Touro College of Pharmacy Graduates Fifth Class

At Pharmacy Commencement Ceremony Assistant Surgeon General U.S. Public Health Service, Pharmacy Tells Graduates to “Build a Culture of Prevention"

May 31, 2016
Student Body President Philip Armendi and Class Valedictorian Mehwish Mahmood speaking jointly to their class at commencement.

New York, N.Y. – Members of the Touro College of Pharmacy Class of 2016 received their doctor of pharmacy degrees last week at a spirited ceremony led by their new dean, Dr. Henry Cohen. The College’s fifth commencement exercises were held at Columbia University’s Roone Arledge Auditorium, which was packed with the graduates’ families, friends and well-wishers on a warm spring afternoon.

“You will soon be licensed pharmacists,” Dean Cohen told the graduates, “one of the most important and trusted healthcare professionals – and the drug expert. Always place your patient’s care first…and be sure that you do no harm. We are confident that you will excel and lead in this profession.”

The Class of 2016 will spread out across the country in pursuit of a variety of different career paths – working as post-graduate residents or fellows; in retail or hospital pharmacies; in clinics, or for drug companies, public health organizations or government agencies.

A nod perhaps to the diversity in pharmacy in today’s healthcare workforce was the students’ first choice of keynote speaker - Rear Admiral Pamela M. Schweitzer, Pharm.D., United States Public Health Service, assistant surgeon general 10th chief professional officer, pharmacy. RADM was the first female appointed to the post, in August 2014.

RADM Schweitzer reminded the graduates that health care is “in the midst of transformation with so many new areas to explore: personalized medicine, specialty pharmacy, population health, big data, telemedicine, and information technology. Accept the challenge and if you have the opportunity or the desire to do something different – go for it.”

RADM Schweitzer said she was impressed with Touro College of Pharmacy (TCOP) and it’s “vision to improve the health of our communities.” She warmly welcomed graduate Christopher Mendoza, seated in the audience with his classmates, who will be joining the USPHS for an Indian Health residency at the Gallup Indian Medical Center in Gallup, New Mexico.

“As graduates, you will play a major role in not only advancing the profession but changing the culture of health in our country,” she said. “We need to build a culture of prevention so we are a nation that is as good at preventing illness as we are at treating it. Thank you for leading the way.”

The audience also heard from two student speakers chosen by the class – Philip Armendi and Mehwish Mahmood, student body president and class valedictorian, respectively. The two spoke together, alternating as they traded jokes and recalled memories of the past four years, including what they learned, some successes, failures and surprises. They paid tribute to their new dean, thanked their teachers, families, peers and colleagues and noted that their class is sending a record number of graduates on to post-doctoral residencies and fellowships.

“What are the problems that we will be the first to have ever solved? What will be our contributions to the field of pharmacy and to society?” queried Mr. Armendi, who will be heading out to the prestigious Global Pharmaceutical Sciences Postgraduate Fellowship at the University of Southern California-Allergan Pharmaceutical Industry Fellowship Program in Los Angeles.

Responded Ms. Mahmood, who will soon be a resident at VA North Texas Healthcare System in Dallas, the VA’s second largest healthcare system, “We’d like to believe that when each of us is able to answer that for ourselves, we will have come closer to realizing our true life’s work.”

About the Touro College and University System

Touro is a system of non-profit institutions of higher and professional education. Touro College was chartered in 1970 primarily to enrich the Jewish heritage, and to serve the larger American and global community. Approximately 18,000 students are currently enrolled in its various schools and divisions. Touro College has 29 branch campuses, locations and instructional sites in the New York area, as well as branch campuses and programs in Berlin, Jerusalem and Moscow. New York Medical College; Touro University California and its Nevada branch campus; Touro University Worldwide and its Touro College Los Angeles division; as well as Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Ill. are separately accredited institutions within the Touro College and University System. For further information on Touro College, please go to:

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Barbara Franklin 
Director of Communications