A Rite of Passage for Lebanon’s Future Pharmacists
PharmD and pharmacy resident graduates bid LAU farewell armed with expertise and the commitment to serve their patients and community.
Twenty-eight PharmD and four postgraduate year 1 (PGY1) pharmacy resident graduates – cohorts 1 and 2 – from the School of Pharmacy celebrated the beginning of their professional journey during the hooding and graduation ceremony on the LAU Byblos campus, in the presence of LAU President Michel E. Mawad, Provost George E. Nasr, Dean of the School of Pharmacy Imad Btaiche and the school’s faculty.
The graduate PharmD program is the only such program outside the US that is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education, while the PGY1 pharmacy residency program provides students with a hands-on experience in clinical practice, education and research, including rotations – conducted at the LAU Medical Center-Rizk Hospital – in internal medicine, critical care, cardiology and infectious diseases, among others.
Recently, the PGY1 residency program obtained a four-year accreditation from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) – with retroactive effect from 2019 when residents first enrolled – placing it on a par with residencies in the US.
“You will be in the midst of trying times when the mettle of men and women is tested, and their worth determined,” Dr. Mawad told the graduates. “Remember what your alma mater has given you: science tempered with the spirit of service, expertise coated with genuine compassion, and know-how enriched with the purpose of helping others to the very limit of your ability.”
“My confidence in you is unshakable and so is my certainty that you will excel,” he added. “The world needs you for forging a more humane future considerably better than today.”
Dr. Btaiche beamed with pride as he congratulated the 23rd cohort of PharmD graduates, pointing to the recent accreditation of the residency program.
“The PharmD program was started at LAU with the premise of graduating pharmacists with the necessary skills to improve the health of people and the patients as well,” he said. “Here we are today jointly graduating the PharmD students as well as the step-up PGY1 pharmacy graduates. This is an amazing accomplishment for our faculty, for our university hospital and for LAU.”
“What is important today, equally to having residents and PharmD graduating together, is how we are facing the many challenges, nationally and globally, with a sense of commitment and determination, with hope for the future. We will never give up,” he added. He further urged graduates never to compromise on moral values and quality of work.
In her speech, valedictorian and PharmD graduate Celia El Halabi looked back at how far her class had come, from “memorizing medicinal chemistry flashcards to injecting oranges with saline.”
“We lost countless nights of sleep, we survived on a diet of coffee, we missed birthdays, gatherings, weddings, and funerals,” she said. “We worked so hard to get here!”
El Halabi described the past two years as “unprecedented.” Yet, while the journey was fraught with challenges, she saluted her peers for making the best of it “despite all the highs and lows, peaks and troughs that we went through. We have persevered through difficult times and have found that there are no limits to what we can do.”
In a nod to her professors and mentors, El Halabi expressed her gratitude for “the privilege to work alongside you and the people who have shaped us into strong capable healthcare providers that we are becoming today.”
“While we may not know what the future holds for us, we know that we hold the future!” she said.
In an emotional speech, Residency Program Director at the School of Pharmacy Nibal Chamoun acknowledged the long journey that finally saw the efforts of SOP’s faculty come to fruition with the establishment of the ASHP-accredited pharmacy residency in Lebanon.
“When you belong to an oasis, the LAU School of Pharmacy, a haven for pharmacy practice education in the Middle East and you have people around you who believe in practice change, you make things happen!”
Addressing the graduates, Dr. Chamoun said that what they had demonstrated in the face of challenges was sheer “grit.”
“Grit – the strength of character, perseverance of effort combined with the passion, or courage and determination despite difficulty,” she said. “Each one of you stood as a frontliner serving our patients at the LAU Medical Center.”
She recalled the day of the tragic August 4 Beirut Port explosion, when the rounding students fled the hospital out of fear only to return shortly after in order to serve “your patients just as your profession calls for. Even during the times when we as faculty weren’t able to make it onsite, our residents were always there, role modeling for our PharmD students.”
“I am so proud of you. We, all of us at LAU and LAU Medical Center are so proud of you.”
“You have been taught by faculty and trained in an institution that believes in practice change against all odds,” she added. “Please do not be discouraged by hardships, they only make us stronger.”
In addition to the graduation certificates, the Sara Khatib Inspiration Award was given to BS in Biology and Minor in Psychology student Sara El Koussa. The award – in memory of Sara Khatib, a former pharmacy student, who passed after a long battle with cancer – recognizes students who “sustain a positive attitude and have made an impact on others.”