Video courtesy University of Hawaii | Voice of Stephanie Salazar

New white coats for Hilo's student pharmacists

HILO, Hawaii: It was a big moment this weekend for aspiring pharmacists on the island.

The 89 students who make up the UH-Hilo College of Pharmacy Class of 2016 had their white coat ceremony on Sunday.

A crowd of over 400 watched the student pharmacists don their new coats with the help of university faculty here at the UH Hilo Performing Arts Center. The students then recited the “Oath of a Pharmacist” affirming their commitment to professionalism, respect, integrity and caring.

Mayor Billy Kenoi was onhand to address the crowd.

According to the university, which also provided this footage, the ceremony is a rite of passage into clinical practice for students entering their first year of the four-year professional program.

A big moment for these young adults…

“I think it hit me when the associated dean made his opening speech.” said student pharmacist Moani Hagiwara. “I kind of got a little chicken skin. A chill went through my body.”

“Couple seconds before I walked on the stage,” recounted Kyle Cabison, “and I seen the procession line and shake everybody’s hand and realized then, this is really it. My palms started getting a little sweaty, heartbeat got a little faster.”

This is the sixth class of the College of Pharmacy, which is the only fully accredited College of Pharmacy in Hawaiʻi and the Pacific region. A total of 355 students are currently enrolled in the pharmacy program, and half are Hawaii residents.

“I’m very excited,” said Hagiwara. “I grew up here on this island too so it’s a little bit of home pride as well. It’s exciting to have it here especially.”

“It feels really good,” agreed student pharmacist Allan Higa. “Now I feel like I’m getting like on the pathway to becoming a pharmacist. And I feel like I’m part of the community more and I’m obligated to serve them.”

It appears these students have chosen a good path in life. According to the university, 79% of the graduates of the Class of 2011 reported that they have secured a job or a paid residency. The average salary of graduates working full time is $117,000.

The college hopes to secure funding for a permanent facility on campus. The design phase for this impressive new building has already been completed. Its an important step. Currently, the college is spread out over four locations in the Hilo area. Also, its valuable accreditation hinges upon the construction of the central facility.