ETSU Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy celebrates graduates

Published 10:03 am Tuesday, May 7, 2024

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Members of the Class of 2024 at East Tennessee State University Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy received their doctoral hoods Friday, May 3, officially becoming part of the college’s 15th graduating class.  

The Hooding and Commencement ceremony was held in the ETSU Martin Center for the Arts, where 40 student pharmacists earned the Doctor of Pharmacy degree, part of ETSU’s commencement weekend.    

Dr. Debbie Byrd, dean of ETSU Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy and interim dean of the College of Nursing, thanked the graduating class for the mark they left on the college.  

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“We are so pleased you chose to go on the journey to become a pharmacist with us,” said Byrd. “You made this college your own, and you’re leaving it a better college of pharmacy than the one you found.”  

Byrd also praised their impact during COVID-19 and the challenges they overcame by starting pharmacy school remotely before transitioning to attending classes on campus. Their impact on the opioid crisis, as well as their success in research, leadership, and student organizations, was highlighted as well.  

Members of the graduating class helped the college’s American Pharmacists Association – Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA-ASP) Operation Substance Use Disorders (SUDS) win top honors for combating prescription drug misuse. 

ETSU President Dr. Brian Noland praised the Class of 2024 for their resilience and contributions during the pandemic.

“You have had to remain flexible and adapt to the evolving health care landscape, which included ever-changing PPE requirements, telehealth and a greater awareness of the importance of interprofessional care for patients’ complex and pressing health issues,” said Noland. “Amid all of this, you have not only survived but thrived.”

Bryce Sutton spoke on behalf of the graduating class.  

“In all the challenges and complexities of our profession, let us never forget the impact we can have on the lives of those we serve,” said Sutton. “Let us approach our work with humility, empathy and a commitment to lifelong learning, knowing that the trust placed in us by our patients is a privilege that must be earned every day.” 

Sutton was among the members of the ETSU Class of 2024 who were inducted into the 1911 Society. Named in commemoration of the year ETSU was founded, the organization honors the university’s most notable graduates from undergraduate, graduate and professional programs.  

Dr. Jeff Lewis, president of the Tennessee Pharmacists Association and director of clinical pharmacy at Holston Medical Group in Kingsport until 2021, offered encouragement to the class, as well. Lewis won the college’s Preceptor of the Year honor in 2016, 2017 and 2018. 

In addition to the doctoral hooding, several individual awards were presented, including academic awards to Kellee Brynae Geren, who earned the Pharmacy Valedictorian Achievement Award recognizing the highest-ranking student in the graduating class. In addition, Geren earned the Merck Award for Pharmacy Excellence. 

Other awards included the college’s Patient Care Award to Tabitha Sineath; the Gary Mabrey Community Service Award to Gabrielle Hall; the Guy B. Wilson Jr. Leadership Award to Riley Davis; the Viatris Institute of Pharmacy Excellence in Pharmacy Award to Sutton; the Wolters Kluwer Health’s Fact and Comparisons Award for Outstanding Communication Skills to Drew Smith; and the Baeteena M. Black Leadership Award to Samantha Keen.