Five tips for becoming a global pharmacist
Maya Patel is a first-year PharmD candidate at the Belmont University College of Pharmacy.
As student pharmacists, we’re constantly brushing up on skills to stay up to date with our profession. It’s equally important to devote time to becoming better humans. Just as we are budding professionals, we are also developing as human beings—but far too often, we neglect self-development in our fast-paced lives.
Integrating our work and life experiences in an increasingly interconnected world—becoming what I like to call a "global pharmacist"—is more crucial than ever before, and it’s easy to do! Here are five ways:
1. Get involved with professional organizations.
Join an organization such as the International Pharmaceutical Students’ Federation (ISPF), which is part of the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP). This is a great way to connect professionally with student pharmacists abroad and to ask questions about another country’s pharmacy practice settings. International organizations offer newsletters, podcasts, and seminars that sharpen your knowledge of what is happening in pharmacies worldwide. When it is safe to do so, try to schedule an APPE rotation overseas or participate in a summer internship at a foreign pharmaceutical company.
2. Aim to learn one new fact each day about a different part of the world.
Hint: It doesn’t have to be pharmacy related. I typically like to choose a random country on the map and read a short article about it or search YouTube for current events in that country. Sometimes, I've learned something new by engaging in an open-ended conversation with a colleague from another country. You can absorb tons of new information simply by opening your eyes and ears and striving to gain insight on at least one new country daily.
3. Seek sustainable practices within the pharmacy where you work.
At first, this tip might seem out of place, but part of being a global pharmacist is understanding your impact on the environment. It is vital to critically assess your carbon footprint and see what you can do differently. How can you reduce how much paper gets printed out? Is there a recycling initiative in place? Are you actively ensuring medication safety by promoting take-back programs and not letting active ingredients get into the sewage system or landfills? It takes only a small habit change to make a measurable impact on planet Earth.
4. Be open to understanding complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).
Your patients may believe in these therapies, so get to know them and patients' cultural attitudes first. What is Qigong? How does Ayurveda work? What disease states can be helped with Tai Chi? Broadening your understanding of these therapies can make your patients more comfortable and can assist with counseling.
5. Whenever you are able to do so, travel!
When you do travel, challenge yourself to seek new experiences that you cannot have back home. If you go overseas, venture off the beaten path a bit. Sample local cuisine, such as a thali in Northern India. Take a local train or bus, such as a matatu in Kenya. Or try to spend the night in an authentic accommodation, like a yurt in Mongolia. Whatever you do, do it safely and with enthusiasm!
While these are seemingly easy tips, it can be daunting to open one’s mind to the unfamiliar. If done in the right way, your path can be fun, exciting, and rewarding. After all, as English author Simon Raven wrote, “Life is short and the world is wide … the sooner you start exploring it, the better.”
Good luck on your journey to becoming a global pharmacist!