The College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (CPHS) held an in-person, socially-distant commencement ceremony for professional program students on Friday, May 14th, 2021.  The undergraduate health sciences students were part of one of the four University ceremonies held on Saturday, May 15th. Receiving their degrees and doctoral hoods during the Hooding and Commencement Ceremony were 43 Occupational Therapy Doctoral (OTD) students and 94 Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) students. The three graduates from the inaugural Master of Athletic Training Class received their degrees as well. In addition to the doctoral and master’s degrees, many students also received additional degrees or designations. Also joining were four of the graduates from the 2020 graduating class. Receiving their Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences (B.S.) degrees during the Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony were 39 students. 

The Hooding and Commencement Ceremony included reflections from three of the graduating class student government representatives. Madi Sehmer (MAT), Madison Wood (OTD), and Areeb Nagamiyan (PharmD) reflected on their experiences from the time they stepped foot on Drake’s campus to graduation and provided words of encouragement for the graduates as they start their careers. 

Additional comments were provided by Iowa Athletic Training Association President, Jason Viel, who led the MAT graduates in the Oath of an Athletic Trainer; Iowa Occupational Therapy staff member, Denise Behrends, who led the OTD graduates in the Oath of an Occupational Therapist; and Iowa Pharmacy Association Vice President of Public Affairs, Anthony Pudlo, who led the PharmD graduates in the Oath of a Pharmacist. CoraLynn Trewet, PH’03, chair of the College’s National Advisory Council welcomed the graduates into the Drake CPHS alumni network. 

The College can boast an 81.13 percent match rate in the 2021 American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) Residency Match that far exceeds the national average of 64.95 percent. Outside of residencies and other post-graduate education, 2021 PharmD graduates will pursue fellowships, community pharmacy, or other specialized pharmacy positions. The 2021 OTD graduates are pursuing positions in pediatrics, hand therapy, mental health, and adult therapy. Two of the three inaugural MAT graduates are pursuing athletic training positions while the other is pursuing a PhD. 2021 Health Sciences students are pursuing post-graduate education or positions in health care administration and medical sales. 

Graduate awards announced during the ceremony: 

  • Morgan Hawkins (PharmD) – the Viatris Excellence in Pharmacy Award 
  • Natalie Ake (PharmD) – the Wolters Kluwer Clinical Drug Information Award of Excellence in Clinical Communication 
  • Monica Nikseresht (PharmD) – the Russell Johnson Outstanding Community Practice Graduate Award 
  • Jesse Upton (PharmD) – the Merck Royal Society of Chemistry Certificate of Excellence
  • Olivia Welter (PharmD) – the Jerry L. Karbeling Memorial Leadership Award and the American Pharmacists Association Senior Recognition Award
  • Keli Zemke (OTD) – Leadership and Professional Development Award
  • Chelsea Steffens (OTD) – Scholastic Achievement Award

“Congratulations to our 2020-2021 graduates,” said Renae Chesnut, dean and professor. “We have prepared them to become tomorrow’s health care leaders and look forward to seeing their career achievements.”  

From left to right: Dean Renae Chesnut, Monica Nikseresht (PharmD), Morgan Hawkins (PharmD),
Natalie Ake, (PharmD), Jesse Upton (PharmD), Olivia Welter (PharmD), Keli Zemki (OTD), Chelsea Steffens (OTD)