Photo Journey: The First Annual Golden Mortar Awards
Moments from the celebration of the Classes of 2023 and 1973
Story by Ryan McDaniel | Photo credit Danny Alexander & Emma Ives | Published May 16, 2023
The First Annual Golden Mortar Awards
The First Annual Golden Mortar Awards were held at the iconic Varsity Theatre on Franklin Street. The venue's marquee announced this special event, a Hollywood-style awards show to celebrate students, faculty, preceptors, and alumni of the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy.
Setting the Scene
The lobby of The Varsity was transformed to a red-carpet welcome complete with movie posters featuring faculty from the School.
Attendees enjoyed popcorn in custom-printed Carolina Blue popcorn bags, and soda, courtesy of the Pharmacy Alumni Association who hosted the Golden Mortar Awards.
The Awards Table
Twenty-seven awards were given to recipients throughout the night.
The First Annual Golden Mortar Awards were emceed by Libby Powell, PY4 Class President, and Dr. Adam Persky, Associate Dean of Professional Education. Here they give their opening monologue.
The George H. Cocolas Student Body Award
Neel Swamy received the George H. Cocolas Pharmacy Student Body Award. He was selected by his peers for having a heart for the underserved, a passion for mental health, and a focus on advocating for diversity and inclusion. He served five times over as a teaching assistant, completed two research projects, jointly wrote several publications, and two days after the awards graduated with a dual PharmD/MPH degree.
The Reddick-Wicker Award
Tazche Turner received the Reddick-Wicker Award in recognition of her commitment to increasing diversity and inclusion at the School through serving on the Social Equity and Inclusion Committee, supporting Candidate’s Day sessions, assisting with recruitment efforts, and leading efforts to increase the social capital of our underrepresented students.
The Mikey Nam Award for Well-Being and Resilience
Valeria Laboy Collazo was the recipient of the Mikey Nam Award for Well-Being and Resilience. Valeria arrived to pharmacy school with limited knowledge about American culture, yet she has strived to be a trustworthy friend to the entire student body and organized efforts to highlight the importance of resilience and of prioritizing mental health.
Congratulations to the Class of 2023
During the Golden Mortar Awards, two short videos were played. They featured faculty, staff, and preceptors offering words of congratulations, wisdom, and encouragement for the Class of 2023. View the first video here!
The M.L. Jacobs Award in Medicinal Chemistry
Emma Meyer received the M.L. Jacobs Award in Medicinal Chemistry. She distinguished herself through her excellent performance in medicinal chemistry classes as well as her research involvement in the development of novel therapeutic options to treat Alzheimer’s disease.
The Pharmacoengineering and Molecular Pharmaceutics Achievement Award
Cassie Donnell was this year's recipient of the Pharmacoengineering and Molecular Pharmaceutics Achievement Award. She was selected not only demonstrated an exceptional passion for novel drug delivery systems, but also exhibited outstanding infographic skills in creating clear and concise summaries of complex treatment plans for patients.
The James L. Creech Award in Pharmacotherapy and Experimental Therapeutics
Esha Thakker was recognized with the James L. Creech Award in Pharmacotherapy and Experimental Therapeutics. She contributed substantially to the conduct of research assessing the effect of body habitus on the pharmacokinetics of bevacizumab in pediatric and adult patients with solid tumors, under the mentorship of Dr. Bill Zamboni. Findings from her work suggest a need for novel methods for individualized dosing of antibodies for cancer.
The John C. Hood, Sr. Award in Practice Advancement and Clinical Education
Kyle Jansen received the John C. Hood, Sr. Award in Practice Advancement and Clinical Education. In his nomination, one preceptor said of him, “His knowledge base is strong and he is extraordinarily responsive to feedback. He was able to offset a significant amount of the pharmacists’ workload due to being efficient with his time and the tasks provided.”
The Irvin Graham Award in Pharmaceutical Policy and Outcomes
Grace Trull Marley was this year's recipient of the Irvin Graham Award in Pharmaceutical Policy and Outcomes. She distinguished herself by exceeding the rigorous demands of the PharmD curriculum, all while maintaining an exceptional 3.915 GPA. Additionally, she serves as a Research Associate on a Naloxone Access project under the direction of Dr. Delesha Carpenter.
Top 10 Things We Learned in Pharmacy School
Libby Powell entertained the audience with her David Letterman style Top 10 list.
The Jamie Gasaway Kiler Patient Care Award
Kendra Gee-Rodriguez was recognized with the Jamie Gasaway Kilar Patient Care Award for her abilities to fully acclimate to the clinic workflow and build strong relationships with the providers. She also actively identified opportunities to educate patients in a non-judgmental way, providing thoughtful and intelligent recommendations.
Claude Paoloni Preceptor of the Year: Stephanie Iyer
Stephanie Iyer of the UNC Neurology Clinic was the first of three recipients of the Claude Paoloni Preceptor of the Year Award. One of the students who nominated her shared, “She was the best preceptor I’ve ever had. She recognized I could be pushed past what was expected. She allowed me to build confidence in myself by giving me more feedback and allowing me to run patient visits. She was a great mentor with an abundance of advice.”
Claude Paoloni Preceptor of the Year: Tiffany Barber
Tiffany Barber of Hillsborough Pharmacy was the second of three recipients of the Claude Paoloni Preceptor of the Year Award. One of the students who nominated her said, “She is highly deserving of this award because of how much she dedicates herself to the well-being of her community and the impact she has through her work. It was eye opening to see how much work they do to ensure they get their patients access to medications and help with adherence. This was the best community experience I could have ever asked for.”
Claude Paoloni Preceptor of the Year: Sophia DeBerry
Sophia DeBerry of Carolina East Medical Center was the third of three recipients of the Claude Paoloni Preceptor of the Year Award. One of the students who nominated her stated, “I can think of no preceptor more deserving of this award. She went above and beyond to tailor the experience to my interests and goals, while simultaneously challenging me to get out of my comfort zone. She confidently asserts her knowledge and works tirelessly to promote our profession and the unique skill sets that pharmacists offer.”
Congratulations to the Class of 2023
During the Golden Mortar Awards, two short videos were played. They featured faculty, staff, and preceptors offering words of congratulations, wisdom, and encouragement for the Class of 2023. View the second video here!
The Office of Professional Education Academic Excellence Award
Marshall Winget was recognized with the Office of Professional Education Academic Excellence Award for graduating with a 4.0 GPA and having completed a Research and Scholarship in Pharmacy (RASP) project under the mentorship of Dr. Craig Lee. He was president of the Student College of Clinical Pharmacy, a member of Rho Chi, and has served on numerous committees for the School.
The Lynn F. Kieffer Excellence Award
Brandyn Wilcox received the Lynn F. Kieffer Excellence Award. He was selected because of his fantastic communication skills with patients, staff, fellow students, and faculty alike, carrying himself with professionalism and always representing the School and the profession well. He is accountable, conscientious, and a good citizen and is well respected by his Pharmily.
The F.O. Bowman Award
Bessie Cao was the recipient of the F.O. Bowman Award for her outstanding achievement in the Research and Scholarship in Pharmacy (RASP) Program. Bessie presented her RASP poster at the 20th International Vasculitis and ANCA Workshop and has submitted an original manuscript based on her work to the Journal of Managed Care and Specialty Pharmacy.
The Kappa Epsilon Award
Dhrumi Patwa was recognized with the Kappa Epsilon Award after she led in helping combat the opioid epidemic serving as Vice President for the Student Pharmacists Opioid Misuse Prevention (StOMP), as well as helping patients with substance use disorders through harm education. Her volunteerism also included mentorship through MFLIP, providing care to the underserved through SHAC, peer mentoring, and volunteering at home in India at a senior living facility.
The Phi Lambda Sigma Leadership Award
Ashley Gleaton received the Phi Lambda Sigma Leadership Award. Ashley empowered her peers through national efforts with the biotechnology company Nucleate to create a more diverse venture capital industry, as well as through community efforts leading SNPhA to integrate minority students into industry.
Improvised Audience Interaction
Libby chatted and joked with audience members in a memorable interlude between award announcements.
PY1 Instructor of the Year
Adam Persky was recognized with the PY1 Instructor of the Year Award. One nomination for Adam reads, "He has been a part of the PY1’s experience from the beginning to the end, all the way from Pathophysiology to Pharmacokinetics. As a professor he was always able to connect and bring joy to the lives of students through different means, such as cracking jokes or getting us to sing multiple happy birthdays every morning before class."
PY2 Instructor of the Year
Suzie Harris received the PY2 Instructor of the Year Award. In their nomination for Suzie, one student says, "She has consistently looked out for us students and prioritized our needs, both academic and personal. She is an incredible teacher and mentor and truly wants students to learn and thrive. She continues to make an effort to get to know us on an individual level and makes every student feel welcome and appreciated."
PY3 and Overall Instructor of the Year
Dennis Williams was the recipient of both the PY3 Instructor of the Year and the Overall Instructor of the Year Awards. In nominating Dennis for the awards, a student recalled, "He has provided our class with the backbone of our foundational pharmacotherapy and pharmacology knowledge since PY1 year. He continues to challenge our academic experience, and his leadership and teaching styles, coupled with his subtle sense of humor, made our learning experience delightful."
Honoring the Class of 1973
In addition to celebrating the Class of 2023, the Golden Mortar Awards honored the Class of 1973. This year marks a special milestone for the class - fifty years since graduating from the UNC School of Pharmacy. Over the past five decades, they have made an incredible impact in their communities and on the profession of pharmacy. At the Golden Mortar Awards, they were officially inducted into the 50-Plus Club, a special group of distinguished alumni of the nation’s top-ranked pharmacy school.
Pinning Ceremony for the Class of 1973
As a token of the milestone of welcoming the Class of 1973 to the 50-Plus Club, the Pharmacy Alumni Association conferred a special gold pin to each attendee from the class. As the Pharmacy Alumni Association Vice President welcomed the members, the pins were presented by current class presidents.
The Samuel B. Burrus Family Award for Community Service: Christian Brown
Christian Brown was the student recipient of the Pharmacy Alumni Association's Samuel B. Burrus Family Award for Community Service. One nomination describes her as one of the most selfless people to walk our halls—someone who genuinely cares about her community. She is actively involved in her church, helps build houses with Habitat for Humanity, and contributes to various other volunteer activities.
The Samuel B. Burrus Family Award for Community Service: Mary Hooks
Mary Hooks was the alumni recipient of the Pharmacy Alumni Association's Samuel B. Burrus Family Award for Community Service. Mary is a dedicated advocate for health professions education. In her church, she leads mission activities, including helping immigrant families get on their feet when they arrive in North Carolina. She embodies the values of service and servant leadership.
The Pharmacy Alumni Association Distinguished Service Award
Tab Waldrop received the Pharmacy Alumni Association Distinguished Service Award. He was selected for this award because he has committed time, energy, and enthusiasm to the School at a level few can boast. He has provided strategic guidance through service on the PAA Board of Directors, the Pharmacy Foundation Board of Directors, the School’s Strategic Plan Committee, and the UNC Board of Visitors, to name a few. Most recently, he led the School’s Campaign Cabinet, an alumni volunteer board that helped the school raise $211 million in the Campaign for Carolina.
The Meritorious Service Award
Pam Joyner was recognized with the Meritorious Service Award. Pam is a thoughtful and kind leader, widely valued and respected by those in our community for decades of service to the School, for mentoring younger faculty, for developing many programs, including the Rural Health Scholars Certificate Program, and passion for helping our students.
The Boka Hadzija Student Excellence Award
Libby Powell received the Boka Hadzija Student Excellence Award. She was selected by her peers for her tireless efforts advocating for her class while at the same time making our School immeasurably better. She has served as a valued advisor to the Dean and to the School’s leadership team, providing a true representation of the student voice as we navigated our re-accreditation and COVID. Additionally, she has worked on three research projects, two poster presentations, served as a pocketbook guide editor for the Student College of Clinical Pharmacy, led recruitment for Phi Delta Chi, was inducted into the Phi Lambda Sigma Pharmacy Leadership Society, and served as a teaching assistant for two courses.
Awards Show Afterparty
After the Golden Mortar Awards, students enjoyed an afterparty at Still Life, just down Franklin Street from the Varsity Theater
Thank you for joining us for this photo journey of the First Annual Golden Mortar Awards. We are proud to celebrate the Class of 2023 and to honor the Class of 1973. A special thank you to all those who helped make this special event possible. We couldn't have done it without you.