2017 is a big year for Dr. Yalkowsky, affectionately known as Dr. Y, a professor in Pharmaceutics—he turns 75 and it is his 35th year teaching. Two of his graduates from the Pharmaceutics program, Jenny Johnson and Neera Jain, threw a celebration at La Paloma to honor his commitment to the profession and the students he has mentored along the way.
Associate Professor Paul Myrdal, Dr. Y’s protégé and colleague, was also honored. Jenny and Neera acknowledged that Myrdal is their local "extension" of Dr. Y and that both represent the "Wildcat" portion of their pharmaceutics family tree.
The response from alumni was overwhelming. More than 30 of Dr. Y’s alumni made the trek to Tucson, which is believed to be nearly 75-80 percent of all of his PhD students, and more than 50 people attended altogether. Alumni and friends came from all over the United States including New York, Boston, Washington DC, Indiana and beyond. Two even came from China!
Reminiscing and tributes to Yalkowsky and Myrdal were done through sharing stories, College of Pharmacy tours, interviews, and a team-based trivia game made of “Dr Y-isms” and “Dr Myrdal-isms.” Watch for an upcoming edition of the Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences dedicated to Dr. Y!
“I believe this tremendous turnout speaks volumes to the respect, support and pride that his students have for Dr. Yalkowsky and the Pharmaceutics program here at the College of Pharmacy,” said Myrdal. “Many of these students are now in high level positions at the FDA, within academia and the pharmaceutical industry.”
A special thanks from alumna Jenny Johnson, PhD, 2005
Personally, I feel that I owe Dr. Y so much gratitude just for giving me a chance when I doubt other professors would have. It's true that a lot of Dr. Y’s students were top-line achievers when they were accepted into his program. Many had undergrad degrees in chemistry or pharmaceutics with a 4.0. I entered the program with an undergrad degree in psychology and had to take additional classes while I was taking graduate classes in order to catch up.
I wasn't sure I would be able to make it through the program, but I did, and it was largely because of two things. First was Dr. Y’s willingness to sit and talk to me for hours about physical chemistry and how it is conceptually much more than a bunch of equations. Second was the senior students in the program including Neera Jain, Jeff Millard, Yung-chi Lee, Ping Li, Ludwig Zhao, Stacey Tannenbaum, Debbi Mazaik and Fernando Alvarez-Nunez who were willing to teach me what they knew. There's something really unique about how much the pharmaceutics students seem to come together and support each other. I think the way Dr. Y shares his knowledge so generously rubs off on the rest of us.
I also know that I wasn't the only "unlikely to succeed" student Dr. Y accepted into his program. There have been others along the way who also did succeed...which is why I think Paul Myrdal coined the phrase "Dr. Y’s haven for losers" many years ago. Dr. Y is willing to accept students that may appear lacking on some level. He must see potential that others don't, or he's willing to take on a challenge.
I have told Dr. Y many times how much I appreciate his willingness to work with me, having no suitable background. He has said that he feels he was in a similar position when he was at the same point in his life and someone –Dr. Zografi, took a chance on him.
Thank you, Drs. Yalkowsky and Myrdal!