Akhabue is president of the Pharmaceutical Association of Nigeria Students (PANS), University of Benin (UNIBEN) Chapter. In this exclusive interview with Pharmanews, the 500-level pharmacy student reveals some of his programmes and achievements since he came into office, as well as why he thinks Pharmanews publisher, Sir Ifeanyi Atueyi deserves special recognition from pharmacy students. Excerpts:
Whose decision was it for you to study Pharmacy?
Basically mine. I got interested in Pharmacy during my second attempt at JAMB, after doing a thorough research on all my career options.
You recently emerged PANS-UNIBEN president; what prompted your decision to contest for the post and what are your plans for pharmacy students?
In my early days in pharmacy school, I led a very serious lifestyle, caring mostly for my academics and those of the few friends I made. However, in the course of my sojourn here, I realised that it was useless to try to affect just a few lives, when there was a platform to affect more. I decided to form a group called ‘Beats Initiative’ with my friends. It was a platform for academic mentorship. But even this wasn’t enough to satisfy my passion to impact lives. So, the only viable option left for me was PANS presidency, and here I am.
My plans for pharmacy students are encapsulated in helping to develop and stimulate them towards exploring their own potentials. And in this light, PANS-UNIBEN is about to record a milestone achievement by being the first PANS chapter to train its students in the use of ICT, especially as regards pharmacy practice.
We are also not forgetting to improve on the aesthetic condition of the faculty. Hence, we have proposed a state of the art recreational garden where our students can hang out and enjoy the facilities therein.
In all of these, we are conscious to project the profession in a better light and this we are doing by carrying out health outreaches focused on malaria eradication and drug misuse/abuse to secondary schools.
How would you assess the contribution of Pharmanews to the development of the pharmacy profession?
I have to specially applaud our role model, the man who’s got the profession in his blood and has sacrificed so much to bring it to where it is right now in Nigeria. A big ‘thank you’ to Pharm. Ifeanyi Atueyi for not just making such a resourceful journal available to all and sundry in the profession, but for doing so absolutely free of charge for all pharmacy students. For this, PANS UNIBEN is honouring him with the Pharm E.A. OSADOLOR Lifetime Achiever Award this year during our annual Pharmacy Week.
He is indeed, a rare gem that must be celebrated. Pharmanews is no doubt the widest circulating pharmacy journal in Nigeria and beyond. I must say I am very impressed with how far Pharmanews has come, especially with the introduction of the Pharmanews mobile applications which have made the journal more handy and accessible for students.
What grey areas in the pharmacy profession do you want stakeholders at this year’s PSN conference to address?
Pharmacy is a profession that I have come to realise offers many opportunities. The question is, how many young intending pharmacists are aware of the opportunities the profession offers? This leads us to the problem of lack of free flow of information across the ranks of the profession. Very few young pharmacists are aware of the mentorship programme put in place by the leadership of PSN in Nigeria.
We also have the problem of archaic and rigid laws governing the practice of pharmacy in Nigeria. These laws tend to offer patent medicine dealers freedom to operate, to the detriment of pharmacists; and this has placed young pharmacists especially at a disadvantage. Those in charge of enforcing pharmacy laws seem to be more concerned about regulating pharmacists than patent medicine dealers who now even sell prescription drugs.
These problems need urgent intervention in order to salvage the image and rich history of the profession. Pharmacy laws are so limiting that, in order to find a way around it, malpractice and quackery becomes inevitable to some people.
Lastly, I will not forget the big problem of disunity in the profession. This has ridiculed the profession in the eyes of many, including patients.
As a student, what would you say are the challenges facing pharmacy education and how can these be surmounted?
I think the pharmacy curriculum itself poses a whole lot of problems with so much emphasis on the theoretical aspect, especially in the clinical areas. There is also the cumbersome nature of pharmacy students’ training, which explains why many intending pharmacists score low in social communication as they are confined to their books, classrooms and laboratories.
These problems can be surmounted by restructuring the curriculum to involve more practical interactions in clinical areas and to offer opportunities for pharmacists in training to excel in relationship skills. I also think that irrelevant areas in the curriculum should be totally removed. An example is the funny search for trichomes in pharmacognosy practicals.
Very importantly, students should be consulted in the development of this curriculum so as to come up with a balanced curriculum that will take every stakeholder into consideration.
What do you think government can do to improve the standard of pharmacy education in Nigeria?
Pharmacy is a core health profession and, as such, any government that takes the health of its people seriously should also take the training of pharmacists even more seriously. The Nigerian government needs to urgently address the issue of inadequate infrastructure and manpower in pharmacy schools. Our laboratories are calling for serious upgrade. Moreover, hospitals and the preceptors at government-owned hospitals, where intending pharmacists visit as part of their training process, should receive a facelift. This will create room for pharmacy students to do more of patient interaction, which is the hallmark of the Doctor of Pharmacy programme.
I also think that the college system should be revisited so as to offer pharmacy students good time to master the courses that make up the curriculum.
How do you balance academic work with the demands of PANS leadership?
The key is proper time management. We know that time management is self-management. To reduce stress, I constantly delegate duties and responsibilities while ensuring that every job is done appropriately. This offers me ample time to work and study effectively.
In which area of Pharmacy would you like to practise and why?
I am looking at the pharmaceutical industry. However, I’ll focus more on processing of excipients and APIs as they are largely imported currently. Also, I see it as a fertile ground yet to be exploited maximally in the local scene. This, of course, will be after I have garnered enough hands-on experience in the pharmaceutical industry.
Where do you see PANS-UNIBEN by the time you will be leaving office?
I envisage that PANS UNIBEN will be in a far better state than I met it. By that time, I am expecting that the next administration will focus more on advancing the human capital development of the students, an initiative which we would have spearheaded.