May 11, 2024

Photo Credit: Kris Qua

Commencement 2024

The 144th Commencement of Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences occurred on Saturday, May 11, 2024, at 1 p.m. at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) in Saratoga Springs, New York.

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Graduates At A Glance
  • 238 graduates total, with 290 degrees being awarded
  • 128 doctorates*, 114 bachelor’s, 32 master’s and 16 dual BS/MS degrees granted 

*More than 40% of students receiving doctorates are also receiving a bachelor’s degree

  • Students are from 12 countries, 21 states, and one U.S. territory (Puerto Rico)
  • 22-54 - ages of students
  • 10% (26 students) will stay at ACPHS for a further degree

Commencement Speakers

Mark Shaefer
Mark Shaefer

Mark Shaefer, PharmD, FCCP served as the 2024 Commencement speaker. Shaefer is a veteran in the field of HIV and antiviral pharmaceuticals. He was one of the earliest members and helped guide the formation of ViiV Healthcare. His intensive pharmaceutical experience is complemented by expertise in clinical pharmacy, academic teaching, and research.

“We are so pleased to welcome Dr. Shaefer as our 2024 Commencement speaker,” said Toyin Tofade, Professor and President, ACPHS. “His breadth of education and professional experiences in pharmacy and notably HIV research and pharmaceuticals will truly inspire our graduates – the future leaders of the health care field.” 

Shaefer’s pharmaceutical career in HIV and anti-virals began at Burroughs Wellcome where he worked on acyclovir and valaciclovir, and then moved to Glaxo Wellcome to oversee HIV clinical trials. He advanced to GSK, where his expertise over the next nine years led him to more senior roles including group director and acting vice president. At GSK, Shaefer facilitated merger integration activities and later, as acting vice president, he led the US HIV program, co-chaired the US Commercial Strategy team, and represented HIV interests on the North American Medical Executive team.

In 2009, Shaefer left GSK to join ViiV Healthcare during its founding. There he led development efforts for a long-acting injectable integrase compound for HIV, prepared the organization to go public, and became one of ViiV’s three medical affairs heads. After five years in the initial role, he progressed to a position as global medical lead for Cabotegravir, a long-acting injectable drug for treatment and prevention of HIV. He retired briefly at the beginning of the COVID pandemic but returned to work for Hengrui, a large Chinese Pharmaceutical company and helped to launch Luzsana Biotechnology in the US. There he was head of antivirals and worked on the non-oncology portion of the portfolio. He left Luzsana in August 2022 to pursue independent consulting.

Shafer has also held academic appointments as assistant and associate professor at the University of Nebraska, is widely published with more than 75 peer-reviewed publications and is valued as a reviewer for multiple industry journals.

He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from the University of California at San Diego and earned a PharmD from the University of California at San Francisco. Shaefer completed a clinical pharmacy residency at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Charles Middleton
Charles Middleton

Charles “Chuck” Middleton graduated from Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences with a doctorate in pharmacy and a Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences on the Pharmacy Skills Track. He held multiple leadership positions while at ACPHS including a three-year tenure as captain of the men's soccer team, president of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHSP) campus chapter, and vice-president of the ACPHS Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. Upon graduation, Chuck will pursue a PGY-1 pharmacy residency at the Syracuse VA Medical Center in Syracuse, NY.

Honorary Degree Recipients

Chris Del Vecchio
Chris Del Vecchio ’88, BSPharm, MBA

Del Vecchio is President and Chief Executive Officer of MVP Health Care. As a health care executive, he is a catalyst for innovation and systemic change and works tirelessly to make patients' lives easier and better.

Prior to joining MVP, he served in chief executive officer roles for health care organizations for nearly 30 years. A visionary strategist to his core, Del Vecchio also had a successful career as an entrepreneur and consultant in health care and technology.

Under his guidance, MVP has gained recognition for leading impactful regional community coalitions and a commitment to collaborative problem-solving. From securing naming rights to the MVP Arena to constructing Fitness Courts throughout New York State, he exemplifies MVP’s unwavering dedication to customer-centric care.

Del Vecchio holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Pharmacy from ACPHS and an MBA in health systems from Union College.

Leigh A. Briscoe-Dwyer
Leigh A. Briscoe-Dwyer ’87, PharmD, BSPharm, BCPS

A former ACPHS Board Trustee, Dr. Dwyer is the system director of pharmacy for the UHS Hospitals System in Johnson City, NY. 

She is currently president-elect of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, the largest association of pharmacy professionals in the United States. She will then serve for one year as president and one year as immediate past president.

Dr. Dwyer began her career as a clinical specialist in HIV and infectious disease at SUNY Stony Brook and has worked in various areas of pharmacy practice, including the pharmaceutical industry, with most of the last 20 years in pharmacy leadership roles.  

She holds a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy from Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and her Doctor of Pharmacy degree from St. John's University. 

For more about Dr. Briscoe-Dwyer, read her full ASHP biography.

Real Duteau
Real Duteau ’69, BSPharm

Real Duteau is a consultant in the financial pharmaceutical industries.

Most recently, Duteau served in senior leadership roles with Teva Pharmaceuticals and Novopharm Ltd. in Toronto, Canada.

He began his pharmaceutical career with Ayerst Labs in Rouses Point, New York. It was there that Duteau teamed up with ACPHS alumni, David Fox '58, to support the development of a manufacturing process for Advil. He also worked part-time for many retail pharmacies in NY and VT and ultimately purchased a pharmacy in Port Henry New York, which he maintained for many years.

During his career in the pharmaceutical industry, he became acutely aware that the research and manufacturing areas lacked the necessary pharmacists to perform the required work. This led to discussions with the deans and presidents of ACPHS to institute a pharmaceutical sciences curriculum to provide pharmacists for the pharmaceutical industry. This collaboration eventually became the foundation for both a BS and MS in Pharmaceutical Sciences at the College.


Graduate Stories

Morgan Gerber
The 'Cake Boss' of Inauguration

Pharmacy student Morgan Gerber, a self-taught baker, made the cake for President Tofade's Inauguration. Her side hustle was a semi-secret on campus until the event and Panthers got a taste of her work.

Students standing in mock pharmacy
Japan is Back in Rotation

ACPHS students can complete a clinical rotation in Tokyo through an agreement with Showa University. After a four-year hiatus due to COVID-19, the rotation has been reinstated. Kaito Tsutsui and Atalya Morgan were the first two ACPHS pharmacy students to return to Japan in May 2023. Tsutsui intends to work as a pharmacist in Japan in the future. The students compared differences in the countries' health systems and expressed concern over the higher out-of-pocket costs in the American health system. The opportunity allows for professional growth in a different cultural setting.

A Podcast on TV
Pharmacy + Gen Z = A Podcast

In the PharmZ podcast launched in August, Austin Lewerk and Dylan Knapp banter about life as Gen-Zers going through pharmacy school and contemplating their futures.

Mikayla and Tom
Rotation Produces Unexpected Effects

Among more than 500 rotations that PharmD students may choose is one at a local cannabis dispensary. ACPHS was likely the first in New York to offer such a rotation, which allows budding pharmacists to practice at the top of their license.

Gianna Franco
PharmD Candidate 'Dances' Again

Act I: The Stage Goes Dark It happened during the last run of a long day’s rehearsal. Gianna Franco was in 11th grade at Talent Unlimited High School in Manhattan and part of the teen ensemble of the Paul Taylor Dance Company. A natural talent pursuing her calling, she never thought twice about her next step.

Ryan Haak
An Inspiration to His Team

When he qualified to run at the Penn Relays, Ryan Haak '24 never expected to make it to finals. But his best race ever left him with a decision: compete at an elite national level for himself, or unite with his team for a USCAA victory?

Panther Profiles

Shloka Suresh Sahetya
Shloka: Sharing Her Culture With Campus

Shloka Suresh Sahetya comes from a family of pharmacists. She chose ACPHS for her own pharmacy education to experience life outside her native India, with the support of a close-knit campus. She has made strong friendships and supported DEI efforts.

Ellis Simmerly
Ellis: Engagement To Leadership

P4 Student Ellis Simerly discovered his career path in part through involvement in campus activities. He shares his thoughts on the value of going all in, once you find the groups that are best for you. "Your choices make you who you are," he says.

Britney Mbeng
Britney: Becoming A 'Public Health Pharmacist'

Britney Mbeng ’21 holds a bachelor of science in pharmaceutical sciences, with a minor in public health, and is pursuing her doctorate in pharmacy. She grew up in Brazil, then enrolled in the pharmacy program at ACPHS but was unsure if it was right for her. Over the last year, she has discovered she can merge the field with her passion for serving the community and for communicating to help others.

Samantha Marion
Samantha: Greek Life At ACPHS

Samantha Marion is a senior in the Pharmaceutical Sciences program, a resident assistant, thrower on the track team and vice president of the Phi Delta Chi pharmacy fraternity. She shares what she has learned through participation in Greek Life.

Desirea Harder-Neely
Desirea: Enhancing Her Med-School App

Desirea Harder-Neely came to ACPHS with two bachelor's degrees under her belt, looking to boost her application to medical school. She found a supportive community and a place to call home for perhaps a few more years.

Jonathan Braithwaite
Jonathan: A Pivot To Make Change

Though he originally visited ACPHS to prepare for med school, Jonathan will receive his bachelor's degree in public health in May and will continue with a master's in that field. Learn how his experience here cemented his commitment to public health.

Landon Thompson
Landon: Research Excellence

Master's student Landon Thompson '24 has spent four years contributing to work that seeks a new pathway to cure HIV. He has taken the potential impact of the work seriously, asking himself, "What if I just contribute one small step?"

Charles Middleton
Charles: Defining the Class of 2024

Charles (Chuck) Middleton is a pharmacy doctoral candidate in the Class of 2024. During his six years at ACPHS, he has been captain of the men's soccer team for three years, president of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists’ campus chapter and vice president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. After graduation, he will be a pharmacy resident at the VA Medical Center in Syracuse, New York.

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