Welcoming Another Ugandan Pharmacist to the USA

Pamela and KarenBeth enjoy lunch in Kampala in November 2015.

Pamela and KarenBeth enjoy lunch in Kampala in November 2015.

On July 7, 2015 the Wilkes University Community welcomed another Ugandan Pharmacist, Pamela Blessed.  Pamela was the first pharmacy faculty member I met, aside from Professor Richard Odoi, when I arrived in Kampala at Makerere University in summer 2011.  She graciously welcomed me and helped me to learn about the Pharmacy School Curriculum at Makerere.  She and I have remained friends over the years and over the past couple of years I have been trying to arrange for her to come to the USA to work with one of our own faculty, Dr. Arthur Kibbe, a renown Pharmaceutical Scientist who specializes in pharmaceutical excipients, the added starches and compounds that help a tablet containing a drug to keep its shape so it can be pressed into the tablet. He has been an editor of an internationally recognized textbook, The Handbook of Pharmaceutical Excipients, and has worked with the Pharmaceutical Industry as well as the FDA.  Dr. Kibbe was the Chair of the Pharmaceutical Sciences Department at Wilkes University since our pharmacy school started but he stepped down from that position last year and has recently retired. He is still eager to keep working in his lab, although, and his expertise is just what Pamela needs to complete her PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences.  She has been working towards this for several years and has developed a starch from Banana that she hopes can be effectively used for the development of tablets.  One of the reasons drugs cost so much in Uganda and are in limited supply is that most of the drugs have to be imported from other countries. Unfortunately, this usually means the government buys from the least expensive source and that doesn’t always result in quality drug products. One thing that Uganda has plenty of is Banana plants!

Pamela enjoys New York City with Ms. Georgia Costalas, the Director of International Student Services at Wilkes University

Pamela enjoys New York City with Ms. Georgia Costalas, the Director of International Student Services at Wilkes University

If Pamela can successfully develop a pharmaceutical excipient from Banana, not only could it be used to help produce drug in her own country, but it could be exported and marketed to the rest of the world.  Pamela will be able to learn from Dr. Kibbe as well as use all of his laboratory equipment that she didn’t have available in Uganda.  She will be here for 6 months as she completes her research. Her research is being funded through the President’s Initiative on Banana Industrial Development (PIBID) [President Museveni of Uganda] Many thanks to her Ugandan sponsor for allowing Pamela the opportunity to work with Dr. Kibbe here at Wilkes!

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Pharmacy Interns at Mulago Hospital, Kampala, Uganda Learn About Palliative Care

Pain and Palliative Care Training for the Pharmacy Interns at Mulago National Referral Hospital

Pain and Palliative Care Training for the Pharmacy Interns at Mulago National Referral Hospital

Gonsha, one of the Ugandan Pharmacists working with me for 8 weeks at my practice site, Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, as part of an Advanced Pharmaceutical Care Training Program, is an educator herself when in Uganda, in addition to running 2 community pharmacies.

Gonsha is teaching the Pharmacy Interns in one of the Lecture Halls at the Medical School on the campus of Mulago National Referral Hospital, Kampala, Uganda

Gonsha is teaching the Pharmacy Interns in one of the Lecture Halls at the Medical School on the campus of Mulago National Referral Hospital, Kampala, Uganda

She helps to coordinate training activities and precepts weekly Pharmacy professional development sessions at Mulago National Referral Hospital for all of the pharmacy interns doing their training in and near Kampala.  I was pleased to find out that even though she is halfway across the world, she has been in close contact with the President of the Pharmacy Interns to be sure training activities are continuing to occur while she is in the USA.  A couple of weeks ago when she was conversing with David via Whatsapp (communication app for mobile phones) I said to say “hello” to him, since my Wilkes pharmacy students and I had worked with him in April.  Then I proceeded to get on Whatsapp too and have a conversation about what they are up to. I was so excited to hear that the interns were going through a Pain Management and Palliative Care training program.

Another view of the pharmacy interns being trained about Pain and Palliative Care at Mulago Hospital

Another view of the pharmacy interns being trained about Pain and Palliative Care at Mulago Hospital

This program was developed by Dr. Mhoira Leng, a Scottish Physician, who has been working in Uganda for many years now to teach healthcare providers about and provide care herself for patients suffering from chronic pain due to many conditions but especially end-stage AIDS and cancer as well as caring for the whole patient to provide other palliative care services.  I’ll refer you to my prior blog from March 2014 where I met her. http://pharmacyclassintoafrica.com/2014/03/06/hospice-and-palliative-care-in-uganda/

Hilliary and Ivan, two of the Pharmacy Interns I've worked with both at Makerere University School of Pharmacy, and now as Interns at Mulago Hospital

Hilliary and Ivan, two of the Pharmacy Interns I’ve worked with both at Makerere University School of Pharmacy, and now as Interns at Mulago Hospital

These photos were shared with me by David and he has allowed me to post them here.  He said the training was great and I told him I would be eager to see him and his colleagues using these skills when I get back. I said this somewhat in gest since I know they will apply these skills. I have been very impressed with all of the pharmacy students and interns eagerness not only to be taught but to actually put what they are learning to practice.  In return he said that they have already started using the skills and then he made the nicest comment.  He said “We are now your students.”  Wow, that just made me smile as I do think about all whom I’ve worked with in Uganda as “my students”. I feel so at home in Uganda and I not only have my Wilkes students whom I love to teach and work with but I also have my Ugandan students who I also love to teach and work with.

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Attending the AACP Annual Conference near Washington D.C.

KarenBeth Bohan presents at AACP on Uganda projects

KarenBeth Bohan presents at AACP on Uganda projects

Last week Cathy, Gonsha and I attended the annual American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) Meeting in National Harbor, MD, near Washington D.C.  I was so happy to be able to present a talk on the work I’ve been doing in Uganda, specifically the Pharmaceutical Care Training Program in the USA (PCTP), which Cathy and Gonsha are currently part of, as well as the Pharmaceutical Care curriculum I helped to develop for Makerere University’s Undergraduate Pharmacy program with the help of the Fulbright Specialist Program grant.  The talk was well-attended and Gonsha told me afterwards that she was impressed with how engaged the audience seemed to be.

Cathy, Gonsha, KarenBeth and Dr. Kevin Rynn, Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs at Rosalind Franklin College of Pharmacy who also takes students to Uganda for experiential learning

Cathy, Gonsha, KarenBeth and Dr. Kevin Rynn, Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs at Rosalind Franklin College of Pharmacy who also takes students to Uganda for experiential learning

I was thrilled to have several people come up to talk to me about my work as well as some who are potential collaborators for the future!  It was just a big coincidence that PCTP was going on right now and that the conference was only driving distance (4 hours) from Wilkes-Barre, PA, so I capitalized on that and was able to bring along Cathy and Gonsha.  Not only were they able to attend part of the conference, my talk, and do some networking of their own, but they also had a chance to do some sightseeing in Washington D.C.

Gonsha networks at the final social event

Gonsha networks at the final social event

Cathy, Gonsha, KarenBeth, and Dr. Edward Foote, Chair Pharmacy Practice at Wilkes University

Cathy, Gonsha, KarenBeth, and Dr. Edward Foote, Chair Pharmacy Practice at Wilkes University

Cathy relaxes a bit after participating in the dancing at the final social event- the live band was terrific!

Cathy relaxes a bit after participating in the dancing at the final social event- the live band was terrific!

Jessica Koos, the Wilkes Pharmacy Librarian, with Cathy and Gonsha

Jessica Koos, the Wilkes Pharmacy Librarian, with Cathy and Gonsha

Cathy and Gonsha join Ed Foote and the gang for the annual AACP Wilkes Family dinner out.

Cathy and Gonsha join Ed Foote and the gang for the annual AACP Wilkes Family dinner out.

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3 Weeks In the USA

Gonsha, Zach, Greg, and Cathy

Gonsha, Zach, Greg, and Cathy

It has now been 3 weeks since Cathy and Gonsha arrived in the USA to participate in the Advanced Pharmaceutical Care Experiencial Training Course (APCET) and they definitely have been learning a lot and strengthening their pharmacy skills. But they have also had many other  non-healthcare related new experiences.  During their first 2 weeks here at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital (WBGH) with me, they worked alongside my two Wilkes APPE (advanced pharmacy practice experience) students, Greg and Zack, who did a great job of showing them the ropes and helping them get acclimated to the American Healthcare system and the patient care process at WBGH.

Cathy presents information about Pharmacy Education in Uganda to American pharmacy students at Wilkes (note the chocolate cupcakes-we were celebrating her birthday)

Cathy presents information about Pharmacy Education in Uganda to American pharmacy students at Wilkes (note the chocolate cupcakes-we were celebrating her birthday)

During Cathy and Gonsha’s 2nd week, they participated in the Topic Presentions by the APPE students, which is one way the students share what they have learned with others. Cathy and Gonsha prepared a talk on pharmacy practice and education in Uganda but due to time constraints, only Cathy was able to give her talk. But Gonsha will get to give her talk to the next group of students who start their clinical rotations with me next week. Below I’ll include a series of photos to give you an idea of the experiences they have had.

Gonsha and Cathy outside Walmart

Gonsha and Cathy outside Walmart

Gonsha, I’m particular, is always so excited to see American Pharmacies.  At first I thought she was just amazed at how large some of them are, but what interests her most is our signage and marketing strategies.  These aspects of the pharmacy business are much different from pharmacies in Uganda.  Gonsha owns 2 pharmacies in Uganda and I suspect she may be making notes for how she can improve her presence among the zillions of pharmacies in Uganda.

Gonsha in front of Walgreens where she received a Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and accellular pertussis) vaccine from a Pharmacist

Gonsha in front of Walgreens where she received a Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and accellular pertussis) vaccine from a Pharmacist

A pharmacy is one of the most popular and lucrative businesses in Uganda so you find them all over the place. They are mostly owned and run by business people, rather than pharmacists.  Each pharmacy owner must have a pharmacist supervisor on record but the pharmacist doesn’t have to be present and currently there would not be near the number of pharmacists required in Uganda if this were the law.  For a population of just under 40 million people, Uganda has less than 800 practicing pharmacists.  This compares to about 300,000 pharmacists in the USA for our population of about 320 million.

Gonsha and Cathy at Joel Koos exhibit for the Wyoming Valley Art League

Gonsha and Cathy at Joel Koos exhibit for the Wyoming Valley Art League

Gonsha and Cathy clowning around in the decorated hallway at St Luke Lutheran Church Vacation Bible School- the theme was Mount Everest so it was decorted like a snowy wonderland

Gonsha and Cathy clowning around in the decorated hallway at St Luke Lutheran Church Vacation Bible School- the theme was Mount Everest so it was decorted like a snowy wonderland

I took Cathy and Gonsha to Yoga at Studio B in Danville, PA. We are pictured with Becky Duignan, the owner and head instructor

I took Cathy and Gonsha to Yoga at Studio B in Danville, PA. We are pictured with Becky Duignan, the owner and head instructor

Gonsha

Gonsha

tuwanakilisha

Gonsha

Gonsha

Cathy

Cathy

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Welcome to Wilkes University & A CPR Exam

 

Cathy and Gonsha prepare to take the CPR practical exam

Cathy and Gonsha prepare to take the CPR practical exam

It’s hard to believe we are already into the 2nd week of the Pharmaceutical Care Training program for Gonsha and Cathy.  Last week involved orientation to Wilkes University and the American Healthcare System as well has completion of a few assignments to help them get prepared for working at my hospital practice site, Wilkes-Barre General Hospital.  They have also been meeting lots of new people.  Obtaining CPR certification is one of the things they had to accomplish on their first day at Wilkes, in order to complete the credentialing process to allow them to work at the hospital, as for all of our pharmacy students.   CPR stands for cardiopulmonary rescusitation which is the procedure of chest compressions and rescue breathing that can save lives.  Cathy and Gonsha completed the online knowledge component before they came to the USA but once here, they needed to take a practical examination where they had to demonstrate the technique of CPR, how to help a person who is choking, and application of the AED, automatic defribrillator device, that is sometimes needed to save a person who collapse in cardiac arrest (where their heart has stopped beating.)  This exam Wilkes University Nursing Department’s simulation suite.  This is a series of rooms that have been set up to look like hospital rooms and clinics and even includes “dummies” that the nursing and pharmacy students use to practice direct patient care skills.  Some of the dummies are hooked to computers and they can be made to answer questions that the health professions students ask.  Also, their blood pressure can be measured and other vitals obtained like heart rate and respiratory rate. This is all controlled by a computer that the Nursing Faculty cause to do what they want.  Anyway, upon entering the Sim Suite, I could tell that Cathy and Gonsha were nervous and didn’t know what to expect. Although they both knew about CPR and had been exposed to the didactic components before, they had never gotten a chance to practice on a dummy to learn the skills of CPR.  I’m proud to announce, though, that they both passed with flying colors and left the center with smiles on their faces.

 

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First Impressions of the USA

Two happy Ugandans have safely arrived and passed U.S. Customs at Washington-Dulles Airport in Virginia.

Two happy Ugandans have safely arrived and passed U.S. Customs at Washington-Dulles Airport in Virginia.

Gonsha and Cathy arrived safe and sound in the USA yesterday. When we met up in the waiting area, they were all smiles!  When I travel to Uganda, we arrive late at night and although I’m so happy to be there, I feel like I must look like I’ve traveled for 24 hours. But, Cathy and Gonsha seemed as fresh as the moment they stepped on the plane. On our long drive home, my husband and I drove them through Washington D.C. to get a their first look at our Nation’s Capital.  From the car they saw the Washington Monument, the Capitol Building, many Smithsonian museum buildings, and the Jefferson Memorial.  We also drove them through the Gettysburg Battlefield memorials.

We stopped at a scenic overlook of the Potomac River on our way home from Washington DC but the trees had grown up so much that the river wasn't visible at this point. (KarenBeth, Gonsha, Cathy)

We stopped at a scenic overlook of the Potomac River on our way home from Washington DC but the trees had grown up so much that the river wasn’t visible at this point. (KarenBeth, Gonsha, Cathy)

Their first American meal was at a Friendly’s Restaurant.  Gonsha couldn’t believe how large the glass was that they served her Fanta soda in.  I’m sure this won’t be the last thing that seems really “large” in the USA.  I’m going to let the series of pictures tell the story of their first 2 days here. Some their first impressions:  Gonsha “I’m learning so much already!” “Everything is different” She was amazed at all of the different license plates on cars- in Uganda there are only numbers on the plates and no pictures. “The cars are so BIG”. She remarked on how well kept the homes and yards are. “It’s interesting how you can serve yourself at the Petrol stations- In Uganda there is always an attendant.”

At a Gas Station, Gonsha was impressed by the large American Red Cross bus fueling up opposite my car. She asked the driver if she could take a picture and it made me smile because that is what I do all the time in Uganda. She also found the automatic, self-pay fueling machines fascinating.

At a Gas Station, Gonsha was impressed by the large American Red Cross bus fueling up opposite my car. She asked the driver if she could take a picture and it made me smile because that is what I do all the time in Uganda. She also found the automatic, self-pay fueling machines fascinating.

Cathy “I’ve noticed that Americans don’t like the word “fat” but in Uganda “fat” is just a normal word we use to describe someone- the same way we talk about someone being tall or short” “Customs was so nice and more calm than expected (referring to going through U.S. Customs at the airport)” “It’s a lot greener, with trees and grass, than I expected. Most visitors come to Uganda and remark on how green it is so we thought it would not be that way here”

Clowning around on the balcony of their new apartment on the campus of Wilkes University. The view of downtown is beautiful and they were surprised how nice and large the space is. It is not furnished, except for beds, desks, and dressers, so I borrowed a kitchen table and couch as well as cooking supplies and eating implements from people from my church.

Clowning around on the balcony of their new apartment on the campus of Wilkes University. The view of downtown is beautiful and they were surprised how nice and large the space is. It is not furnished, except for beds, desks, and dressers, so I borrowed a kitchen table and couch as well as cooking supplies and eating implements from people from my church.

She was amazed at how large the Department of Agriculture was when we drove by it in Washington D.C.  “After seeing many farms (on the way home) and putting into perspective how big America is, I can see why that department would be huge. Just never thought America was big on farming.  Hollywood should do something about that….”

Lunch at Thai-Thai- we had a delicious meal after moving the furniture into their apartment at this Thai Restaurant in walking distance from Wilkes and where they will stay. (Gonsha, KarenBeth, Jeff (husband), Cathy)

Lunch at Thai-Thai- we had a delicious meal after moving the furniture into their apartment at this Thai Restaurant in walking distance from Wilkes and where they will stay. (Gonsha, KarenBeth, Jeff (husband), Cathy)

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Arrival Day in the USA

Today the culmination of planning and preparation comes to fruition as I eagarly await the arrival of Cathy and Gonsha, the two pharmacists from Uganda who will be training with me for the next 8 weeks. I can imagine what they must be feeling as they endure the last couple of hours of flight on their almost 24 hour trip here.  Neither one of them has been to the States before the same way I had never been to Africa back in 2011 on my first trip. I was so excited to see, hear, taste, touch, and feel the life and get to know the people of a totally new world and culture to me.  Yet, at the same time I was quite nervous- would I live up to their expectations, would my work be helpful and of adequate quality, would I be able to stay healthy and eat only safe well-cooked food, drink clean water, and avoid malaria, would I encounter language difficulties, would I get homesick, would my student have any problems adjusting….? Cathy and Gonsha’s worries may not be exactly the same as mine but I know they have some.  I’m pretty sure, though, that their positive emotions are coming out on top right now. One big difference between my first trip to Uganda and theirs to America, is that I had never met my hosts before. Today, as Gonsha and Cathy arrive, we will be reuniting as friends. I have worked with Gonsha at Mulago Hospital to help train the Pharmacy Interns for a couple of years now and over the last year, I have spent a significant amount of time with Cathy, a faculty member at Makerere University, to develop and teach the Pharmaceutical Care Skills Lab course.  So now, let me go greet my friends…stayed tuned over the next two months and follow along with me as you can experience the USA through the eyes and ears of two newcomers.

Now I’d like to introduce Catherine (Cathy) Namulindwa.

Cathy

Cathy

I strive to be a positive change-maker. I am passionate about changing the face of health care delivery in Uganda, especially through improving pharmaceutical care delivery. I have a leaning towards infectious disease pharmacy, as infectious diseases are Uganda’s greatest burden of disease. I am also passionate about empowering young adults in various spheres of life, in and outside the classroom. These two passions come well together in my job, teaching pharmacy students at Makerere University. Understanding the current limitations of both the curriculum and learning environment of her students, I labour to see that my students can translate classroom concepts beyond the abstract, into real life practice. Training at Wilkes will equip me to equip them better.

Outside work, I like to spend my time reading, doing some yoga, traveling and meeting new people, and singing in the church choir. My pass-time to do list includes acquiring a sewing machine and making my own clothes from lovely African prints, an interest carried over from my catwalk days.

I am so thankful that Dr Bohan and I crossed paths, and for this opportunity she and the Wilkes community have availed me to train at Wilkes. I am eager to improve my pharmaceutical care skills, I know it will make me a much better teacher, and a more well rounded health care provider. I am also looking forward to learning more about American culture from sources other than Hollywood, and making some new friends. I can’t wait!

Cathy

Cathy

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