September 4, 2016
It’s been months since you’ve heard from me but lots of Uganda-related work has been going on and progressing towards the upcoming trip. 13 days from now, 4 Wilkes University students and I head off to Uganda to learn while serving my partners during their Global Health Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiential rotation. (APPE) I’ll be introducing you to the participants over the next 2 weeks but before that, I’d like to catch you up with what’s new with me since returning to the States from Uganda on May 3, 2016. I’ve been super busy and it is hard to believe that was just 4 months ago!
First of all, I have a new job as Professor and Founding Chair of Pharmacy Practice at Binghamton University School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences (SOPPS) in the state of New York. I am helping to develop a brand new school of pharmacy which will open with our first class of students 1 year from now in Fall 2017. The SOPPS is part of the SUNY System (State University of New York) and the first degree program will be the Doctor of Pharmacy Degree (Pharm.D.) but PhD programs are in the plans. Although I have loved every minute of my time as a professor at Wilkes University and I will miss my old colleagues, this new job opportunity was one I couldn’t pass up. It is challenging me to use my God-given talents and skills in different ways and it is helping me to grow professionally. I was really attracted to the Mission Statement of the SOPPS: “To develop outstanding leaders in pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences using contemporary medication management and innovative research in order to transform human health locally and globally.” This fits perfectly with my goals for my work in Uganda – to help advance pharmacy practice and safe medication use in Uganda so patient care health outcomes are improved. In addition, the Binghamton University SOPPS is dedicated to providing care to “diverse groups of patients, especially those who are under-served or living in rural communities” (from the Vision Statement), which also is aligned with my work in Uganda. Since Wilkes students had already been chosen for 2 Global Health APPE trips for the academic year 16-17 and I also intend to continue my research in Uganda and even grow my programs with Binghamton University students, my new Dean is fully supportive of keeping these 2 trips on track.
Second, the upcoming trip will have a slight but wonderful twist to my usual activities. I, along with the pharmacy students, have been invited to present a 2-day Seminar on Pharmaceutical Care to pharmacy students at Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) and pharmacists and other healthcare professionals at Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital (MRRH)!!! This project has been more than 1 year in the making due to the efforts, persistence, and enthusiasm of two pharmacy students at MUST, Noah and Derrick. I met Noah at the Joint International Scientific Students Conference in April 2015 that was organized by all of the health professions students at Makerere University. See blog post on April 3, 2015 for more information. I believe it was at that conference when he heard about my work with Makerere University Pharmacy School and the development of the Pharmaceutical Care Skills Lab course (PCSL) and expressed a sincere interest in having that course started at MUST. He informally invited me to visit MUST and talk to the students and professors at that time but to make this happen, a formal invitation from the faculty and/or Dean would be necessary. I gave him my contacts and we have gone back and forth with emails numerous times. Finally, Derrick and Noah successfully gained the support of the Administration and have planned an excellent conference – the 7th Annual Mbarara University Pharmacy Student Association (MBUPSA). This conference will take place September 26-27 so be sure to check out the blog at that time to hear more about our adventures.
A common question I’ve received during recent trips to Uganda is “Why do you only work with Makerere and Mulago Hospital? How can we get involved?” The answer is simple but not easy. First of all, you need to ASK. But, the difficulty is that I am only 1 person and trips to Uganda from the USA are very expensive. It has always been my goal to help Uganda develop a program of training for the practice of pharmaceutical care that is shared across the country. Every project has a starting point, though, and Professor Richard Odoi at Makerere University has been my starting point. It was through his support that I was able to be awarded the Fulbright Specialist Grant that helped me to be in Uganda for 3 months developing and teaching the PCSL. This grant required institutional support from Makerere University, meaning I was partially funded by the Pharmacy Department (to cover lodging and in-country expenses; the US Government covered international travel). This work now has a really good foundation in Kampala. I not only work with Mulago National Referral Hospital but also Mengo Hospital. I have trained a good number of pharmacy interns and pharmacy students who are now pharmacy interns and they ARE making a difference. Gonsha Rehema, one of the the Ugandan Pharmacists who spent 8 weeks training with me in the USA in summer 2015, has taken her new skills and has shared them with a couple of classes of interns. She recently sent me the photos in this blog. Kudos to Gonsha! I am so proud of her efforts to improve patient care through education!
When Noah and Derrick from MUST asked me to come to Mbarara (which is about 4 – 5 hours southwest of Kampala) I was very enthusiastic but financial support had to be arranged. I was willing to tack this presentation onto my normal trip to Uganda to save the extra travel costs, but the fees the American students pay didn’t account for a side trip to Mbarara. Fortunately Noah and Derrick were able to persuade their Administration to support this conference. This is actually a really good sign to me that the Pharmacy School at MUST is serious about considering the inclusion of new curriculum teaching pharmaceutical care skills. I’m really looking forward to seeing a new University in Uganda and to discussing the possibilities…