First PharmD class among 2023 ‘extraordinary’ graduates
Dr. Lalitha Raman-Wilms looked toward the inaugural graduating class of doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) students and told them they should be immensely proud of themselves.
“Your journey has been nothing short of extraordinary,” said Raman-Wilms, dean of the College of Pharmacy, during her address at the May 18 afternoon Convocation ceremony on the Bannatyne campus.
The ceremony recognized 108 graduates representing the Dr. Gerald Niznick College of Dentistry, the School of Dental Hygiene and the College of Pharmacy, all within the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences.
Forty-nine graduates made up the University of Manitoba’s first PharmD graduating class. PharmD, which replaced the bachelor’s in pharmacy, is a four-year undergraduate doctoral program that focuses on clinical practice, experiential learning and pharmaceutical sciences.
“As the graduating Class of 2023, you are a remarkable group of highly trained pharmacists who will help lead the profession to new heights,” Raman-Wilms said.
“You’re well prepared to enter a changing health-care environment. You’ve grown as professionals. You’ve gained a strong foundation in pharmacy practice and have the skills to effectively contribute to the profession by meeting the medicine-related health needs of Manitobans.”
PharmD graduate Christine Vaccaro remembers the first day of the program, when everyone was shy. Five years later (because this class uniquely completed one year of the previous program before transitioning to the PharmD program), she said they’re now close friends. In an interview, she had a message for her classmates.
“I hope that in your next journey, in your career, you remember the power our unity and our advocacy had and continue to apply that when advocating for your patients and the profession,” Vaccaro said.
PharmD graduate Grace Okunnu said that when she started the program, she second-guessed herself because it was challenging.
“I learned how much capacity I had to grow and to stretch because honestly, you never know what you can accomplish and what you can do until you get into certain situations,” Okunnu said.
UM President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Michael Benarroch spoke at the ceremony and thanked the graduands for their hard work throughout the exceptional challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Many of you stepped into leadership roles, volunteered and helped where you could,” Benarroch said. “What you did as students for the health of Manitobans is remarkable and important.”
Before the students received their parchments, UM Chancellor Anne Mahon challenged them to do great things in their future endeavors.
“You’re extraordinary students forged in extraordinary times,” she said. “Never, ever forget this. And be proud of yourselves.”
The Dr. Gerald Niznick College of Dentistry honoured 27 doctor of dental medicine (DMD) graduates, eight graduates who earned DMDs through the International Dentist Degree Program, and 24 graduates from the School of Dental Hygiene.
Dr. Anastasia Kelekis-Cholakis, dean of dentistry, said that graduating under normal circumstances requires endless hard work, perseverance and dedication, but the challenges the Class of 2023 faced made their accomplishments even more commendable.
“Despite a pandemic impeding your in-person learning and a faculty strike affecting your course sequencing, you successfully completed your requirements and competencies on time,” Kelekis-Cholakis told the grads. “And even beyond that, I’m proud to say that the Dentistry Class of 2023 was able to challenge a brand new national dental exam in March with a 100 per cent pass rate.”
Dr. Berardino Petrelli was one of the graduating dentistry students. When he crossed the stage to receive his parchment, he was thinking back over the past four years of dental school and everything his class had been through.
“It’s a great feeling to be done and now give back to society with what you know. In my case it would be oral care,” said Petrelli, who was also working on a PhD in biochemistry and medical genetics while training to be a dentist.
When dental hygiene graduate Nikhita Arora tossed her cap in the air after the ceremony, she felt exhilarated.
“Just tossing that hat, I felt relief because we worked so hard,” Arora said. “Just releasing that hat was releasing all that stress that’s been building for so long. It felt really good.”
Dr. Hedyeh Samady, an International Dentist Degree Program graduate who was a dentist in Iran before coming to Canada, said the Dr. Gerald Niznick College of Dentistry did a very good job of preparing her for the next stage of her career in dentistry.
“I’m a proud alumna of the University of Manitoba now,” Samady said.