Caitlyn Brown heard her name called, walked across the stage of the Watters Theater in the Anderson Center and turned to the crowd. She lifted her right arm, then her left as a white coat was placed on her shoulders.
Brown and 89 classmates received their white coats Saturday morning, signifying their transition from undergraduate to preclinical studies at Binghamton University’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Science (SOPPS). She said during the entire ceremony, she almost couldn’t believe the moment had finally come.
“We’ve all been waiting on this for so long, so it’s very surreal,” Brown said.
While the wait may have seemed long for Brown and the rest of the inaugural class, SOPPS’ transformation from idea to reality was even more lengthy. Initial talks of launching the school began in 2010 and were brought to the forefront in 2012 through a proposal to BU President Harvey Stenger’s Road Map initiative. In 2014, Gov. Andrew Cuomo pledged his support for the project and construction of the school began at the site of the former Endicott-Johnson Shoe Factory last summer.
The construction of the $60 million, 84,000-square-foot facility has been funded by Cuomo’s office as part of the NYSUNY 2020 initiative, which aims to stimulate economic growth and strengthen the state’s academic programs. The building is expected to be finished by this spring, and the summer of 2018 has been pegged as a move-in date for students and faculty.
Brown said she didn’t mind having to wait for the building to be open.
“It’s so worth waiting,” she said. “Especially because the first year is mostly foundational anyway, so it’s not like that big of a deal that we’re not on the new campus yet. It’s kind of nice, it being my first year here, that I get to see the campus and be a part of it.”
Family, friends and faculty attended the ceremony, and Leigh Briscoe-Dwyer, a pharmacist and the vice president of clinical affairs at PharMEDium Healthcare Corp., was the keynote speaker. She urged students to embrace the responsibility that comes with being a pharmacist and a member of the school’s first class.
“Don’t shy away from pressure — embrace it, it signifies relevance,” Briscoe-Dwyer said. “And no one is more relevant to the professional pharmacy world today than you.”
Gloria Meredith, who was selected to be the school’s founding dean in 2015, said the ceremony was important for both the students and the University.
“The inaugural class is always special,” she said. “They’re the pathfinders — they’re the risk-takers. We’re very proud of their quality and know they’ll be great ambassadors for Binghamton University and the pharmaceutical profession.”
When fully enrolled after four years, the school will boast 350 students. Approximately 30 faculty and staff members have already been recruited; that number is set to grow to 50 within two years.
After students received their white coats, they recited the pharmacy oath.
“I will consider the welfare of humanity and relief of suffering my primary concerns,” they said in unison. “I will hold myself and my colleagues to the highest principles of our profession’s moral, legal and ethical standards.”
The school offers the eighth graduate pharmacy program in New York state. BU joins University at Buffalo as the only public universities in the state with pharmacy programs. Currently, students can earn a Pharm.D., needed to practice pharmacy, and in the future will be able to earn a doctorate in pharmaceutical sciences, which will be a research degree.