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The PharmD Class of 2026 poses for a group photo after the White Coat Ceremony.

The PharmD Class of 2026 gathers for a photo after the White Coat Ceremony.

‘Welcome to the pharmily’: New pharmacy students embark on professional path

October 14, 2022 — 

For John Ancheta, officially donning a white coat as a first-year pharmacy student brought a powerful sense of accomplishment and excitement.

“I’ve wanted to be a pharmacist for as long as I can remember,” said the science-loving student. “I’m training to be what I dreamed to be.”

In front of an audience of family members and friends, the 58-member PharmD Class of 2026 had its White Coat Ceremony on Oct. 3 in the Brodie Centre atrium. The future pharmacists were formally cloaked in their white coats and recited the Pledge of Professionalism.

They will complete the four-year doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree that has replaced the bachelor’s degree at the College of Pharmacy in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences.

Dr. Lalitha Raman-Wilms.

Dr. Lalitha Raman-Wilms

Dr. Lalitha Raman-Wilms, dean of the College of Pharmacy, told the students that by entering the rigorous pharmacy program and donning the white coat, they were accepting the responsibility to serve the public with integrity and to uphold ethics and professionalism.

“Today is an important milestone in your growth as a professional,” she said. “The College of Pharmacy will stand alongside you … to educate, support and prepare you to become a responsible, confident and caring health-care provider.”

Jane Lamont, a 1993 UM alumna who is president of the College of Pharmacists of Manitoba, advised the class, “Always look for opportunities to grow as a professional, and you’ll find yourself growing as a person as a result.”

Madison Wong, a fourth-year student who is president of the UM Pharmacy Students’ Association, gave the first-year learners advice on avoiding burnout.

“Remember to be kind to yourself,” Wong said, counselling the students to take breaks and make time for activities other than studying. “You are not alone.… Welcome to the pharmily.”

Pharmacy student John Ancheta stands onstage with his scholarship certificate beside Dr. Lavern Vercaigne.

John Ancheta (L) receives his scholarship from faculty member Dr. Lavern Vercaigne.

At the ceremony, Ancheta, 21, was awarded the Marguerite Hulme Scholarship in Pharmacy, which recognizes not only academic excellence but extracurricular involvement and demonstrated leadership potential.

One way in which he showed leadership was that during the 2021-22 academic year, he organized an online Pre-Pharmacy Club for UM science students so that those aiming for acceptance into the College of Pharmacy could support one another.

Ancheta is originally from the Philippines and immigrated to Manitoba with his family at age 10. He wanted to join a health profession, he said, partly to be an advocate for newcomers.

“My parents definitely had some struggles with communicating well with health-care professionals,” he said. “I wanted to be a liaison for people in minority groups, such as my parents, to make it easier for them to access health care.”

Pharmacy student Kinza Zaki in her white coat.

Kinza Zaki

Kinza Zaki, a member of the Pre-Pharmacy Club who gained acceptance to the Class of 2026, immigrated with her family from Pakistan at age 11. Now 20 years old, she wasn’t sure about a career path until two years ago, when she started working part-time at a pharmacy while taking science courses at UM.

The accessibility of pharmacists to the public convinced her that it would be a rewarding job.

“That was really appealing to me,” she said. “It can save patients a trip to the doctor. A patient can stop by and get professional advice, or even call in and get professional advice.”

Zaki described the White Coat Ceremony as monumental. “A whole lot of responsibility comes with the white coat,” she said. “The trust that people are going to put in me means a lot.”

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