For nearly 140 Ph.D. and Master of Science graduates of the University of Florida College of Pharmacy, it was a bittersweet ending to their remarkable academic careers. The COVID-19 pandemic halted plans to celebrate the college’s spring and summer graduates with an in-person commencement ceremony, but a virtual event offered a meaningful way to observe this important academic milestone.
The Aug. 14 ceremony featured many of the traditional commencement activities. UF President Kent Fuchs offered opening remarks, while Senior Vice President for Health Affairs at UF and President of UF Health David Nelson, M.D., spoke about the intrinsic value each graduate shares in their dedication and service to help others.
UF College of Pharmacy Dean Julie Johnson, Pharm.D., conferred 14 Doctor of Pharmacy degrees and 125 Master of Science from the spring and summer semesters. In her address to the graduates, she acknowledged the important role each scientist will play during the coming decades.
“While we would have never imagined the challenges that COVID-19 has presented to us, I believe this pandemic has in very real ways highlighted the critical importance of pharmaceutical scientists in society,” Johnson said. “I hope this event has strengthened your resolve to serve by advancing knowledge and improving the health of humankind.”
Juan Hincapie-Castillo, Pharm.D., ’13, M.S., ’17, Ph.D., ’19, an assistant professor of pharmaceutical outcomes and policy in the UF College of Pharmacy, provided the keynote address. A year earlier, Hincapie-Castillo shared a similar position as the doctoral graduates, as he prepared to begin his professional career after earning a Ph.D. from UF. He offered three guiding principles that have helped him transition into academia.
- Never lose sight of why you decided to pursue a graduate program
- Find mentors that root for you wherever you work
- Recognize that you don’t have all the answers
“The truth is that having a graduate degree from the University of Florida opens many doors that are still very far to reach for many,” Hincapie-Castillo said. “I hope that you use these opportunities given to you, and that you have fought so much for, to pay it forward and help others in any way you can.”
Each of the Ph.D. and master’s graduates had their names read during the virtual ceremony, while a slide featuring their name and photo appeared. Following the recognition of graduates, Kayla Lien, M.S, Ph.D., a member of the class of 2020, shared her perspectives as a student in the college and offered this advice to her fellow graduates.
“We will be great, because I believe with our critical thinking, optimism and resilience, we will strive through as we go through obstacles and challenges,” Lien said. “We are the generation given the opportunity to redefine normal and to create a new normal to help improve the lives of others.”