Under the direction of Pharmacy Practice and Drug Development Adjunct Instructor Cornelius D. Pitts, PharmD, Alishah Rahemtulla PharmD’12 completed a unique project for her global health independent study. Rahemtulla obtained an internship at the Aga Khan Hospital in Tanzania, Africa, where she got first hand experience in a third-world healthcare environment. Her first person report is below:
I was fortunate to obtain an internship at the Aga Khan Hospital in Tanzania, Africa where I worked closely with the pediatricians and physicians to develop a dosing guideline based on the most seen infections in that area. I also attended many meetings held by residents and helped develop therapeutic regimens to ensure quality care for ICU patients. For the past year, I took on an Independent Study in Global Health Development with Dr. Cornelius Pitts, which helped me prepare for my trip and allowed me to gather my findings. My findings were mostly observational, where I determined how healthcare professionals from the West, specifically pharmacists, can contribute to the development of healthcare in third-world countries. I tried to establish ways for how we as healthcare professionals need to offer time and knowledge in order to increase access to medications for patients, especially in rural areas.
The pharmacist should play an essential role in providing access to medication. As a student, it is best to gain experience through travelling and conducting international research with a group of other healthcare students in order to learn from each other to be better prepared in the future as leaders in the healthcare field. It is very easy to be passionate about global health development and hope to one day provide equal access to healthcare in developing countries, but one can never understand the depth and severity of the issue unless one has the opportunity to gain experience. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to a third-world country and observe the healthcare systems as a student so that hopefully, in the near future, my experience can allow me to bring about change. My findings have allowed me to better understand the resistance that come with change, which is the reason I hope to dedicate my career to the development of under served areas.
Upon my return earlier this year, I tried to increase awareness on campus to motivate current and future healthcare professionals to use their knowledge to help others. I had given a presentation in my Infectious Disease elective about my experience in Africa, and I tried to give solutions to each problem I had seen with the systems, so that students could see that it is possible for one person to make a difference. I also had the opportunity to speak at the Japanese Charity Relief Fund on campus where I tried to motivate students and tried to help them understand the necessity for healthcare professionals to respond to disaster situations. I also spoke at the Annual Research Day last week where I presented my findings from my experience in Africa. I hope to travel to Tajikistan sometime this year to further my studies.
I hope this article can reach out to students and faculty so we, as a campus, can participate in the development of healthcare globally.
Last year, Dr. Pitts took two students to Kenya during their off-rotation period, at their own expense, designing an educational program for them at one of the hospitals with which he is affiliated in Nairobi, Kenya.
“The dedication of these students, now graduated, to careers of service, demonstrates the diverse interests of students in exploring careers beyond traditional pharmacy practice,” he said.