‘A new era’: Class of 2024 pharmacy students address racism, the coronavirus pandemic in new pledge


Image via PittPharmacy on YouTube

Members of the School of Pharmacy’s class of 2024 took their oath of professionalism at their white coat ceremony on Jan. 29, with students and family attending through Zoom.

By Punya Bhasin, Staff Writer

For Shay Roth, the class of 2024’s new pharmacy pledge is an important first step in addressing the impacts of racism in health care and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It feels just one step towards making a more inclusive health care community,” Roth, a first-year pharmacy student, said. “I’m really, really happy that we were given that opportunity to take that pledge with our peers and start to see change within the health care system.”

Roth was one of the three writers for the School of Pharmacy class of 2024’s new “pledge of professionalism.” Roth wrote the pledge alongside Abby Stewart, Rena Reid, Arjun Narain and Samantha Freiter, and the entire class recited it at the School’s white coat ceremony on Jan. 29. Roth said Patricia Kroboth, the dean of the School of Pharmacy, asked the class officers to adjust the pledge, following a similar move from the School of Medicine last fall.

This new pledge of professionalism was an edited version of the original that now includes the acronym “RACE,” which stands for recognize, advocate, commit and educate. Roth said this addition was necessary because the original didn’t properly address the disparities marginalized groups experience in health care and amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Whenever we rewrote the pledge we really focused on the COVID-19 pandemic,” Roth said. “We also paid homage to the social justice movements and police brutality, so we honored those lives who had been taken innocently and brought attention to the fact that people of color and LGBTQ communities are often not given the same health care treatment.”

The officers incorporporated these changes further in the newly edited preamble. In this preamble they honored the lives lost due to COVID-19 and paid respects to the civil rights activism that occurred last year.
“As I embarked on my development in 2020,” the new preamble states, “a year pervaded by the COVID-19 pandemic with its loss of lives and livelihoods, a national recognition of civil rights activism, and divisive politics, my pledge to inclusion, unprejudiced compassion and equity is more important than ever.”
Roth said she felt a lot of pressure to rewrite the pledge to reflect this class’s commitment to ensuring equitable medical treatment for everyone. 

“We wrote the pledge so that the class of 2024 has a constant reminder to give the best service possible to all patients, and specifically focusing on marginalized groups, and those who the system has failed over the years,” Roth said.

Tina Zhang, a first-year pharmacy student who took the new oath with the class of 2024, said she felt that she was becoming a part of a bigger change for the community.

“There’s still a lot of racism in the medical field, but I think that with this new oath it will help bring us into a new era of change and awareness for medical professionals and help us all get a bit closer to achieving equality within the health care field,” Zhang said.

Benjamin Davic, a first-year pharmacy student who also took his oath during the white coat ceremony, said his first year in pharmacy school has been abnormal due to the pandemic and online classes. But with the oath changed, he said he thinks it gave a more personal touch to a ceremony that may have felt sad due to it needing to be virtual.

“I definitely think that since the pharmacy school rewrote the oath, it was a sign that the school cares about us, and understands how difficult it has been,” Davic said. “It was just good to be a part of a class where the oath was changed for us, because that is something that doesn’t happen.”
For pharmacy students of color like Zhang, she said she hopes this is a sign for all others working in medical professions to revisit their duties and reflect so that there can be a better tomorrow.
“I think that the rest of the medical field should follow suit,” Zhang said. “I do hope that they revisit this oath each year to make sure that it’s still viable to any new societal issues that arise.”

A previous version of this story said Roth, Stewart and Freiter wrote the oath. Reid and Narain also wrote the oath. The article has been updated to reflect this change. The Pitt News regrets this error.