One of the main reasons I chose to attend Howard University College of Pharmacy was its International Experiential Rotation program. Since 2013, the program has expanded from 3 countries to 5. Students have been selected to complete an international rotation in South Africa, Zambia, India, Ethiopia, and South Korea.
It is a 5-week opportunity for third- and fourth-year students to learn about how pharmacy is practiced outside of the United States and to learn ways to strengthen the system and optimize medication therapy given the specific population they will be working with. I was fortunate to go to Zambia, where I focused on HIV
management and pharmacovigilance at Livingstone Central Hospital, and this past summer, the program landed me on the continent of Asia in Mysore, India at JSS College of Pharmacy. Based on my 2 experiences, there is certainly potential for pharmacists to make a global impact, and if given the opportunity, all pharmacy students and pharmacists should take advantage of it.
Improve the Profession
In both Zambia and India, the Doctor of Pharmacy degree is a new concept. In both countries, many still hold a Bachelor’s degree or Master’s degree in pharmacy. In Livingstone, I worked in the ambulatory clinic where I dispensed and counseled patients on their antiretroviral therapy. It was a completely different setting than in the United States – a one-room pharmacy with log books for inventory, wooden shelves filled with various medications in no particular order, and one computer. But what was most remarkable was that, in spite of the simplicity and limited resources of the work setting, the pharmacy team was still able to reach out to each of their patients and provide the best care possible.
In India, the hospital is in the process of converting to electronic records, but until the conversion is complete, I completed my cases and pre-rounding notes reading handwritten progress notes. These are just a few examples, but at the end of the day, I realized that one must be open and willing to seeing different practices. There is not only one best way to accomplish one’s tasks and goals. Even though their practice is different from ours, it does not mean it does not work. These countries have their own barriers to overcome. But as the role of pharmacist continues to evolve, there is potential for pharmacists to help overcome the barriers and improve the practice, ultimately improving and growing the profession globally.
See the World
Students on international rotation focus on assisting pharmacists in drug therapy management, education, and research. Each country in Howard’s program has its own specific project and setting (e.g. university, hospital, ambulatory care, research). Whatever the project or setting, students are exposed to population-specific disease states as well the country’s health care system and learn to adapt to that country’s pharmacy practice.
In addition to learning about pharmacy, one the biggest perks of an international rotation was the travelling. In Zambia, I visited Victoria Falls, one of the natural wonders of the world, hiking from the top to the bottom where the falls meet the river, a place called Boiling Point. I also took a cruise along the Zambezi River taking in the wildlife and stunning sunset. In India, I visited Mysore Palace and several different temples and ate some amazing food. It was comforting to know that everybody around me wanted to help and that we all have this common passion for pharmacy. We all want to be pharmacy leaders overcoming the challenges and pushing the field to new heights. Building these professional and social connections with fellow students and pharmacists allowed me to share information and ideas. I only hope that one day our paths will cross again, and that the practice of pharmacy continues to move forward in our respective countries.
An international rotation can provide students with a purposeful educational experience that motivates them to make this world a better place. I owe much of my newfound perspectives to the classmates who have accompanied me on my international experiences, the people who I met on these journeys, and the faculty and staff who gave me the unique opportunity to represent Howard University globally.