In this exclusive interview with Pharmanews, the current national editor-in-chief of the Pharmaceutical Association of Nigeria Students (PANS), Somtochukwu Jeffrey Chimbiko, reveals some of the activities, challenges and achievements of his office. The final year student of Pharmacy Department, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State, also speaks on ways in which pharmacy education in the country can be improved. Excerpts:
Why did you choose to study Pharmacy?
My decision to study Pharmacy was primarily driven by two things – my unending desire to become a valuable person to the society, and the deep yearning to have a phenomenal contribution on humanity’s enlightenment through service to others. It’s basically about impacting people’s lives.
What prompted you to contest for the post of PANS editor-in-chief?
I am quite social and I picked so much interest in politics growing up; but I’d say it’s the need to become as valuable as possible to the world, and the desire to serve that prompted my decision. I also saw the need to fix the problem of information gap among pharmacy students across the country; besides, I also love to interact and meet the potentially meet great minds in our profession. I am also on the quest to develop my interest in the largely unexplored field of pharmacy journalism. All these and a lot more motivated my decision to contest and I give glory to God that it has come to fulfilment.
You must have set some objectives for yourself when you wanted to contest for the post. How much of these objectives have you achieved so far?
Sincerely I had many objectives and, to be candid, they’ve kept growing even after being sworn into office. I have not achieved many of the objectives, but I am happy that I have achieved some. To a great extent, I have been able to change the orientation of my colleagues throughout the country towards leadership skills and I have been able to increase the participation of our colleagues towards PANS activities through proper orientation and enlightenment on what such programmes stand for and what they stand to benefit from them.
However, notable among all my completed objectives is popularising the office of the editor-in-chief by making the editorial department of each chapter more active than it was, and we are hoping to do much more.
How have you been coping, combining PANS’ editorial responsibilities with your studies?
To be sincere, the task has not been an easy one at all. There are challenges that keep recurring which require us to keep devising structural solutions on a daily basis. One big challenge I have discovered about this job is that there is no routine; I could be called anytime for various tasks and I always have to make sure that my studies don’t suffer the effects. It has cost me a lot of things as I’ve had to re-prioritize my objectives in life and start to manage my time judiciously.
However, I have been able to weather the storm by ensuring that I delegate responsibilities that can be handled by my colleagues and this has been working perfectly.
Money is essential to the success of any organisation or project; how do you intend to source for funds to execute your projects?
The pathetic state of our county’s economy at this time is really affecting our attempts at sourcing for funds. Yet, an association like ours depends majorly on these funds to be able to achieve our goals. We have had to restructure our approach to sourcing funds by being more business-inclined in our dealings with people. Regardless of how little a service we can offer them as a student association, we still do offer them. Being a lover of the largely unexplored field of pharmacy journalism, with some experience in journalism as a whole, we have been offering advertisement services to corporate bodies as a means of sourcing funds, rather than restricting it to only pharmaceutical companies.
Tell us about some of the challenges you have faced in your capacity as editor-in-chief and how you have been tackling them.
The challenges are many. However, the major ones include the challenge of fixing the communication gap between the national secretariat of PANS and other chapters across the country. Also, the difference in our academic calendar across pharmacy schools is a big challenge as it affects most of our programme schedules. A situation whereby some schools will be writing exams while others are on holiday makes it difficult for us to plan some of our programmes.
Another is the unfavourable views of some pharmacy students towards our programmes and activities, due to the demanding nature of the pharmacy curriculum. However, the national executive council members are incorporating the internet and social media networks into our activities to ensure that all pharmacy students are carried along in our decisions, irrespective of their location.
As a pharmacy student, what are the challenges facing pharmacy education and how can they be overcome?
We have a number of issues in pharmacy education but the most notable are the challenge of pharmacists being unprepared for the ever-evolving nature of the profession, and our courses not focusing on creating leaders in the profession. I believe we need more social groups in our education, as well as introduction of technological studies for students. This is because in a world where technological advances are as frequent as the breath we take, pharmacists are not being prepared to meet up to the challenge which we must be well equipped for.
I also say leadership because when we come to all spheres of life today the fundamental thing the world lacks are competent readers. Our course involves high academic demands; sadly, in the process of trying to meet up with these demands, students lose interest in acquiring other skills.
Tell us about some of the programmes you intend to carry out before the end of your tenure.
Before I leave office, I intend to start an interactive blog for pharmacy students in Nigeria in order to make up for the gap in communication. This is not just going to be among the respective secretariats at the national level but also among pharmacy students themselves in their various schools. I believe it is important to know the people who will be joining you in the profession in the next three to five years, in order to develop cordial relationships to forge ahead and deal with the issues our profession is constantly faced with.
How cordial is the relationship between you and the zonal editors-in-chief and how often do you communicate with them?
All my zonal editors-in-chief are very hardworking people. They are the most creative and solution-inclined individuals I have ever met. They have been what I can only describe as phenomenal aids in this office and if I were elected again I would not want to work with any other group of people but them. We communicate regularly and we have developed very constructive relationships amongst ourselves.