doctors of Pharmacy, the 188 members of the Class of 2020 strode into the annual USC School of Pharmacy White Coat Ceremony on the Harry and Celeste Pappas Quad on Friday, August 19.
The first-year pharmacy students, along with their family members and friends, were welcomed by Interim Dean Glen L. Stimmel who informed them they were joining the profession at an important time when the scope of practice is expanding, putting pharmacists at the forefront of patient care.
“We welcome you into a profession that will give you broad opportunities,” Stimmel said. “Today it’s white coats, in May of 2020 it’ll be caps and gowns. You will be the best educated and skilled pharmacists that we have ever graduated.”
Stimmel also introduced incoming Dean Vassilios Papadopoulos, whose appointment at the USC School of Pharmacy begins Oct. 1.
Papadopoulos challenged the students to think beyond their degree and focus on finding ways they, as future medication-based experts, can innovate and improve the delivery of health care. “We need to continue to transform and change,” Papadopoulos said.
‘You’re never done taking tests’
The keynote speaker for the ceremony was Susie H. Park (PharmD ’00), associate professor of Clinical Pharmacy, who reflected on her own experience donning a white coat for the first time two decades ago in the fall of 1996, as a first-year USC pharmacy student.
“You can never count down your days of learning,” said Park. “As my father once told me, ‘You’re never done taking tests.’ You’ll leave here with an education that is as invaluable as time, so make the most of your time. Welcome to the USC School of Pharmacy.”
The Class of 2020 collectively speaks more than 20 languages, including Arabic, Aramaic, Armenian, Cebuano, Chinese, Guajarati, Hebrew, Hindi, Hmong, Khmer, Korean, Persian (Farsi), Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, Thai, Twi, and Vietnamese.
Fred Weissman, associate dean for faculty and student affairs, called each student to the stage to be officially coated by a member of the faculty, the Alumni Association or QSAD Centurion, the premier support group of the USC School of Pharmacy.
The ceremony, supported by Cardinal Health, culminated with the administration of the “Oath of a Pharmacist,” led by Tien M.H. Ng, associate professor of Clinical Pharmacy. It was followed by a reception for all on the Quad.
Before the ceremony began, first-year student Godfred Marfo, who moved to downtown Los Angeles from Ghana four years ago, recalled how he used to stroll the campus of USC and dream about his future as a pharmacist.
“I’ve always wanted to be a pharmacist to help people with chronic diseases,” he said. “Early in life I started using medication, from a very early age, and ever since then I wanted to know more about it and help people.”