White Coat Ceremony Marks Beginning of Pharmacy Students’ Journey

Taking their first steps in the journey to become Doctors of Pharmacy, the 197 members of the Class of 2023 walked into the annual USC School of Pharmacy White Coat Ceremony on the Harry and Celesta Pappas Quad on Thursday, Aug. 22.

The first-year pharmacy students, along with their family and friends, were welcomed by Dean Vassilios Papadopoulos to the USC Trojan Family. He framed the current healthcare landscape and shared some early lessons learned during his time practicing in a pharmacy in his family village of Filiatra, in Greece.

“People need attention, they need to be heard, they need to feel valued and they want to learn,” Papadopoulos said. “So one should put the individual, the patient, at the center of his/her mission.”

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“Healing is an art and a science”

The keynote speaker for the ceremony was David Neu, former president of AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation and Good Neighbor Pharmacy, and co-founder of the Neu Center for Supportive Medicine and Cancer Survivorship at Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, who shared about his own experience as a cancer patient.

“The learnings I had looking at healthcare from the ‘inside looking out’ as a patient as opposed to the ‘outside looking in’ changed my perceptions and appreciation for the care and compassion that’s available from this industry,” Neu said. “Healing is an art and a science.”

Keynote speaker David Neu shares what he has learned about the healthcare industry from his own experience as a cancer patient. (Photo by Reynaldo Obrero)

He encouraged students to reimagine pharmacy in a rapidly changing healthcare landscape, think of their careers as a lifetime of learning and most importantly, to have fun through it all.

Susie H. Park, associate dean for student affairs, and Irving Steinberg, associate dean for faculty affairs, called each student to the stage to be officially coated by a member of the faculty.

The ceremony culminated with the administration of the Oath of a Pharmacist, led by Rory Kim, assistant professor of clinical pharmacy. It was followed by a reception for the new Trojans and their friends and families on the Quad.

Passing the torch

This year, eight students were coated by a special pharmacist in their lives. The crowd burst into cheers as mothers, fathers, sisters and mentors helped coat their loved ones.

When alumna Jennifer Chan, PharmD ’03, attended the school, the White Coat Ceremony had not yet become tradition, so she said it was particularly meaningful to be on stage coating her daughter, Rebecca Chan, PharmD ’23.

“My white coat reminds me to always do the right thing, to serve patients with compassion and never stop learning,” Chan said. “I hope to pass that on to my daughter.”

Alumna Jennifer Chan, PharmD ’03, coats her daughter, Rebecca Chan, PharmD ’23. (Photo by Reynaldo Obrero)

For Rebecca, who watched her mother earn her doctor in pharmacy degree, those lessons have been instilled in her since a young age. “I hope to serve and impact my community as my mom and so many others before me have done,” she said.

The ceremony was also a memorable one for Martin Kim, who coated his son Michael Kim, PharmD ’23.

“As a pharmacist myself, I know that it will be a great lifelong journey caring for and nurturing patients with joy and dignity,” Kim said. “I’m so proud to welcome Michael into the pharmacy profession.”

Watch the full 2019 USC School of Pharmacy White Coat Ceremony here.