7 Days to Go: Greetings from Wilkes University in Northeast Pennsylvania! I have some good news. First of all, I’m excited to be soon embarking on my 7th trip to Uganda, and my 4th with Pharmacy Students as a Global Health Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience (APPE). I’ve been keeping this blog since March 2011 so that the Wilkes community, both on campus and at large, could learn about the healthcare challenges that affect Sub-Saharan Africa and experience the life and culture of the people of Uganda through the reports of activities and photos posted by my students and me. During 2014, I was able to come to Uganda for 3 separate trips of 4 weeks each through the Fulbright Specialist Program for the purpose of helping the faculty of Makerere University Department of Pharmacy develop new curriculum to teach Pharmacy students Pharmaceutical Care (PC) Skills. We developed a Skills Lab where Ugandan students used role-play to learn how to use drug information resources to solve drug therapy problems and how to communicate recommendations to patients and healthcare providers. We then brought the students to Mulago National Referral Hospital to use their new skills in the experiential setting. The whole program was immensely successful and well accepted by all, students, faculty, patients, and physicians. I was really fortunate to have 2 HVO Pharmacists (Healthcare Volunteers Overseas) also visit Uganda last fall and help me teach the PC Skills Lab.
When I left Uganda at the end of November 2014, we had all agreed that the Pharmaceutical Care course should be continued next September-November, 2015, but I had no idea how I would finance at trip back to Uganda to help out. Also, when I left, I found out on my layover in Amsterdam that my sister, who had been battling recurrent metastatic breast cancer, had been admitted to the Intensive Care Unit for a bad infection and had taken a turn for the worse. I was only home 4 nights before I left for Nebraska to go see my sister. Unfortunately, she lost her valiant battle just hours after I arrived. I was devastated as was the family she left behind. At only 48 years old, she left a husband and two children, a boy 7 years old and a daughter, 14 years old. I learned first-hand how relentless the monster, Cancer, can be and unfortunately, I had joined the ranks of the families of more than 8.2 million people who die each year of cancer. (Stats from WHO-2012) I stayed on in Nebraska to help my brother-in-law with the funeral planning and was surprised when he told me that he thought my sister, Ruth, would want donations in her memory to go to support my work in Uganda to advance pharmacy practice and improve safe medication use. This is a great honor and the best news of all is that donations have raised more than $4000, which is enough for me to go back to Uganda in Fall 2015 to help teach the PC course. Not only will this financial support help, but more than ever, I have been empowered through my sister’s faith in me to continue working with my Uganda collaborators to improve patient healthcare.
I have decided to add a Donations Link to this blog, just in case any of my readers would like to support the continuation of this project. Thanks in advance.
Over the next week I will be introducing you to the 3 Pharmacy Students and 2 Pharmacy Residents who will be accompanying me to Uganda on this upcoming trip. Stay tuned…
This Blog Post is dedicated to my beloved sister, Ruth Ellen Heikkinen, whose life exemplified a quest for justice and love for all people. Her unending faith in me motivates me everyday. Although she never got to accompany me to Uganda in person, she will be with me in spirit.