Honoring Those who Advance the Profession and the Graduates who are the Promise of the Future

Over 300 people attended the USC School of Pharmacy 2014 Alumni/Senior Awards Banquet held on May 10 at Town and Gown on the University Park Campus. State Senator Ed Hernandez and Dr. Komal Patel were honored at the annual event.

Dean Vanderveen with Outstanding Alumna Komal Patel and Honorary Alumnus Senator Ed Hernandez.

Dean Vanderveen with Outstanding Alumna Komal Patel and Honorary Alumnus Senator Ed Hernandez.

The evening also recognized the achievements of the Class of 2014 and the 50th anniversary in the profession of pharmacy for the Class of 1964 with seventeen members from the class attending. The School of Pharmacy Alumni Association hosted the event with President Dolly Harris welcoming guests to the evening’s festivities. Associate Dean Michael Wincor was the master of ceremonies, a role he has filled for many years.

Dean R. Pete Vanderveen presented the “Honorary Alumnus Award” to State Senator Ed Hernandez who was the sponsor of Senate Bill 493 which officially distinguishes pharmacists as health care providers. Addressing Senator Hernandez, Vanderveen said, “For your leadership and dedication in making healthcare the best that it can be for all Californians, I am honored to present you with the 2014 Honorary Alumnus Award. We are proud to have you as part of our Trojan Family.”

Linda Alkana presented the Ronald Alkana Outstanding Doctoral Scholar Award to Martha Pastuszka.

Linda Alkana presented the Ronald Alkana Outstanding Doctoral Scholar Award to Martha Pastuszka.

Hernandez, who represents the 24th district, is an optometrist by training and a committed advocate to making quality healthcare accessible to all. He has worked to increase the available primary care workforce by expanding scope of practice for other health professionals, including pharmacists. Senate Bill 493, which does just that, was signed into law on October 1, 2013. Hernandez mentioned that both Dean Vanderveen and Komal Patel, the evening’s “Alumna of the Year,” helped him understand the role pharmacists could play in meeting the needs of patients throughout California. In fact, Hernandez made sure that Patel was there when the law was signed.

Komal Patel, PharmD (’04), has been a persistent advocate for making pharmacists providers in California. She attended many of Senator Hernandez’s Town Hall meetings on health care, posing questions about the potential of the pharmacist in meeting the growing needs for access to care as more patients entered the system through the Affordable Care Act. Using multiple channels, Patel has worked to inform elected officials and the public to the role of today’s pharmacists. She has actively worked with both the Indian Pharmacists Association of California and the California Pharmacists Association.

Students with top grade point averages Michael Wong, Karie Lau and Justin Yu.

Students with top grade point averages Michael Wong, Karie Lau and Justin Yu.

Assistant Professor Susie Park presented the “Outstanding Alumna of the Year” award to Dr. Patel. Park noted the extraordinary dedication that Patel has provided to the profession and the impact that she has had in advancing the profession.

Assistant Dean Kathleen Hill Besinque presented the 2014 Preceptor/Site of the Year award to Huntington Memorial Hospital. The award recognizes the extraordinary contributions of the Huntington preceptors to the School’s clinical teaching program. Ken Wong, pharmacy manager at Huntington, accepted the award.

Dean Vanderveen honored members of the Class of 1964 with medals and many members of the Class of 2014 were recognized for achievements. The inaugural “Ronald Alkana Outstanding Doctoral Scholar Award” was presented to Martha Pastuszka who will be awarded a PhD at this year’s commencement. The award honors the late Associate Dean Ronald Alkana and was presented by his wife, Linda Alkana.

Other awards included the Merck Award which is annually given to students who have the highest cumulative grade point average. The top student, Karie Lau, has a 3.99 GPA. Three other recipients of the award, each with a 3.97 GPA, were Justin Yu, Michael Wong and Diane Lee.

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Class president Nana Numapau spoke on behalf of the graduates, thanking the dean, faculty and alumni for their support in preparing them for their careers. He also presented a check for scholarship support of future students.

The evening concluded with a rousing performance by the USC Trojan Band.