International global health experiences for students lead to more proficient pharmacists
Hailey Hewitson is a final-year PharmD candidate at The University of Utah College of Pharmacy.
Amid the bustle of pharmacy school, I found myself in rural Ghana, collecting fecal samples from community latrines. I had a Ghanaian medical student on my left holding a collection tube, and a student nurse practitioner from my school on my right recording our location and time of collection. This experience was part of a typical day for me during the summer after my first year of pharmacy school. It was, needless to say, quite different than a typical day in the classroom learning about infectious disease pharmacology.
I initially decided to go on an international global health research trip because I thought it would be a fun way to spend the summer. Little did I know then that I would gain invaluable experiences working on an interprofessional team, learning about cultural sensitivity, and developing my personal and professional self! At the end of the summer, I returned to the United States with skills and professional behaviors that have become vital to my pharmacy practice.
Understanding the welfare of humanity
Global health is a critical aspect of pharmacy curriculum as it closely relates to the Oath of the Pharmacist, which reads, “I will consider the welfare of humanity and relief of suffering my primary concerns.” It is difficult to understand the welfare of humanity and the relief of suffering if one has not studied or seen health inequality and substandard health systems in person.
International global health experiences can teach these things better than any classroom setting.1 Medical students and student pharmacists who participated in international global health programs were found to have increased understanding of cultural and interpersonal competence and increased professional development.1,2 The students that participated in international experiences also reported an improvement in communication skills, problem-solving skills, and self-awareness.1
Grab those opportunities
If you are interested in studying abroad while in pharmacy school, do not hesitate to ask your school’s faculty about these events. Costs can be a major roadblock to these experiences, but there are ways to reduce the cost. Check with your pharmacy program to see if any scholarships are available. If scholarships are not available, look into university-wide or community scholarships. Don’t forget that tuition loans can also cover academic trips.
International global health experiences will teach you things that you are not able to learn in the classroom and will help you become a more well-rounded pharmacist and individual. Don’t pass up these opportunities!
1. Steeb DR, Miller ML, Schellhase EM, et al. Global health learning outcomes in pharmacy students completing international advanced pharmacy practice experiences. Am J Pharm Educ. 2020;84(3):7586.
2. Lu PM, Park EE, Rabin TL, et al. Impact of global health electives on US medical residents: A systematic review. Ann Glob Health. 2018;84(4):692–703.