The star of the Netflix documentary series “The Pharmacist” has strong advice for the VCU School of Pharmacy Class of ’21: Work with your patients and watch for danger.
In his keynote speech to the graduating pharmacy students, Dan Schneider, the Louisiana pharmacist whose quest to solve the murder of his son led to authorities bringing down an illegal “pill mill,” recounted examples of doctors who had irresponsibly prescribed drugs. “I attended funerals of those who had overdosed,” he said.
He urged the new pharmacists in his audience to safeguard the lives of patients by counseling them and, if necessary, challenging, reporting or denying unsafe prescriptions.
He recalled one attorney who challenged his right to seek revocation of a doctor’s license. Schneider said he retorted, “What’s a life worth?”
Building on the platform brought him by the successful 2020 Netflix show, Schneider has devoted his career to fighting the opioid epidemic. His work led the Class of ’21 to request him as keynote speaker.
Along with 130 graduating Pharm.D. and graduate students and more than 750 family, friends and faculty, Schneider attended the 2021 commencement ceremony virtually.
The Class of 2021 had elected to hold their graduation online. The virtual audience joined via side-by-side video feeds: one showing faculty and presenters, the other showing a mosaic of student attendees in regalia. A chat window allowed supporters to share thoughts with their graduating students; online participants wrote more than 300 comments of congratulations and encouragement during the 90-minute ceremony.
It was a fitting end to the class’s pharmacy school experience. The COVID-19 pandemic forced a sharp rethinking of how the School of Pharmacy operated — from virtual classrooms to online meetings and revamped precepting experiences.
“We know that pharmacy school is always rigorous and demanding, and this past year even more so,” Archie O. McCalley Chair and School of Pharmacy Dean Joe DiPiro told the students and attendees. “You and your faculty members have had to be supremely adaptable and creative this past year to make it all work.
“You are COVID veterans,” the dean continued. “You will draw on this experience throughout your career.”
As Megan Watson, Class of ’21 president, told the virtual crowd of almost 900: “We were given this environment where we could grow and learn from our successes and our failures … even if that meant a little contention or many more meetings than someone planned on having that day.”
“We have had triumphs and disappointments,” Watson added. “And we have had incredible support both in and outside the school. But at the end of the day, we had to buckle down and complete the task before us. We had to decide that this is what we wanted for ourselves, for our families, and for our futures. We have now earned that Pharm.D. behind our name, and nothing and no one can take that away.”
Watson, who also received the school’s prestigious Dean’s Award, will be a community pharmacist with Kroger Pharmacy in Richmond.
(See full list of awards below.)
After each student had virtually received their diplomas and the school’s awards announced, 2021 Teacher of the Year and Preceptor of the Year Krista Donohoe, Pharm.D., led the new pharmacists in a ritual reading of the Oath of a Pharmacist.
Then, with a burst of online applause, the Class of 2021 entered the profession.
Many graduates celebrated with friends and family as well as on social media. In an Instagram post, student Taylor Reynolds tosses her mortarboard in the air. [View Image]
And friends, faculty and pharmacy colleagues shared the good news online.
A full list of awards from the Class of 2021 commencement ceremony.
Outstanding Preceptors of the Year:
Service Award: Michael Clarke, Pharm.D., VCU SoP Inova Campus, Fairfax, Virginia
Preceptor of the Year: Krista Donohoe, Pharm.D.
Teacher of the Year: Krista Donohoe, Pharm.D.
Teacher of the Year Nominees: