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Rosalind Franklin University Graduates First Pharmacy Class

Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science graduated the inaugural class of the College of Pharmacy during its 101st Commencement Celebration on June 5 at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago.

The new pharmacists, who completed a rigorous, four-year doctor of pharmacy program, joined RFU graduate degree recipients in numerous biomedical and health science disciplines from the Chicago Medical School, Dr. William M. Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine, School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and College of Health Professions.

In announcing a new century of commencement exercises at RFU, Dr. Michael Welch, president and CEO, told graduates that the degrees conferred make them "the guardians of the health of our society" and cited their "extraordinary" commitment to community service.

"During your years of graduate study at RFU, you have engaged in an intentional interprofessional learning experience which makes you poised to be leaders in collaborative, interprofessional healthcare teams in classrooms, clinics, laboratories and hospitals," Dr. Welch said. "You have given yourselves to those who have less access to care. You have discovered not only wisdom, but also the strength and integrity critical for all healthcare professionals."

The northernmost pharmacy program in Illinois, RFU's College of Pharmacy (COP) was founded in 2009 and joined the university in its steadfast commitment to interprofessional education. The RFU culture of interprofessionalism prepares PharmD graduates to hit the ground running as the drug and dosing experts on healthcare teams, in practice areas such as community pharmacy, hospital, industry and research.

Members of the COP Class of 2015 expressed gratitude for the program's strong experiential learning component, interprofessional interactions, and the mentorship and professionalism of RFU faculty.

"It's exciting to be part of the inaugural class," said Dylan Moe, PharmD '15, who has accepted a position as a full-time pharmacist at Walgreens.

"I've worked with a lot of pharmacists who have made a huge difference in people's lives. Pharmacists are accessible and highly educated — and not just about drugs. It's about getting to know people on a personal level and being able to help them."

"RFU has helped me grow not only professionally, but personally," said Monal Punjabi, PharmD '15, who will complete a pharmacy practice residency at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge after which she plans to apply for a research fellowship at the National Institutes of Health.

"Working in teams, getting the perspective of other professions has been so important," Dr. Punjabi said. "It's been an amazing journey and now it's time go out and practice — though we all know the learning will never end."

Paul Gaura, PharmD '15, who will soon begin a community pharmacy residency with Osco Drug in partnership with University of Illinois at Chicago, said he was both excited and nervous as graduation day approached.

"No more hypotheticals," Dr. Gaura said. "We will actually be practicing our craft. But our school has done such a great job of building a good rotation experience, I feel more than prepared and focused for the next step."

The ceremony included the awarding of two honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. to Timothy Hansen, PhD, a longtime RFU professor, lead administrator and current vice president for faculty affairs; and William E. Evans, PharmD, a faculty member and researcher at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, where he served as president and CEO from 2004 to 2014.

Dr. Evans, who said he never envisioned a career in research or as a CEO of a renowned research hospital, urged graduates to improve health care, their communities, and to be open to the uncertainty of the future.

"You're going to learn even more, much more, in the balance of your career, in the balance of your life," he said. "This great education is the foundation for what you are commencing in your personal and professional life. You need to know you are very well prepared for these challenges and don't be worried. Be open to receiving and being a part of that change."

Rosalind Franklin University has conferred degrees upon more than 17,000 living alumni, including medical doctors, podiatric physicians, scientific researchers, physician assistants, physical therapists, psychologists, nurse anesthetists, pathologists' assistants, health administrators, nutritionists and more.

Posted May 31, 2015
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