Medical Mission to Jamaica Offers Pharmacy Students Public Health, Interprofessional Experience

By Brooklyn Cobb, PharmD
Assistant Professor of Clinical Pharmacy

Published on June 25, 2018

Jamaica Mission tripOne of the first clinical rotations fourth year pharmacy students have the opportunity to take is a public health elective rotation which includes a medical mission trip to Jamaica.

This summer, a group of 10 students and three faculty members from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy at the University of the Sciences traveled to Kingston and St. Mary, Jamaica where they worked alongside 137 healthcare providers and students to care for underserved populations in pop-up clinics.

Jamaica Mission TripThe medical mission trip was supported through Women of Health Occupation Promoting Education (Women of HOPE), an organization which was established in 2000 by NOVA Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine. The university has helped establish interprofessional collaborations amongst health science schools throughout the country to include students and preceptors of pharmacy, medicine, nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, dentistry, and optometry to attend this medical mission trip every six months.

During the medical mission trip, pharmacy students worked with members of all healthcare teams to come up with medication regimens that optimize patient care and complement the work of the other health disciplines. For example, dental students would often approach pharmacy students to discuss pain control options after planning to extract a patient’s tooth. In addition, pharmacy students were able to fill medication prescriptions and subsequently counsel and educate patients about their medications and disease states. The team collectively filled over 2,500 prescriptions this year over the course of six full clinic days, using a formulary of 110 medications treating a variety of acute and chronic disease states.

Jamaica Mission TripOver the past few years, pharmacy students have raved about how this experience has improved their confidence, empathy, and critical thinking skills. They have learned to be creative in what they prescribe and dispense by working with a limited drug formulary and have made clinical recommendations to healthcare providers and students. Additionally, students have learned how to show compassion to families who may have waited six hours at the clinic just to be seen by the team since it could be months before they see a medical professional again.

"I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to travel to Jamaica," said Richie Chan PharmD'19. "In the short amount of time I was there, I was able to impact the lives of many, from the urban reaches of Kingston to the vast country side of St. Mary’s Parish. To be able to sit next to them, counsel them on their medications, and have them listen so attentively to the knowledge I provided was enough for me to know that I made a difference."

Jamaica Mission TripUpon returning to the U.S., the students participated in additional rotation activities, including reviewing their medication inventory and dispensing logs, writing self-reflection essays, and analyzing data they’ve collected in Jamaica for scholarly projects. All students are responsible for engaging in a clinical research project each year which faculty preceptors help them submit to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists' Midyear Clinical Meeting as a student poster.

The Jamaica Medical Mission Rotation provides students the opportunity to engage in research, explore a different culture, practice healthcare in a different country, work with underserved populations, and practice interprofessionally with multiple healthcare disciplines. This is the fourth year students and faculty from USciences’ Philadelphia College of Pharmacy have participated and they look forward to many more years of collaboration.

Jamaica Mission Trip"The Jamaica medical mission trip was a life changing experience," said Charissa Pham PharmD'19. "Not only was this trip an opportunity to change the lives of those in need, but it was also an opportunity to work with other healthcare professionals I have not had the experience to work with before. Though we often had limited resources, lack of complete patient information, and absence of labs, everyone worked together effectively and collaboratively to provide the most optimal care for our patients that we could. It was this experience that nurtured my growth as an aspiring pharmacist and opened up my eyes to how important it is for health professionals of different disciplines to work together for the patients' benefits." 

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