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The Ultimate 2023 Roundup

The Top 10 Stories of the Year

minute read

Written by SOP Communications on December 18, 2023

What happened in 2023? At Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, a lot. Our alumni shared their experience with students and future pharmacists, our faculty continued to get creative in their teaching methods, our graduates had one of the highest NAPLEX pass rates in the nation, and we continued to find innovative ways to make pharmacy school more accessible and interactive.

Our Top 10

Hien Pham1. 2003 CU Pharmacy Alumna Overcomes through Resilience and Perseverance 

The late Hien Pham persevered through a cancer diagnosis as a student and continued the fight 20 years later. In May, just before her passing, she graciously made time to speak with us about why she found positives in every situation. "One day while doing rounds on the oncology floor, I encountered a medical student who was being treated for breast cancer and she seemed disheartened," Pham explained. "I shared my own experience with cancer and it seemed to lift her spirits. She thanked me for bringing her some hope. I have always known that it was my purpose to assist those suffering from cancer."


NAPLEX rates2. CU Pharmacy Graduates Have one of the Top NAPLEX Pass Rates in North America, Class of 2022 first-time pass rate is 96 percent

Why come to CU Pharmacy? Our faculty and staff dedicate time to student education and it shows. The Class of 2022 had a first-time pass rate of 96 percent. Only two other schools in North America saw higher scores. “I am tremendously proud of our graduates,” said CU Pharmacy Dean, Dr. Ralph Altiere, PhD. “The 2022 NAPLEX has an overall first-time average pass rate of 80 percent, making it one of the most challenging licensure exams. To see our students do so well on their first try is evidence of their hard work, and of the dedication of our faculty and student support staff."


Jeff Gold3. Wrestling with Fame CU Pharmacy grad featured in Netflix Documentary 'Take Your Pills: Xanax

Alumnus Jeff Gold is a leading psychiatric pharmacist at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Aurora, Colorado and a specialist on medications like Xanax and other benzodiazepines'. In his spare time, he runs New Era Pro Wrestling, a family friendly operation that brings people from all over the Denver-metro area together. Through New Era, he has raised money for charity, like the Epilepsy Foundation, ran a toy drive for the holidays, and a canned food drive for people in need.


Hilda Bi4. 2003 Alumna’s Professional Growth Matches the Evolution of the CU Skaggs School of Pharmacy Dr. Hilda Bi Ndikum looks back over the past 20 years since graduation

As a student in the Doctor of Pharmacy program, Ndikum first took pharmacy courses when the School was located on the University of Colorado campus at Ninth Avenue and Colorado Boulevard. She joined the faculty when the School relocated to the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, operating out of the Academic Office Building. Today, Dr. Ndikum continues in her faculty role today with the School now in its own dedicated building at Anschutz.


Lee Amaya5. CU Pharmacy 2018 Alumnus Credits Mentors in Shaping His Career Path in Pharmacy Dr. Lee Amaya built resilience to overcome adversity and mature as a professional in healthcare

Alumnus Lee Amaya is immortalized in a rap video he created while a student in the PharmD program. After the video ran, he cold-emailed it to Dr. Tim Gauthier (known as @IDStewardship). Gauthier loved it so much, he shared it across his platforms. They kept in touch, and years later Gauthier suggested Amaya interview for an Infectious Disease /Antimicrobial Stewardship pharmacist position. Today, Gauthier is Amaya's manager, and they get to "nerd out" on infectious diseases on a daily basis. 


Chris Aquilante6. Pharmacy Expertise Plays a Leading Role in Personalized Medicine

Pharmacists are leading the charge in the field of pharmacogenomics with their knowledge of how genetics influence how drugs work in the body. “We know that medications do not work the same way in all people,” explained Christina Aquilante, PharmD, Professor at CU Pharmacy and director of pharmacogenomics for the Colorado Center for Personalized Medicine (CCPM), a partnership between UCHealth and the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. “Pharmacogenomics helps explain some of the variability in the population by studying how genetic variations affect a person’s response to medications. The goal of this discipline is to use genetic information to help clinicians select the most appropriate medication and dose for a patient.”


Pipeline Program7. New Pharmacy Pipeline Program with CU Denver is Designed for a Guided Student Journey 7-year program provides fast-track to a Doctor of Pharmacy

This unique opportunity is designed for full-time, freshman college students at CU Denver who are interested in expanding the diversity of health care professionals in Colorado and to better serve the health care needs of the State of Colorado as a pharmacist. The program offers an individualized education experience, where students have close contact with advisors at both campuses and have access to resources at both campus locations.


Cancer research8. New Research Could Help Reduce Chemotherapy Side-effects Technique harnesses the body’s innate immune system

Tom Anchordoquy, PhD, hates cancer. And, for most of his professional life as a professor and researcher with the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, he has been focused on new ways to deliver drugs to tumors. His latest research, however, is taking a different approach. “Instead of focusing on drug delivery (getting more chemotherapy to the target tumor), this technique is more about reducing the side effects of chemotherapy, like losing hair, nausea and lack of appetite,” Dr. Anchordoquy said.


Class of 20239. The Class of 2023 Took the Road Less Traveled, and Sometimes, Paved Their Own

When the Class of 2023 started at Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, it was the fall of 2019. COVID-19 did not even exist. Online learning was not totally mainstream. Eager to get started, the class came to CU Pharmacy ready to pave their own path. Lauren Quintana, Tricia Brandenburg, Dorothy Agyemang, and Vinh Thai represent their graduating class and discuss their own journeys to PharmD.


Escape Room10. Infectious Disease Escape Room Tests Pharmacy Students' Knowledge Immersive strategies enhance student learning

At first glance, the Education South classroom at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus looked like any other health sciences education space. But the countdown clock prominently displayed on the screen, along with the playful tension in the room, indicated something a little different was going on. Welcome to the Pharmacy Room, part of the Infectious Diseases elective course offered to P3 students and taught by the ever-innovative Meghan Jeffres, PharmD



Topics: Faculty, Alumni, Students


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