University of South Florida

Pharmacists of the future receive their first white coat

The USF College of Pharmacy recognized 101 new members into the profession.

The USF College of Pharmacy welcomed 101 new members into the pharmacy profession during their seventh annual white coat ceremony. The ceremony, held Sept. 22 at the Marshall Student Center’s ballroom, is a traditional rite of passage for many first-year students throughout USF Health who will learn alongside each other as health care teams of the future.


“Receipt of your first white coat is a very personal and special occasion,” said Amy Schwartz, PharmD, associate dean of Academic Affairs, who guided the ceremony. “The coat provides a sense of confidence and immediate awareness of the associated professional obligations, responsibilities and accountability.”


Bright-eyed and smiling, students filled the center aisle of the ballroom as they walked on stage to take their seats.


“You feel like you’re becoming a doctor,” said Farah Abdeen, a PharmD student in the Class of 2021, who led the procession of students into the ballroom. “I’m excited to have the faculty recognize and welcome me.”

“You feel like you’re becoming a doctor,” said Fara Abdeen, Class of 2021, who received her first white coat during the ceremony.

Families holding flowers or cellphones pointed at the stage watched and learned about the future roles students will grow into within the coming years.


“Teamwork in health care has never been greater and that’s what USF Health is all about,” said Edmund Funai, MD, chief operating officer for USF Health and senior vice president for Strategic Development for USF System. “Since medications touch virtually all aspects of health care and as demand increases, you will provide services that extend well beyond the traditional roles of the pharmacy profession.”


Dr. Funai’s theme of team work carried on throughout his remarks. He thanked Kevin Sneed, PharmD, founding dean of the College of Pharmacy and senior associate vice president for USF Health, along with the pharmacy faculty, staff and students for “going above and beyond the call of duty to serve people and communities in need before, during and after Hurricane Irma.”

Edmund Funai, MD, chief operating officer for USF Health and senior vice president for Strategic Development for USF System, spoke during the ceremony about team work.

Dr. Funai also thanked donors of the White Coat Scholarship Fund, who helped raise more than $21,000. A significant portion, $10,000, was received by Tampa General Hospital, USF Health’s primary teaching affiliate. “Our futures are inextricably linked,” said Dr. Funai about the strong community partnerships that help support and student scholarships.


The USF College of Pharmacy was cited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) as a leading force in driving interdisciplinary pharmacy education and continues to attract students with high Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT) scores. Along with the other USF Health Colleges of Nursing, Medicine, Public Health, and the School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences, the College of Pharmacy’s mission is to revolutionize health with interprofessional education.


Since its inception, the college has lead with innovated ideas in personalized medicine, pharmacogenomics, geriatrics and informatics as its main pillars. Nearly 10 years ago, Dr. Sneed ambitiously drafted the application to start the College of Pharmacy.


“I dreamed of what health care would be like in 2020 and beyond, and what role would pharmacists play,” Dr. Sneed said. “With this entering class I remain more convinced than ever that not only will we achieve those dreams, but they will be even better because of our collective efforts.”

Kevin Sneed, PharmD, founding dean USF College of Pharmacy took his traditional selfie with the Class of 2021.

Dr. Sneed spoke about heath equity and urged the class of 2021 to remain focused on becoming the best health care clinician possible and not to be swept away in the 24-hour news cycle.


“I do believe that ultimately health care is a right that we all have,” Dr. Sneed said, “and it is our job to help them be the very best that they can be.”


The ceremony’s key note speaker was Robert J. Weber, RPh, PharmD, MS, BCPS, FASHP, FNAP, assistant dean for Medical Center Affairs at Ohio State University’s College of Pharmacy and administrator for pharmacy services at the Wexner Medical Center.


“You are now a member of our esteemed and most trusted profession,” began Dr. Weber, “The symbol of arriving on the professional scene as a trusted future pharmacist is your white coat.”


Students anxiously held their neatly folded white coats on their laps and listened.


Dr. Weber asked students to remember the family, friends, personal mentors and pharmacists that helped them reach this point of their careers such as those before them “Your profession is the most trusted because of those pharmacists who have come before you and worked hard to hold its credibility.”

Robert J. Weber, RPh, PharmD, MS, BCPS was the keynote speaker for the ceremony.

Dr. Weber’s titled his remarks A Time to Be Flexible. “Along with the prestige of a white coat comes the responsibility to be flexible and to adapt to the changing needs of our patients,” Dr. Weber said.

Students were asked to reflect on their education and their experiences today to help their patients tomorrow.   “The successful pharmacist is one who can adapt to any situation in a positive way,” he added.


Faculty members then stepped onto the stage in pairs to help students put on their very first white coat. Then the Oath of Professionalism was led by Angela Hill, PharmD, BCPP, professor and chair of Pharmacotherapeutics and Clinical Research and associate dean of clinical affairs for USF College of Pharmacy.



Newly coated Doctoral of Pharmacy students took the Oath of Professionalism.




The evening ended with 101 newly committed pharmacy students alongside their strongest supporters who, throughout the evening’s remarks, had an invigorating view of what the future of pharmacy will be.





Story by Sandra C. Roa, photos by Eric Younghans, USF Communications and Marketing.

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