First Class of PharmD Students Graduates

On June 5th, the first class of students in the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy’s new entry-to-practice PharmD program graduated with their Doctor of Pharmacy degrees.

This historic day began at the Royal Conservatory of Music for the Faculty’s annual Convocation Reception and Graduating Awards Ceremony.

In her opening address, Dean Heather Boon remarked upon the importance of the day, noting how “[t]oday, we are fortunate to usher three classes into the world – the vanguard PharmD Class of 1T5, and the last members of programs that have produced some of the finest pharmacists ever to practice in Ontario.”

Associate Professor Thomas E.R. Brown also recognized the day’s significance, as it represented the last class to graduate from the Faculty’s original Doctor of Pharmacy program. The first of its kind in Canada, the Faculty’s Post-Baccalaureate Doctor of Pharmacy program was established in 1992 to prepare students to become advanced pharmacy practitioners, immersing participants in a comprehensive and demanding curriculum punctuated by an intensive program of experiential rotations. 

Over the life of this program, it was at the leading-edge of pharmacy practice and innovation, offered flexible programing through part-time and distance education options, and was taught by leaders in the profession.

“For close to 25 years, the Post-Baccalaureate PharmD program was recognized as an international leader in the training of pharmacists to become advanced practitioners,” noted Dr. Brown, the Director of the Post-Baccalaureate Doctor of Pharmacy programs. “Ultimately, the true indication of the success of this program has been the hundreds of students who have graduated and have gone on to become advanced clinicians and leaders in pharmacy practice and pharmacy education.”

Dr. Brown then presented the graduating classes and announced the Post-Baccalaureate Doctor of Pharmacy awards recipients, followed by the presentation of the Professor of the Year Award to Assistant Professor Jennifer Lake, and the Preceptor of the Year Award to Daniel Cortes.

Following Dr. Brown’s address, Dr. Lalitha Raman-Wilms, Associate Dean, Professional Programs, recognized the students graduating with honours standing from the PharmD program, and presented awards to the graduands.

Dean Boon then recognized three outstanding instructors selected by the PharmD classes as their Professors of the Year: Jamie Kellar (Class of 1T6), Norman Dewhurst (Class of 1T7), and Carolyn Cummins (Class of 1T8).

The Faculty also honoured the first set of Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience program preceptors with the presentation of the Preceptor of the Year Awards to Jauhuer Ahmad, Amy Hu, Lawrence Jackson, Susan Jin, Karen Kan, Lesley Neves-Azevedo, Sassha Orser, Mark Pasetka, Peter Shams, and Laura Tsang. 

Following the presentation of these awards, Dean Boon invited two special guests to speak to the assembled graduands, their friends, and family members.

Dean Emeritus K. Wayne Hindmarsh was Dean of the Faculty from 1998 to 2009, and led the planning for the implementation of the PharmD degree as the entry-to-practice degree for the Faculty when it began in 2003. Dean Hindmarsh noted how this process “was a challenge – we had to convince the profession, faculty members, the University administration, and the Ministry of Health that [the PharmD] was the way to go.”

Reflecting on the words of Abdul Kalam, the former President of India, Dean Hindmarsh noted how “[i]f you dream and set goals for your life, gain and acquire knowledge, work hard, defeat problems that arise – you will succeed. If you fail, never give up since FAIL means First Attempt In Learning; END is not the end, but stands for Effort Never Dies; and if you get NO for an answer, remember NO means Next Opportunity so be positive.”

Dean Hindmarsh explained how that advice served the Faculty well in pushing for the PharmD degree, which was eventually granted ten years after planning began, and how this lesson has the same application for the graduands in assembly.

Former Dean Henry Mann spoke next. Dean Mann was Dean from 2009 to 2013, when the PharmD designation was awarded for our entry-to-practice degree.

Dean Mann noted how “[t]oday marks a significant milestone in the history of pharmacy and of healthcare in Canada. Your graduating class represents the largest single infusion of doctorate level trained pharmacists to enter the English speaking Canadian workforce in all of its history.”

“You came here from many different backgrounds,” continued Dean Mann, “but you leave with a common recognition – you are Doctor of Pharmacy graduates from the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Toronto. People will recognize your training and will expect much from you – I know you are able and ready to meet those expectations.”

Following Dean Mann’s address, class valedictorian Simon McKay spoke. During his remarks, it was evident how proud Simon was to be part of this first class of PharmD graduates from the Faculty, and the optimism he had about what this class would be able to accomplish within the pharmacy community.

“In reflecting on our time at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, I hope that you will recognize that one of the biggest opportunities we had was this chance to work together, to support each other along this path to success and to help shape the entry-to-practice PharmD program along our way,” noted Simon in his remarks.

“Although today marks the end of this part of our journey, we will be leaving this Faculty as a face of change within the profession, equipped with the tools and skillsets necessary to thrive in an ever-changing environment; there is a leadership opportunity waiting for each and every one of us,” continued Simon. “It’s time for us to step-up and do what we do best.”

Dean Boon capped the ceremony off with a brief address encouraging the graduands to embrace the recent changes in pharmacy, to trust in their preparation, and to enjoy the next step in their careers.:

“As the newest generation of pharmacists, you have a chance to stand at the front of this change,” noted Dean Boon. “I implore you to show the world what you are capable of – what pharmacists are capable of. You have an amazing opportunity to make the world a better place.”

In the end, the Convocation Reception and Graduating Awards Ceremony proved to be a fitting send-off for the Post Baccalaureate Doctor of Pharmacy program, and an apt introduction to the first class of PharmD graduates.

Later that day, the classes graduated from their respective programs at a Convocation Ceremony held in the University of Toronto’s historic Convocation Hall.

Thank you to the organizers of the Convocation Reception and Graduating Awards Ceremony for planning such an excellent event for students and their families, and congratulations to all of this year’s graduates from the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy.