In this interview with Adebayo Oladejo, Da’ap Panshak Ignatius, president of Pharmaceutical Association of Nigeria Students (PANS), University of Jos (UNIJOS), Plateau State, speaks on pharmacy education in Nigeria, as well as the impact of the 2017 Annual National Conference of the Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN) held in Jos, recently, on PANS-UNIJOS. Excerpts:
Why did you choose to study Pharmacy?
My decision to study pharmacy was prompted by my love for chemistry and its relationship to the health profession. During my secondary school days, Pharmacy was the only course I knew of that could bridge these two variables, so I went on a quest for fulfillment in applying to study Pharmacy, even though there were no mentors or role models around me. Choosing Pharmacy wasn’t without a hint of its relevance in the health sector and, surprisingly, its lucrativeness.
What are some of your achievements since you became the president of PANS-UNIJOS?
PANS-UNIJOS has achieved a lot ever since we came on board as executives. Our achievements include organising a symposium in conjunction with the International Pharmaceutical Students’ Federation (IPSF), with the theme: “The Pharmacy Connection/Links: Student Today, Pharmacist Tomorrow”. We also organised a staff-student forum, with the aim of forging academic excellence through cordial relationship between faculty staff and students. What we are doing is to enrich our students’ knowledge of the profession and encourage them to make right choices within the field of Pharmacy.
We also had a facility tour for new students to ECWA Pharmaceuticals in Jos, and also to some hospitals. We were also able to secure the approval of the university management to set up a Students Centre, which the previous administration found difficult to achieve. Presently, plans are on ground to implement the project.
How about challenges?
When we newly came on board, making the new set of executives to see reason why we needed to work together as a team and with same vision was quite difficult to achieve. However, we thank God that this has been resolved now and we are now one big family.
Also, striking a balance between official duties and academic work is a big challenge; but I am working hard to achieve this. Finance is often a paramount challenge in every administration, and ours is not an exception.
What is your assessment of pharmacy education in UNIJOS, compared to other pharmacy schools in the country?
Pharmacy education in UNIJOS is simply the best, because we have the African Centre of Excellence on Phytomedicine Research and Development (ACEPRD), with Prof. John C. Aguiyi as the centre director. The centre has facilitated the production of several drugs for use in Nigeria, including antihypertensive, antidiabetic and antimalarial drug; as well as anti-snake venom.
The ACEPRD provides an avenue for students to learn from not just local postgraduate students but also international researchers. Moreover, pharmacy faculty, UNIJOS, has some of the best professors and this is reflected in the quality of graduates it produces.
What is your general view of the current state of pharmacy education in Nigeria and what do you think the government can do about it?
I believe pharmacy education in Nigeria is close to becoming the best in Africa. This is because of the emergence of the Pharm.D programme, which will pave the way for instituting world class pharmacy practice.
However, the population of pharmacists in the country is relatively small, compared to the population. So, the government should make effort to resolve this problem by ensuring that we have more pharmacy schools, especially in the federal and state universities which are accredited, well-funded and given grants for research and development. There is also need to build more research facilities.
What aspects of pharmacy profession do you want the leadership of PSN and PCN to address urgently?
Unscrupulous practice has over time been a problem in the pharmacy profession. Also, the exchange of pharmacy license for money by fresh graduates of pharmacy across the country is currently on the increase and must be stopped before the integrity of the profession is ruined or tarnished.
The relevant agencies should be able to correct these problems and others, by checkmating the rise of swindlers in the profession and also organising conferences on the need for ethical pharmacy practice which will be a course to foster a better pharmacy education in the country.
Who are your role models in pharmacy practice and why?
I have always admired the vigour and strong will possessed by the late Prof. Dora Akunyili, the former director general of NAFDAC; and the publisher of Pharmanews, Pharm. (Sir) Ifeanyi Atueyi, because of their unique contributions to the pharmacy profession and the identity they have carved for themselves as pharmacists.
When you graduate from pharmacy school, which area of practice in pharmacy will you consider and why?
I am passionate about academic and administrative pharmacy, and I strongly believe that this will propel me to the height of achievements that I dream of.
Where do you see PANS UNIJOS by the time you will be leaving office?
I see a PANS chapter that is driven by the passion to achieve and build sustainable legacies, to the level of being the envy of other PANS chapters. This can only be achieved through optimal leadership and conscious followership.