Amid cheering friends and family members with musical interludes provided by Harlem’s Cotton Club All Stars band, seventy-four graduating students of the second class of the Touro College of Pharmacy received their PharmD (Doctor of Pharmacy) degrees last week at commencement ceremonies held at the New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM).

The class of 2013 began their studies in October 2009, just a year after the College launched in Harlem – the first pharmacy school to open in New York City in 68 years and the only pharmacy program in Manhattan. The school’s mission is to improve the public’s health by educating a diverse student body who will serve underrepresented communities and work to minimize health disparities.

Founding Dean Stuart Feldman, Ph.D. welcomed the audience of approximately 650 graduates and well-wishers, and called the students “pioneers.”

“As you progressed in your studies, we at the College also progressed – refining the curriculum, developing exemplary practice sites, and reinforcing the College’s commitment to embed in a new and innovative Doctor of Pharmacy program content and experiences that advance pharmacy’s and your role in the public’s health.  This background distinguishes you,” Dean Feldman told the students, citing their work in the Harlem community that provided care and solutions to health disparities.

Inspirational remarks and accolades then followed from Touro College President and CEO Alan Kadish, M.D.; keynote speaker Dr. Marie A. Chisholm-Burns, dean of The University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Pharmacy; and student speaker David Yoo.  Individual students receiving awards for their scholarship, research and community service were also recognized.

Dr. Kadish praised the successes of the school and singled out its work in public health in Harlem as well as globally.  He noted the school’s recognition by the American Pharmacist Association for providing thousands of influenza immunizations in Harlem; its receipt of a grant to create a revolutionary health literacy program for the community; and a major grant from Pfizer Medical Education Group to improve vaccination rates. He praised the school’s outreach efforts in India, where faculty and students recently traveled to screen residents who lacked access to primary care. The residents were screened for diabetes, hypertension and pulmonary disease, and provided counseling on use of medications.

“Even though the Touro College of Pharmacy is young, you have achieved a tremendous amount and we are very proud of what you have accomplished,” Dr. Kadish said.  “You have provided services to the local community and educated a generation of students to prepare for a challenging, changing and yet rewarding health care environment.”

Dr. Kadish noted the school’s record of public service and combating health care disparities “constitutes an important part of Touro’s mission, which is to continue the Jewish tradition of serving society and promoting intellectual achievement.  That tradition dates back several millennia, including a very strong tradition in health sciences.”

In her motivational remarks, keynote speaker Dr. Marie A. Chisholm-Burns urged the graduates to examine their lives and to strive to exceed their own expectations by finding purpose in their lives, and living their lives with purpose.

“Graduates…when you align yourselves with your purpose, things that you may think of as hard work [become] not really hard,  nor …work. It’s your purpose, your mission, your life.” Dr. Chisholm-Burns encouraged the graduates to build their careers and personal lives on “principles, values, character and integrity.  Let these be your mechanisms of action.  Remember that your purpose should be about caring, giving, loving, sharing and promoting.”