Henock Woldu: Pursuing the American Dream Through Education

By Mike Billings and Susan Merrell

When Henock Woldu attended the UCSF School of Pharmacy commencement ceremony this month, it was about more than receiving his PharmD degree.

For the immigrant from Ethiopia, it was also about blazing the trail of higher education for his family. He was the first to earn a doctorate, after being the first to attend and graduate from college.

Woldu emigrated in 2000 at the age of 11 with his parents and four brothers. Speaking little English, he worked hard through high school and gained acceptance to UC Berkeley. While a student there, Woldu returned with his father to Ethiopia, where he became aware of the poverty, lack of adequate drug delivery and health care, and low health literacy.

“This became a spark to me, something that I could do something about,” he said. He also noticed some of the same issues in the United States, and decided to go to pharmacy school to make a difference.

“He is interested in serving the underserved and has a charming personality and inspiring spirit,” said Cindy Watchmaker, MBA, MEd, associate dean of the School of Pharmacy.

The sentiment about Woldu wanting to give back was echoed by B. Joseph Guglielmo, PharmD, the school's dean, during the commencement ceremony on May 5. "Compassion, humility … the critical importance of giving back to the community. A man who has always made a difference, Henock Woldu has taken the next step. ... We could not be prouder."

Woldu's next step is a residency at UC Davis, where he will focus on either infectious diseases or hematology and oncology.

“My faculty, staff, fellow classmates and the entire UCSF community have allowed me to experience, learn and grow in ways I can’t put to words,” he said. “UCSF is truly an amazing institution and I am forever grateful for my education and all the amazing people I met here.”

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