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UC Irvine welcomes inaugural class of pharmacy school with white coat ceremony

Students recite the Oath of a Pharmacist during the White Coat Ceremony at the Irvine Barclay Theater.
Students recite the Oath of a Pharmacist during the conclusion of the White Coat Ceremony for the inaugural class of 2025 PharmD students on Friday at the Irvine Barclay Theater.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Inside the Irvine Barclay Theater, about 40 students received their white coats Friday afternoon — a sign of their transition from undergraduate studies to clinical health sciences.

It is far from the first such ceremony held at UC Irvine, but this particular cadre of students also included the first class of the university’s School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences after it was established in August 2020.

The school is part of the Susan and Henry Samueli College of Health Sciences, which includes the School of Medicine, the Sue and Bill Gross School of Nursing, a planned School of Population and Public Health and the Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute.

“It’s not just students but our faculty too,” said Jan Hirsch, founding dean of the school, in a call Thursday.

Jan D. Hirsch helps Ivann Agapito put on his white coat at the Irvine Barclay Theater.
UC Irvine’s Ivann Agapito is the first student to have his white coat put on by founding dean Jan Hirsch during the White Coat Ceremony for the inaugural class of 2025 PharmD students on Friday at the Irvine Barclay Theater.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

“It’s about the people we have. It’s about those 41 students who are leaders and will become leaders,” Hirsch said. “It’s about the faculty in those two departments that are inaugural to this program, and I think the other thing that’s really important for us to get off on the right foot … is the tremendous staff support from both our school and also from the UCI campus, and that’s what’s really, really needed to get us this far.”

“Staff support is so important to really ensuring the success of our students that are here because they will need support,” Hirsch said.

This year’s class will graduate in 2025.

Francisco Damacio, 22, said he was coming to UC Irvine from UC San Diego, where he completed his undergraduate degree in biochemistry and cell biology. Damacio said he felt it was a privilege to be a part of the inaugural class for the school and chose to attend the university over his other offers because he saw the potential for growth of the programs and the caliber of its staff.

“I’m definitely very excited,” said Damacio. “This is something that I worked very hard for through my undergrad. I’m really excited to see the day’s finally here. This is the first step of a career of lifelong learning.”

“Something I’m basically hopefully going to do for the rest of my life. Excitement’s a good way to say it,” said Damacio. “There is a little bit of nervousness, but that’s something that usually comes with a new chapter of your life, but to me that nervousness feels like it’s a drive to excel in this and it serves as a motivation to make the best of it and really enjoy my time and absorb all the knowledge I can.”

Julie Nguyen, who also went to UC San Diego to study biology, chose UC Irvine over her undergraduate school’s offer because she said she saw the passion of the UCI staff.

Dr. Steve Goldstein, vice chancellor of health affairs, speaks at the Irvine Barclay Theater.
Dr. Steve Goldstein, vice chancellor of health affairs, speaks during a White Coat Ceremony for the inaugural class of 2025 PharmD students on Friday at the Irvine Barclay Theater.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

“I wouldn’t just be another number. I wouldn’t be another student they had one year. I would really be a person that was valued and a person that would ultimately be supported during my four years of pharmacy school,” said Nguyen in a recent interview.

She said she felt that the class were trailblazers and that she was going to be contributing to programs that would be used for years to come after her graduation.

“We are finally here. UCI has been working on this for over a decade really, and to see it actually happening, I think the feeling is … I’m ecstatic,” said Hirsch. “It really is a major accomplishment, and the faculty and staff that have been working so hard to plan this and … they are ecstatic. It is palpable when you walk into a room and we’re able to walk into a room now. I’m also really proud.

“I’m really proud of these students. They are pioneers. They are here. They’re going to help us build the program, and I’m proud of what they’ve done to get here. They’re a very accomplished group. I’m very … it really has taken years of work to make this program a reality.”

Dean Jan Hirsch puts on the coat of Hanan Ali during the White Coat Ceremony.
Dean Jan Hirsch puts on the coat of Hanan Ali during the White Coat Ceremony for the inaugural class of 2025 PharmD students on Friday at the Irvine Barclay Theater.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

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