Global Experiences within the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences

November 20, 2019

For Russell J. DiGate, Ph.D., Dean of the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, international experience is central to a health sciences education. “Our college aims to produce health-care practitioners who excel at providing culturally appropriate care to our local community,” he says, noting that informed, compassionate care is best learned through exposure to the real world. “They must have first-hand experience, not only locally, but around the world, to ensure that they can modify their approach to health care based on the needs of a diverse patient population.” Dean DiGate’s vision has led to an expansion in career-focused, mission-centered study abroad experiences, with recent additions in Guatemala, Taiwan and Jamaica. 

Global Academic Service-Learning in Nueva Santa Rosa, Guatemala
Chung-Shien Lee ’11Pharm.D., Assistant Professor/Industry Professional, Clinical Health Professions, serves on the board of the Glens Falls Medical Mission Foundation, which provides medical care to the residents of Nueva Santa Rosa, Guatemala.  For three years, Dr. Lee has incorporated this medical mission into an elective course, known as an Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience (APPE), which is open to future pharmacists and physician assistants. During these trips, the interdisciplinary team sees and treats an average of 200 to 250 patients per day for five days. 

Global Academic Service-Learning in Antigua, Guatemala
Ebtesam Ahmed ’07Pharm.D., Clinical Professor, has incorporated academic service learning into an elective APPE for pharmacy students for the last four years. Her innovative program takes place at two sites. At Obras Sociales del Santo Hermano Pedro, an inpatient residence hospital in Antigua, a team of local health-care professionals and St. John’s students—under Dr. Ahmed’s supervision—provide medical care to poor, orphaned, and abandoned residents with chronic medical concerns. At the second site, Guatemala’s National Cancer Institute, Dr. Ahmed’s students create educational pamphlets for patients and health-care professionals and conduct rounds with the Institute’s medical team to learn more about medicine preparation and administration.

Global Academic Service-Learning in Clarendon, Jamaica
Manouchkathe Cassagnol, Pharm.D., BCPS, AACC, Associate Clinical Professor, has developed an experiential learning opportunity in partnership with the LJDR Davis Foundation, a nonprofit that provides free, culturally responsive medical care to families in and around Clarendon, Jamaica. Through the program, the students join a team of roughly 100 trained volunteer medical professionals and other students, who meet at a local school to provide health screenings, medical supplies, diagnostic exams, clothing, and educational instruction. Under the supervision of a pharmacist, students provide invaluable intern services that include filling prescription orders, providing medication education to patients, and communicating with other members of the health-care team to develop patient care plans. Dr. Cassagnol holds key educational sessions before and during the experience abroad that enhance student learning by considering their time abroad through a social justice lens.

Global APPE Opportunities in Taiwan
Based on the work of a team of faculty led by Wenchen Wu, Ph.D., MBA, R.Ph., Chairman and Associate Professor of Pharmacy Administration and Public Health, two students recently earned APPE credit in Taiwan, where traditional medicines and therapies are often incorporated into the treatment plans for patients. One student studied on an intensive care unit, where she focused on drug-related problem solving and participated in rounds with an interdisciplinary team of healthcare professionals. Another student completed an elective APPE in cardiology that emphasized patient care skills while also taking part in daily clinical rounds with the cardiology team. 

Student response to these programs has been overwhelmingly positive. As Dean DiGate says, “the health sciences are about responsive patient interaction, so the more our students have a sense of how different cultures approach and experience care, the more effective they are working with the diverse population of New York City.”