When Danielle Cortez accepts her doctorate of pharmacy at the 134th Commencement on May 12, her cheering section will include three of her biggest motivations for pursuing pharmacy school: Her three young children.

Throughout four years of pharmacy school, Cortez juggled family and academic responsibilities, worked at Kaiser Permanente 20+ hours/week and served as president of the USC School of Pharmacy’s Skull and Mortar Honorary Service Fraternity, where she organized an annual event for local high school students that provides early exposure to the field of pharmacy.

Allison Frierson Bryant, USC School of Pharmacy’s Associate Director for Student Affairs and Financial Aid, noted Cortez’s leadership and remarkable time-management skills have made her a role model to other students.

“She always steps up and leads,” Bryant said. “She’s very organized, dependable and can get other people to rally around a challenge.”

Having the support of family and friends, plus a strong desire to ultimately help others through the pursuit of pharmacy, made it possible to juggle so many responsibilities and overcome obstacles on the road to her pharmacy degree.

“Passion has allowed me to make the most out of every day I’m blessed with and to keep moving forward,” Cortez said.

After commencement, Cortez will remain at USC for one more year, completing the Ambulatory Care Residency Program.

“I want everyone to know that it is possible to achieve your goals,” Cortez said. “Nothing is impossible. As long as you stick to what makes you happy and dream high, you can reach the stars.”

— Michele Keller