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Around the World 

International Education: Mission Not Impossible

Providing care to residents of Belize, Drake’s pharmacy faculty and students practice their skills and improve their cultural awareness.

International experiences have been a part of Drake University’s pharmacy program since 1997, when three students visited Australia for a four-week community pharmacy practice experience. Drake has continued to expand its faculty and student involvement abroad, with learning opportunities in Canada, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and other countries—including, most recently, Belize.

From Unique Experience to Permanent Rotation

The program’s largest growth has come from the college’s partnership with Hillside International Healthcare in the Toledo District of Belize. Hillside International was established to supplement the national healthcare system in the Central American country. This faith-based organization provides care through many channels. It established a permanent clinic facility, mobile outreach clinics, community health worker training and community education for villages and school children. Drake’s pharmacy rotation was developed by a group of facutly that visited the clinic in 2008: Ms. Denise A. Soltis, assistant dean for clinical affairs; Dr. June F. Johnson, professor of pharmacy practice and department chair; and a faculty member from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The University of Iowa and Lipscomb University were later added to the partnership.

As a result, the clinic now has student pharmacist placements each month year-round. It runs on licensed volunteers from the United States and the United Kingdom. The rotation provides experiential opportunities for students in medicine, physical therapy, nursing, pharmacy and physician assistant programs from the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Germany and Austria.

Everybody Grows

The experience is multicultural and interprofessional. At Hill­side, student pharmacists work closely with medical students to select therapy and dosing for patients. They use their pharmacy skills and applications (PSA) training, a component of Drake’s Pharm.D. curriculum, to counsel patients on medication usage, and provide education to community members and school children on topics such as dental hygiene and safe water usage.

To date, more than 60 Drake Pharm.D. students have completed this rotation. The site also provides development for faculty members as they supervise the students while in Belize. The visit allows them to expand their skills in providing care to culturally diverse patients and makes them better suited to teach topics in cultural competency.

Soltis completed a sabbatical at Hillside during the spring 2012 semester. She helped the site further develop its pharmacy services, studied the interprofessional environment, and established additional experiential avenues for health science majors and students pursuing global and comparative public health concentrations.

“My experience has been transformative,” said Soltis. “I learned how to better communicate with different cultures, be creative in therapy to care for patients with limited resources and demonstrate more patience. I learned to appreciate the simple things in life that in the United States we take for granted.”

Patients Provide Healing, Too

Hearing traumatic stories from patients was not uncommon for Soltis while in Belize. She recalls helping a four-year-old girl who lost half her foot in a machete accident. The child came into the clinic several times to get her dressing changed. Soltis gave her some pain medication and helped distract her from the discomfort of the procedure.

The girl’s mother shared with Soltis that while the child was being treated in the hospital, her positive outlook never wavered. During her stay in the amputee unit, she saw many patients suffering from diabetes and missing parts of their legs. The girl looked around at the other people in the unit and said to her mom, “at least I have my leg.”

Questions Lead to Cultural Clues

In addition to experiential rotations, more international topics are being incorporated in the Drake pharmacy curriculum. For example, a thread in the PSA series focuses on developing skills in the journey toward cultural competence.

This series expands on what the college did previously to teach student pharmacists to counsel patients from different backgrounds. Students must now examine ways in which culture, race and socioeconomic status can affect patient outcomes. PSA teaches how to elicit health beliefs from patients through guided questions, and how to plan care with those health beliefs in mind. In the second year of the doctor of pharmacy program, PSA students complete a diversity service experience that places them in sites where there are multicultural patient populations and lets them practice providing care to different populations.

The College of Pharmacy will continue its work of preparing global citizens. Plans for additional faculty development programs are under way to help educators incorporate more international topics into their individual classes. Through these opportunities and more, Drake is well on its way to making it a mission accomplished.

Adapted with permission from an article in Drake University’s Blue magazine.

What’s Going on in GAPE?

It’s been a busy two years for the Global Alliance for Pharmacy Education. GAPE leaders met during the 2012 AACP Annual Meeting to discuss key initiatives in pharmacy education reform across Europe and the Americas.

In October, representatives from all GAPE member organizations—along with the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education and invited guests from the Pan American Health Organization and from Africa—met during the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) Centennial Congress in Amsterdam. Attendees discussed a variety of important topics, including:

  • four Webinars GAPE will offer member organizations in 2013;
  • the Asian Association of Schools of Pharmacy profile of programs for their region that might be replicated by other GAPE organizations;
  • the need to determine the scope of pharmacy practice in countries represented by GAPE member organizations; and
  • how GAPE and FIP might do more work together in the future.

Don’t forget to check out the GAPE Web site, www.gapenet.org, which allows individual members of GAPE organizations to explore shared resources, read the latest news, and find out when and where member groups will have their annual meetings.

© 2014 American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy
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