Insight: Global Pharmacy x Jane Msumba

Hi, my name is Jane, and I am currently a third year pharmacy student at the University of Nottingham. I truly believe pharmacy is an incredibly exciting and versatile profession, as it really does open doors for us as students once we graduate into a whole host of fascinating domains. Moreover, the job prospects within pharmacy are only growing as it is becoming more clinical. This can be reflected in the growing prevalence of GP pharmacies. Gateways are also opening into more non-traditional pathways within pharmacy, so I am keen to pursue a career in global pharmacy. 

Why global pharmacy?

Alongside the sciences, I am very passionate about global health, especially after studying World Development at AS level. This subject delved deeper into the disparities in access to adequate standards of healthcare and medication across various countries, amongst many other global issues. I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to have insights into pharmacy in several countries, and my visit to a village in Malawi in 2012 is what sparked my interest to pursue global pharmacy. 

On one of the days of my visit, a neighbour of ours was in need of some medication, so we went to our nearest pharmacy in the village! Along my journey to the pharmacy, I was very humbled by how less developed their emergency health services were; the below picture displays the villages’ local ambulance. Furthermore, I was incredibly moved by the limited ranges of medication available in the local pharmacy’s dispensary, such that we couldn't meet the specific needs of our neighbour without resorting to going to a bigger pharmacy, away from the village and into the city centre. Reading and learning about the lack of vast healthcare facilities within developing regions is one thing, but witnessing this myself really had a profound impact on me. It really made me realise the importance of medications for those who are in need of them, and it really hurt to see how they are not very easily accessible. 

Moreover, on the 1st of June, 2019, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to shadow a pharmacist in a developing part of the Philippines- the Hippodromo region in Cebu. Amongst the many new things I learnt, such as ‘ghost pharmacies’, one of the biggest things was how it sure did humble me even more hearing about the struggles the locals face regarding their access to medications and how Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR) is one of the biggest issues in the Philippines. Not many locals can afford to for example, complete their courses of antibiotics, and therefore only buy a few tablets at a time as they go along. As a result, they will not be taking the required amount of tablets regularly. This means they‘re almost never able to complete the full course, within the required duration for antibiotics, thus rendering their conditions to inevitably deteriorate. It was eye opening to hear about how some customers lack understanding of how to take their antibiotics to such an extent that some feel the best way to take capsules is by breaking them in half and sprinkling the capsule contents onto their infections. This strongly reinforced the vital role pharmacists play in educating and supporting communities with their medications- particularly those in developing regions!

I am still very much learning more about the role of pharmacists on an international level, but the experiences I have had so far have only further solidified my passion for global pharmacy . I truly believe pharmacists have a lot to offer and their presence within developing regions is warranted, particularly in places where locals cannot afford to see doctors, thus pharmacists inevitably become their first port of call. 

Take home message: We should never be afraid to branch out into new domains of pharmacy, especially if they are things we have particularly strong interests in. For me, that is combining my passion for global health and pharmacy, for you it may be similar or look very different, and that is incredible. We all have different life experiences which shape our interests and influence the career paths we want to pursue. The last thing we should do is fear transforming our desires into reality.  

Challenges I have faced in my quest

I guess the biggest challenge for me, and I suppose for us as students, is the uncertainty of the future, regarding what steps to take next once we graduate. I try to address this challenge by being proactive and conscientiously making an effort to build my network and engage and seek advice from others older than myself who are already living out careers similar to the one I have in mind. I have found LinkedIn to be a great social media platform to connect with others of similar interests. Additionally, participating in conferences is always a great way to build a network as you get the chance to interact with a whole range of people all in one place. The most recent conference I attended was the 2018 International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) Congress in Glasgow where I worked as a volunteer and in turn had the chance to converse with other pharmacy professionals and students from differing parts of the world. I found my experience tremendously worthwhile as it enabled me to establish new relationships. More so, as global pharmacy is something I am interested in, it was great to learn about how pharmacy operates in different parts of the world as I spoke to various people from a range of places. I would encourage everyone to get involved at the national, European and international levels, and to take part in similar congresses, whether it is with BPSA, EPSA, IPSF or FIP!

Advice for other students 

I am undoubtedly still learning a lot and have another year of university to go, but as I look back these are the four top things I have appreciated and would offer as advice to any other student! I have put them together in the form of the 4 Be’s’!

  1. Be active
  2. Be proactive
  3. Be open minded
  4. Be gentle with yourself 

Being active; be it helping at open days, budding/mentor schemes, OSCE practice and lots more, I have found to be fantastic ways to get to know students in other years, especially those in higher year groups. Being in connection with a senior student is beneficial as it has enabled me to have direct support about the pharmacy course, hear what they struggled with, and I mean, what better advice can you get when it comes straight from another student who has been in your exact shoes! 

Be proactive! Research about opportunities you would like to get involved in! Really seek them out. Ask about what’s going on that you would be interested in! Universities are wonderful in informing us about what’s going on, but if you feel there is something more you would really want- never be afraid to ask! You never know who the person you ask knows and where things can lead from there! And after all, especially as a student, we are learning a lot and building our network, learning from a variety of new people is so important!

If you are informed about a new opportunity, unless it is something you really hate and would cause you pain, don’t do it. But if there is even 1% interest, why not say yes and wholeheartedly accept it with an open mind! Some of my greatest experiences have been the ones I was not super keen on but still said yes, and they blessed me in ways I did not see coming. For instance, they have connected me with people I am now so thankful to have in my life and taught me things I would have never have learnt about otherwise! Nonetheless, with this in mind it is just as key to prioritize and take on opportunities we truly can commit time for. This will ensure you do not burn yourself out. 

Lastly, feeling stressed, overwhelmed, behind, and not on top of things- is OKAY! As a student, those feelings will come, they are normal and very understandable! However, as a result of these feelings, the last thing you want is to beat yourself up and feel as if you are alone, when the reality of it is, you are not. If you are feeling any of those feelings, there are for sure are others in the same boat too! Where the real deal is, is finding ways to deal with such feelings, confiding in others and never letting them destroy you!

Thanks for reading, I hope this has been informative. I also have a pharmacy blog on Instagram @mypharmdiary through which I share my journey through pharmacy school and several other snippets of my life. Feel free to get in touch with me should you have any questions. 

Best of luck with your studies! 😊 

This article was written by Jane Msumba


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