Specialisation will boost relevance of pharmacists – PANS-OAU president

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Funmbi Okoya is president of the Pharmaceutical Association of Nigeria Students (PANS), Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) chapter. In this exclusive interview with Pharmanews, the 500 level pharmacy student discusses the achievements of his administration, while also suggesting ways to improve pharmacy education in Nigeria. Excerpts:

How would you assess pharmacy profession in Nigeria?

Pharmacy profession is one that is indispensable anywhere in the world due to the important roles pharmacists play in the health sector. In Nigeria, the profession is advancing, though a lot of work still has to be done to ensure that the profession reaches the heights expected of it. I believe this can be achieved through the unity of all for the betterment of the profession.

 Can you tell us some of your plans for the association within the next one year as PANS-OAU president?

Knowing that my tenure will soon be over, only a few important programmes and projects are yet to be executed. So far, PANS-OAU has been able to make giant strides, which will redefine and enhance the growth of the association. First of all, the association has successfully launched its official website – www.pansoau.org – which will further expose us to the world at large, while serving several other functions.

Secondly, PANS-OAU was represented at the just concluded PANS National Convention at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), by 41 delegates, which is the highest in recent years by a great margin. In addition to that, PANS-OAU now has two additional PANS national executives, who are the IPSF contact person, Mustapha Abdul-Afeez and the Deputy Editor-In-Chief, Zone A, Gloria Agboola.

Also of great importance is the fact that the constitution of the association is currently under review, and plans are in place for the reviewed version to be published as a handbook, for the first time in the 43 years of existence of PANS-OAU. It must however be said that the shortening of the semesters in this session has been a thorn in the flesh, as it has forced us to review our plans and programmes to ensure that we don’t overload the session and that our academics remain our primary focus.

How have you been coping with funding?

Yes, I agree that funds are essential in the execution of programmes and projects, and as such must be available when needed. Aside from membership dues, individual donations and corporate sponsorship have been at the core of our fund-raising activities over the years. Also, PANS-OAU annual publication, “PHARMATEL” and our website, www.pansoau.org, are both available for adverts placement.

However, it would have been better if PANS-OAU had a steady means of generating funds. To address this, it is my vision to set up a fixed account with a substantial amount, the interest of which will be available to each administration for years to come.

 What grey areas in the pharmacy profession do you think the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) and stakeholders in the profession need to address urgently?’

As a profession of high repute and relevance, the profession has to get popular among the general public, not just within the health sector. People have to understand the roles of pharmacists and consider them distinct from other health care professionals. The younger ones also have to be well-informed about the profession as early as possible, so that the bright minds in the country will continue to be interested in the profession. This will help secure the future of the profession for years to come.

 What, in your own opinion, are the major challenges facing pharmacy education in Nigeria?

First is the curriculum for pharmacists-in-training. I personally think Industrial Training should be a part of every curriculum as it is vital for the students to gain the necessary practical experience outside the classroom. This is why I’m in full support of the Pharm.D programme that is more clinically-oriented. However, it is yet to be fully implemented and recognised.

Secondly, the issue of insufficient internship placements is a growing concern. Quite a number of recent graduates have had delays due to inadequate internship placements. If an internship of one year is to be made compulsory for all graduates of pharmacy school, which I believe is good for the profession, then these placements have to be available for these persons.

Also, I believe continuing education through specialisation will improve the relevance of pharmacists, particularly in the hospital setting. Specialisation in the pharmacy profession will further enforce our position as drug experts as pharmacists would be unequalled in the knowledge of drugs in specific areas.

 What are those things you think government can do to improve the standard of pharmacy education in Nigeria?

I think the most important resource needed for quality education is qualified tutors which we do not lack in Nigeria. However, our tutors still need to have facilities at their disposal, which is fundamental in giving quality education. These facilities need to be provided and maintained by the government.

The government will also do well to better remunerate lecturers and teachers, not just pharmacists, who give their all in ensuring that the standard doesn’t fall. It is saddening that their efforts are not recognized, as they should, and this has resulted in a lack of motivation.

Where do you see PANS by the time you will be handing over?

PANS OAU is already at a higher level than it was before my tenure, and I know that with the plans we have in place, PANS OAU is going to ascend even greater heights.

 What is your message to pharmacy students across the country?

I’d like to encourage my colleagues in pharmacy schools that the profession has a very bright future and so we should have a lot in confidence in it. Our chosen profession is a noble one, and as such, we should strive to represent the profession in the best way possible.

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Specialisation will boost relevance of pharmacists – PANS-OAU president