Prior to the opening ceremony of the 87th Annual National Conference of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), held in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, from 3 to 8 November, expectations were high among pharmacists as they looked forward to a rewarding and exciting experience.
The PSN conference has, over the years, evolved to become a quintessential model of pragmatic planning for organisers of other conferences. This is because the PSN, which is arguably the oldest professional body in Nigeria, has always endeavoured to improve all facets of the annual gathering of pharmacists from all over the country and beyond.
From all indications, participants at the Uyo conference were not disappointed in their expectations, as many recall being thoroughly enlightened and empowered, with some even ranking it the best conference so far.
However, as we congratulate the leadership of the PSN on the success of the 87th PSN conference, tagged, “Transforming Pharmacy Practice for Better Outcomes,” we also wish to task the leadership not to rest on its oars, not only in replicating the successes recorded at the event but also in correcting lapses that were observed.
To begin with, the turnout of pharmacists at the just-concluded conference was spectacular. Considering the current level of tension and apprehension in the country, it is to the abiding credit of the PSN that attendance at the gathering was that impressive. Throughout the opening ceremony and virtually all the parallel sessions, the Ibom Hall venue of the conference was always full to capacity, while pharmacists participated actively in all the programmes lined up at the event.
The opening ceremony of the event was also quite glamorous in line with the PSN conference traditions, especially with the presence of the deputy governor of Akwa Ibom State, Lady Valerie Ebe, who represented the governor; as well as the gracing of the occasion by five past PSN presidents – Senator (Lady) Eme Ufot Ekaette, Pharm. (Alh) Yaro Budah, Pharm. (Dr) U.N.O. Uwaga, Pharm. (Sir) Anthony Akhimien, and Pharm. Azubike Okwor – aside other eminent Nigerians.
Perhaps, what may be described as the “icing on the cake” of the event actually came from the various speakers, starting from the keynote speaker, Pharm. Lere Baale, who delivered well-researched and thought-provoking papers to the delight of the participants.
The PSN must also be commended for giving awards of “Ambassadors of the Health Sector” to four distinguished Nigerians, who were non-pharmacists. This award is significant, as it is a proactive step in courting and building important relationships for the pharmacy profession in Nigeria.
However, despite these positives, there were certain aspects of the 87th PSN conference that were not impressive and should be avoided in subsequent editions of the event. Topping the list of drawbacks was the extainsion of the conference period by one day. The additional cost of the extension in terms of finance and time was not in any way justified. Participants demonstrated just how unpopular the decision was by largely shunning the closing banquet on Friday night. Many had left before the event and some who remained to take part in the AGM did not hide their lack of interst in the banquet. While it is commendable that the PSN has introduced more events, we believe that all the activities could be accommodated within the four-day period through judicious planning.
Also besmirching the memory of the conference was the choice of an open field for the exhibition. It is our view that the heavy downpour that disrupted much of the exhibition could have been envisaged and a better location provided to accommodate exhibitors. The inability of the exhibitors to carry out their businesses in a conducive environment led to the chaotic atmosphere that saw the conference venue turning to an open market for all sorts of traders.
In addition, the Ibom Hall venue was not spacious enough to accommodate participants, especially during the opening ceremony, with some pharmacists standing during the session because they had nowhere to sit. A very important precondition the Local Organising Committee (LOC) must guarantee when given the hosting right for the PSN conference in future is the provision of a decent a hall that can adequately accommodate participants.
The task facing the PSN is to ensure the 2015 conference in Abuja is an improvement on the last edition. and the best way to start is by ensuring the lapses observed are reviewed and prevented from recurring.