As AACP moves to further facilitate international relationships, pharmacy schools share the learning opportunities that help advance global pharmacy education.
By Jane E. Rooney
Even before a pandemic swept across the globe at lightning speed, it’s been clear for some time that everything from politics to the environment to healthcare is connected on an international level. Our interconnectedness—fortified by the ease of travel and the speed of doing business and sharing resources online—necessitates that organizations and institutions think globally. The worldwide race to produce a coronavirus vaccine and the need for healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, to communicate and collaborate is just one example of this.
To that end, AACP has been considering how to broaden its global pharmacy education offerings. International memberships currently make up a small portion of the membership base, but AACP intends to pursue an expanded effort to bring in and engage new global members. “We have been expanding our international footprint for a number of years with services and programs. As our schools continue to expand their international collaborations, particularly with experiential education and exchanges, it’s become something we want to expand on as well to facilitate that dialogue and to make it easier for our schools to collaborate with international schools,” noted Terry Ryan, AACP’s director of enterprise systems and membership. “We feel now is the time to make more of a concerted effort and push. Hopefully we can facilitate increased collaboration between our members and international faculty as well.”
With AACP’s 2021 annual meeting slated to be held in Toronto, the timing is ideal to pursue greater global outreach, he added. Dr. Adam Persky, professor, UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy and AACP Board member, pointed out that AACP has always attracted people from around the globe to its meetings and the Board felt it made sense to formalize a path to membership. “This will give them access to the great resources AACP has as well as opportunities for networking,” Persky said. “Our goal is to promote pharmacy education, so who better to help do it globally than us?”
As the Board weighed how to move forward with a new global strategy, one key consideration was making sure current members continue to have access to all of the resources they value. “We didn’t want our current membership to feel like they were being deprived of anything and we wanted them to feel like they were gaining something in the process,” he continued. “We had to think about how many resources our global members want, what might be a good price point to encourage them to join but not be cost prohibitive. We want them to see the benefit of access to resources and the feeling of community.” In addition, “the manpower and resources of AACP can help members get access to more impactful resources and benefit from things like innovative practices, research access and collaborators, so the value for them is to collaborate with people who have been doing this for a longer period of time. We’ve been there and our experiences [at the doctorate level] might be helpful.”
A Stronger Partnership with FIP
AACP’s Council of Deans International Collaborations Task Force will explore various opportunities and initiatives that AACP member institutions can develop and/or become involved with in collaboration with institutions/organizations outside of the United States. Dr. Wanda Maldonado Dávila, dean, University of Puerto Rico School of Pharmacy, assembled the task force and helped outline its purpose and strategy. Charges for the task force include recommending frameworks to the Board to facilitate international relationships, and proposing mechanisms that can be used by colleges and schools of pharmacy to engage with institutions outside the United States in areas pertaining to education, service, practice and research. In addition, the task force will recommend programs and projects to support and strengthen the relationship between AACP and FIP (International Pharmaceutical Federation) to advance global pharmacy education.
Through Maldonado Dávila’s engagement with pharmacy education in the Americas, she understands that “there is a great deal to be learned from international academic pharmacy programs, and that concerted efforts should be made to propose mechanisms that can be utilized by our member institutions to facilitate the exchange of ideas and resources. Deliberate and collaborative international initiatives provide an additional path to enhance global pharmacy education,” she said.
Dr. Adam Persky
Dr. Ralph Altiere, dean and professor, University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, was selected to chair the task force in great measure because of his vast experience in global pharmacy education and his existing relationship with FIP as FIP Education chair. “When I was asked to head up this task force, my desire was that it needs to be collaborative not competitive. How do we strengthen that relationship between AACP and FIP for the purpose of advancing pharmacy education globally?” he said. Altiere described an effort between AACP and FIP’s academic institutional membership (AIM) unit to develop a Global Academic Leadership Fellows Program, which was set to begin as an intense yearlong program this year (now postponed due to the pandemic). “That’s an example of the relationship between AACP and FIP where we can do things together than benefit global pharmacy education but also elevate the stature of both organizations.”
FIP also will be piloting a partnership model between pharmacy schools in Africa that are part of the FIP-UNESCO-UNITWIN program and AIM schools in FIP, many of which are in the United States. “That’s another way AACP member institutions can become involved with FIP to advance pharmacy education,” he said. “A school has certain areas of expertise but also has gaps in its program, so we will look at finding a good match from another institution to help them address their gaps.”
For Altiere, global pharmacy education is an integral part of building a competent workforce. “It’s extremely important as we try to advance the role of pharmacy in healthcare—you have to have an education system that supports building the workforce. You’ve got to set up programs that will meet that need,” he emphasized. “There is a general movement to a more patient-centered care profession, so you need to have an education system that produces graduates who are prepared to provide those services. Decades ago in the United States, many schools had programs that were rich in science but short on clinical care. That’s changed, but there’s a lot of work to do to move programs along that spectrum. There’s enthusiasm for doing that but there are barriers to overcome when you want to change a program. That’s what FIP is trying to do, and AACP is trying to help. Advance science and practice globally to work toward the desired outcome, which is to improve the health of communities and of countries.”
Dr. Ralph Altiere
Innovating in Trying Times
UNC’s Persky pointed out that the coronavirus has illustrated the need for global cooperation on healthcare. “Our interconnectedness became very clear because of the pandemic,” he said. “Health problems in one part of the world are going to be a problem in another part of the world. To educate practitioners and talk about global health…if the training was there we could have looked at the spread of COVID.” He added that the United States learned from Asia how to contain and treat COVID-19, and then U.S. universities learned from each other about how to safely open up again.
“There is more access to manpower and research when you pursue global partnerships,” he continued. “We all learn from each other. Part of the reason people go into pharmacy is wanting to be sure everyone has access to healthcare, not just here but throughout the world.”
Although the pandemic has obviously put international travel on hold, made in-person meetings impossible for now and delayed some programs, Altiere said he does see a silver lining. “In some ways it has strengthened some of these partnerships and forced innovation to take place on both sides. We learned how to run virtual webinars and conferences successfully, but everyone wants to get back together in person again. I have no doubt we will see both virtual and in-person meetings and conferences in the future.”
While expanding global outreach has many advantages, Altiere does offer one caveat. “I don’t want anyone to think what we’re saying is, ‘I’m from the United States and I’m here to help you.’ That is clearly the wrong approach,” he said. “It’s a two-way street. We can and should learn from other countries. Some of the innovations you see in other countries make you stop and say to yourself, why didn’t we think of that? It will strengthen AACP’s impact on the international stage through its work with FIP. It’s a good relationship and I look forward to strengthening it on both sides.”
Another benefit of approaching pharmacy education globally is helping to prepare graduates to work in the pharmaceutical industry. “In places like China and India where they have a large number and size of pharmaceutical industry organizations, they are geared toward training pharmacists to work in that industry,” he said. “This is an area that is on my radar screen because we need to pay more attention to it as an integral part of pharmacy education globally. A number of countries in Africa would like to set up their own pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities so they are not dependent on other countries for their medicines. They have to deal with other infectious diseases that we may not see here. They have specific needs that we don’t have. It’s adopting and adapting educational frameworks to meet the most important needs of that region of the world. It’s working together to try to figure out how to get all of that done. Medicines are at the core of treating pretty much every disease state. It’s critical that we get it right. Pharmacists are the people who can help get it right.”
Jane E. Rooney is managing editor of Academic Pharmacy Now.