I’m sitting here listening to some music. There’s nothing better than blasting an old album through the stereo at the end of a long day to unwind and reflect. This time it’s R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People. At first I wasn’t quite sure what I should say in this message, however, I was able to find inspiration from some defining people and moments in history. Before I tell you what I have concluded, I want to assure you that I am deeply touched by the cards, phone calls, and emails of support that I have received. I do not do my job to receive thanks, although I am deeply grateful for it. Instead, I want us to all acknowledge our Unsung Heroes, including all the women and men who are serving on the front lines of education, providing preceptorship and clinical service, and especially those who organize experiential sites, keep student services going, administer and arrange examinations, keep finances in order and our communication flowing, trouble shoot our technology, book and manage meetings, and maintain our laboratory equipment. These individuals are the people to whom we should be profoundly beholden for keeping us afloat during these turbulent times. Not me. My compliments to you all.
In a crisis such as this, it is customary for someone in my position to instill wisdom and pass on knowledge to those affected. I have looked for some further inspiration to guide me. In 1908, our first University of Alberta President, Henry Marshall Tory, said "the modern state university has sprung from a demand on the part of the people themselves" and promised "that knowledge shall not be the concern of scholars alone. The uplifting of the whole people shall be its final goal." To sum up the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences today and what I have seen demonstrated time and time again through this crisis, I say to everyone that I truly believe it is possible in this institution of ours to help build a healthier society – dare I say to “Uplift It”. The COVID-19 pandemic has unequivocally demonstrated the important role our Faculty plays in educating and training pharmacy students, as we help frame and evolve the pharmacy profession itself as an essential service and a societal necessity.
Our motto at the University of Alberta is “Quaecumque Vera”, which means “Whatsoever things are true.” But what is truth? Our Class of 2020 has grown up in a world of technology. You are an exceptionally well-trained, plugged-in screen time platoon. We are in a time of “fake news” and “alternative facts.” Distinguishing what is real from what is false is not always clear. Facts are important, and our search for truth is critical. We must all rummage through inaccurate news and find the concrete pharmaceutical and biomedical information. Have confidence that throughout your Pharmacy education we have provided you with the tools and training to interpret this data optimally though the noise and ‘deep fakes’ for the health of your patients and for the public good.
I am dispensing this advice forthwith as the Class of 2020 have nearly fulfilled their degree requirements and will soon join our professional ranks at a most formidable time. We likely won’t have the opportunity until later in the year for a graduation celebration. So, I am telling you now, how proud of you we are. This is a very special class for me, as we all started on the same day in our positions back in September of 2016. Welcome the opportunities and changes that are undoubtedly coming and adjust to them rapidly. I ask you to remain committed and engaged. I implore you to be confident about the present and the future and be the example that others will follow in our Pharmacy ministry. Go and challenge the world and be the leaders we need moving forward. My message has been steadfast that hope will triumph over adversity. I ask you to do what you can to continue to help build a planned health system dedicated to meeting human needs and responding to human wants - just like Tommy Douglas envisioned and championed. We are sending you out into an economically troubled and unhealthy world. But, I assure you that deep thoughts will always prevail over deep pockets, and that you will make a difference. We have confidence in you and as our indispensable history has shown, we will all do what we always do in difficult times, be there for each other.
You have all overcome many hurdles thus far, and we know that you will continue to do so. Hold through this onerous time. Stay the course. Be resilient. Be diligent. Be vigilant. Be courageous. Protect society and yourselves. We all have a role to play. Thank you for all of your uplifting hard work and determination.
Neal M. Davies BSc(Pharm), Ph.D., R.Ph.
Dean and Professor