Celebrating the Extraordinary Class of 2014
The USC School of Pharmacy is graduating an extraordinary group in the Class of 2014 – taking up challenges and opportunities as new pharmacists, scientists, health economists and regulatory experts. Here’s a snapshot of some of the graduates who will proudly become Trojan Alumni at Commencement 2014.
Walking across the stage to receive his PharmD has been a long journey for this young man from a small village in Ghana. Nana Numapau came to the US after high school, both parents were dead, and he was searching for a way to gain professional skills that would someday allow him to help his compatriots in Ghana as well as others in developing countries around the world. He had watched his mother struggle with diabetes, ultimately dying from it, and many Ghanaians not follow medication regimens because they did not understand them or their diseases, so he was motivated to gain professional abilities to ultimately help address these kinds of health issues. Numapau worked his through community college, transferring and graduating from UCLA and gaining admission to the USC School of Pharmacy. Every step of the way, he was confronted with daunting financial obstacles, making it necessary for him to work fulltime while also pursuing full-time course work. On May 16, he realizes his greatest accomplishment of graduating as a Doctor of Pharmacy. As class president, he will be among the speakers at the commencement ceremony. After graduation, he heads to Indianapolis where he will be a Visiting Scientist Fellow in the Department of Global Patient Outcomes and Real World Evidence, Center of Expertise at Lilly. At Lilly, he hopes to begin to realize his ultimate goal, by learning about health outcomes and ways to impact them worldwide.
USC is the only school in the nation to offer a professional doctorate in regulatory science (DRSc). As with the degree, the students who pursue it are originals, looking for new ways to answer questions in today’s evolving healthcare environment. As a child, Patrick Dimapindan wanted to be a scientist who made medicines. Today, he is an officer at the FDA. While working full-time, he found the time and energy to pursue his DRSc utilizing both on-campus and distance learning options. In his own words, “I am part of interdisciplinary team that develops and implements programs to operationalize import provisions of new statutes, regulations, and initiatives. For example, President Obama recently issued the Executive Order on Streamlining the Export/Import Process for America’s Businesses. I am involved with activities related to this Executive Order, and program implementation will ultimately increase consumer access to compliant health products. My duties resemble those of a project manager, where work also requires global perspective, policy analysis, and health risk-based decision making. Skills that I have gained through DRSc international travel and learning, courses in complex project management and risk management, and Dr. Richmond’s individualized policy projects for me have proven to be indispensible.
As a toddler, Nina Bolour sang on Persian television, and her passion for singing continued and led her to major in music in college. But during her undergraduate studies, she also found a passion for science. She ultimately discovered that pharmacy offered her the “perfect blend of what I was looking for – utilizing my people skills while also being part of a profession….as a readily accessible member of the healthcare team.” While in pharmacy school, she has been very involved in student activities and was recognized for this with the McKesson Award at the annual Senior/Alumni Awards Banquet. Nina realized that the School commencement ceremony did not include the singing of the national anthem so she proposed it. To Bolour’s delight, her proposal was accepted. “My dream to sing the national anthem at my very own pharmacy graduation has come true.”
When asked what his ultimate career goal is, Brian Chou says he wants “to change the healthcare system for the better, no matter how big or small.” During pharmacy school, his enthusiasm for positive change led him to lead interdisciplinary efforts along with peers at other health professional schools on campus through the USC Student Run Clinic. In 2012, he and Michael Toboni, a Keck School of Medicine student, presented their work on the interdisciplinary clinic in a national webinar offered by the US Health Resources and Services Administration. Winner of the School’s annual Miller Award for excellence in student leadership and the Natural Standard Research Collaboration Award for pursuing multidisciplinary, evidence-based research practices and communication, Chou’s efforts have been recognized. Next, with his Doctor of Pharmacy in hand, Chou is off to Lilly where he will do a fellowship year.
Karie Lau, Diane Lee, Michael Wong, and Justin Yu
When it comes to grades, these four graduates are at the top of the class with the highest cumulative grade point averages. Leading this group of high achievers is Karie Lau with an extraordinary 3.99 average. Very close behind, each with an impressive 3.97, are Diane Lee, Michael Wong and Justin Yu. In recognition of their academic excellence, each received the Merck Award at the School’s annual awards banquet. Lau also received the Person & Covey Award for high achievement in biopharmaceutics.
Martha Pastuszka is graduating with a PhD in Molecular Pharmacology and Toxicology and an MS in Management of Drug Development. Recipient of the inaugural Ronald Alkana Outstanding Doctoral Scholar Award, Pastuszka has been awarded a fellowship in pharmaceutical development at Allergan which she will begin after graduation. She ultimately hopes to lead a team that develops new drugs. On her experience at USC, she says, “I never imagined how much support I would receive from the faculty. There’s a reason it’s called the Trojan Family.”
Pu Shi, who is graduating with a PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences, is passionate about research in drug delivery which he has pursued under the mentorship of Dr. Andrew MacKay. His passion shines through in his work which has garnered substantial recognition, including the USC Phi Kappa Phi Award, best poster award at the UCLA-USC-CalTech Nanotechnology & Nanomedicine Symposium and the inaugural Outstanding Doctoral Scholar in Discovery Award at the School of Pharmacy. Next, he’s hoping to land a position as a scientist in the pharmaceutical industry and ultimately to open his own pharmaceutical business in China. Looking back at his time USC, Shi says, “It is always my great pleasure being a Trojan and will be my precious memory of studying at USC.”
Megan Yardley, who is receiving both a PhD in Molecular Pharmacology and Toxicology and an MS in Management of Drug Development, was named the Outstanding Doctoral Scholar in Translational Science at the School of Pharmacy. Her ultimate goal of developing therapeutics for addiction/alcohol disorders is getting a jumpstart with her post-doctoral position in the UCLA lab of Dr. Lara Ray where she will be working on a clinical trial examining the effects of ivermectin on alcohol intake and craving. This opportunity allows her to continue the work she pursued during her PhD program in the labs of Dr. Daryl Davies and the late Dr. Ron Alkana. Yardley’s advice to current students, “Get involved and take advantage of everything USC has to offer outside of academics!”
Anna Bezman looks forward to ultimately becoming a superb clinical pharmacist in a hospital setting where she can make a difference and next year she will certainly have an opportunity toward that goal when she begins her residency training at the UCLA Ronal Reagan Medical Center. As class vice president, she strongly encourages current/future pharmacy students to “get out there and get involved – find organizations that interest you, develop passion for your profession and grow as an individual while contributing to your community. Bezman was awarded the Adrianna “Terri” Weissman Memorial Award recognizing her high ethical standards in community pharmacy practice.