Little did Kimberly DeFronzo, R.Ph., M.B.A. ’88MS know when she came to the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in 1986 to pursue a Master of Science degree in Industrial Pharmacy, that attending St. John’s would become a family tradition.
Having grown up in suburban Connecticut, the young pharmacist wanted to expand her personal and professional horizons and found St. John’s to be the perfect place. “Living in New York City and studying at a diverse University like St. John’s gave me the opportunity to grow as a person,” said Ms. DeFronzo, who today is a Pharmacist/Consumer Safety Officer in the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
When two of her four children, sons Cameron and Connor, expressed interest in becoming physician assistants, Ms. DeFronzo did not hesitate to suggest the College of Pharmacy and Health Science’s program, as she recalled her memorable experiences there. Her family was already well aware of Ms. DeFronzo’s affection for the University because she has been a generous alumna, helping students obtain industry rotations and offering career advice for more than two decades, among many other alumni activities.
Ms. DeFronzo is well qualified to offer such advice. She began her professional life in community pharmacy, and then moved on to practicing in a teaching hospital setting. After graduate school, she worked for nearly 20 years for Schering-Plough Corporation, now Merck & Co., Inc., before joining the FDA. Throughout her career, she dedicated herself to helping students obtain valuable experience in the pharmaceutical industry and now at the FDA.
An FDA rotation is highly competitive and is viewed by the pharmacy world as a mark of distinction. But the application and selection process are rigorous and the opportunities are limited. Ms. DeFronzo not only shepherds the St. John’s students through the process, but also works tirelessly to recruit her colleagues as preceptors. Thanks to her efforts, 15 to 20 pharmacy students have this career-enhancing, four-week experience each year.
“I want St. John’s students to have the unique opportunity to learn at the FDA,” said Ms. DeFronzo. She also values the Vincentian spirit of service. “I truly believe in the importance of paying it forward.”
This willingness to serve runs in the family. “I mentor St. John’s students and show them my support,” said Cameron DeFronzo ’17GP, a Physician Assistant in the orthopedics department of NewYork-Presbyterian Queens. “I sponsor white coats and attend the white coat pinning ceremony. I feel fortunate that I can do this.”
Connor DeFronzo echoes that sentiment. “I enjoy interacting with the younger students in the program and helping them whenever I can,” he said. He will graduate in 2020, and has not yet decided on his specialty, but he knows service is in his future. “I am thinking about earning a graduate degree in a few years, and then teaching,” he said. “I would love to teach.”