East Meets West: Pharmacy Students Explore Global Issues

Pharmacy CareersPharmacy Careers August 2016

How do US pharmacy schools differ from those abroad?

How do US pharmacy schools differ from those abroad?

Pharmacy is a small world.

In pharmacy school, we hear this phrase almost daily as a reminder of the importance of networking in the classroom, at work, and at various pharmacy-related meetings and events throughout the year.

Forming connections with peers and colleagues is extremely important, yet networking at the international level is harder to foster. This past semester, I had the unique opportunity to take an elective course called Pharmacy Students East Meet West at The Ohio State University (OSU) College of Pharmacy. This course offered us a chance to explore global issues in pharmacy in our partnerships with 2 pharmacy schools in Taiwan: Tapei Medical University (TMU) and China Medical University (CMU).

During the semester, we had 2 interactions with the university students in Taiwan. The first interaction took place in an online chat room where we compared and contrasted the differences between pharmacy schools in the United States and Taiwan.

One of the most striking differences we noted was the cost of tuition in Taiwan. The Taiwanese students said their tuition was around $2000 per year, and they could not believe that our tuition was nearly $25,000 per year.

Another major difference was that most of the students in Taiwan do not hold jobs outside of pharmacy school. They said that if they do work, the most common job is as an academic tutor. In contrast, if I had to estimate, I would say that nearly 75% of the students in my class work in the community, hospital, or clinic setting.

The final major difference between our pharmacy schools was the course content. Traditional Chinese medicine is a major component for both CMU and TMU. For example, at CMU they take classes on herbalogy, pharmacology of Chinese herbs, and processing of Chinese herbs. Meanwhile, at OSU, we take only 1 semester on herbs and supplements. I think it would be interesting to learn more about herbal medicine because the field of complementary and alternative medicine is on the rise in the United States.

Our other interaction with the students at TMU and CMU took place in an online videoconference. Our discussion topic was smoking cessation, and we compared the role of pharmacists in both countries. The Taiwanese students gave their presentations through entertaining skits. They showed us some of the different herbal medicines and pressure points used to treat the symptoms associated with nicotine withdrawal.

The major differences between smoking cessation in the United States and Taiwan revolved around nicotine replacement products and reimbursement for cessation services. Interestingly, nicotine replacement therapy products are not sold OTC in Taiwan. They require a prescription and are thus not as easily accessible as they are in the United States. However, pharmacists who counsel their patients on smoking cessation in Taiwan are compensated for their services. This is something that we are pushing for in the United States, and perhaps we may see compensation in the near future as provider status legislation gains ground across the country.

I found the videoconference to be the most rewarding event of the semester. While the content of the conference was undoubtedly interesting, I found the interactions between the students and faculty of the different schools to be the most enriching.

Although our schools are more than 7700 miles apart, as pharmacy students, we all share the same goal of enhancing our education in order to provide the best possible patient care. This course pushed me outside of my comfort zone and challenged me to look at the field of pharmacy outside the context of US practice.

Kristen Nymberg, 2018 PharmD Candidate, attends The Ohio State University College of Pharmacy.

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