Akanbi Oluwaseyi is the President of the Pharmaceutical Association of Nigeria Students (PANS); in this exclusive chat with PharmaTimes Correspondent, GABRIEL IFINNWA, he speaks on issues affecting Pharmacy students in Nigeria among others.
Why did you decide to choose pharmacy?
Well, in my own case, I loved anything that deals with health and pharmacy, and so it was a good option for me. Actually, when I finished my secondary school education I never knew what pharmacy was really about except that they (Pharmacists) dispense drugs in the hospital. My dad was however, the one who encouraged me to choose pharmacy amongst all other health care professions. I agreed to his opinion and that was how I found myself in pharmacy.
Tell us about your programme as the President of the Association?
I and the other executives have it in mind to organise a symposium where Pansites would be equipped with the values which they need to augment the practice of pharmacy in the country. Aside that, there are also programmes set to expose Pansites to the various available opportunities which the profession presents in all sectors of our economy, be it Education, Media, Finance, Sports among others. It is note-worthy that the association would also be hosting the African Pharmaceutical Symposiums (AFPs) which will involve the participation of all pharmacy schools in Africa. We are so glad about it, as it poses an opportunity for a fruitful relationship between pharmacy students all over the African continent.
What is your view about the growing concern that newly graduating pharmacists are running away from the practice?
The profession hasn’t been presented in appreciable way that will draw the interest of not only pharmacy students, but other students in secondary institutions. You will agree with me that the frustration people face in looking for internship placement after many years of being in the University is enough to discourage newly graduating pharmacists from the practice. I appreciate the coordinated effort of the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) in solving issues related to this internship placement as many centres are being approved and available for internship programmes yearly. Although the number of new pharmacy graduates is overwhelming in relation to the number of available centres in the country. Secondly, job security is also an area of concern as it has drifted a huge number of pharmacy graduates from the practice of pharmacy. Most of us have witnessed some of our uncle’s who jump from one company to another because of some inconsistencies in the system being run by those companies. Thirdly, I think people have found passion in another field, or areas that is entirely different from the pharmacy profession, while some people aren’t ready to practice because of a lack of sense of direction, or ignorance. In this case, most of them later return to the profession after wandering for many years.
How can pharmacy students in Nigeria compete with their contemporaries?
There is a need to review our curriculum because our professional competence has its base or foundation on the curriculum we offered in the university. I have observed that the western countries offer improved health care delivery services because of the clinicals, which pharmD is centered about. For this reason, I appreciate the collective effort of the PSN President and his team along with the PCN, in getting pharmD approved in all Universities offering pharmacy in Nigeria. Hopefully, this will gear the practice of the profession to a higher level in the area of patient care. Prof. Fola Tayo said in 2012 at the PSN conference in Ilorin, that it’s only the Nigerian pharmacist that wasn’t trained beside the patient’s bed. Secondly, there is a need to firmly protect the already existing structure on ground. What I mean is, PCN accreditation must remain intact as it was and have always been, so as to ensure that substandard laboratory equipment and experimental substances are eradicated in the system. This will expunge incompetence in the new breeds of pharmacy graduates we are producing.
Funding is a challenge in Nigerian tertiary institutions. Do you think the government is doing enough to make funds available for pharmacy Education in the country?
As much as I don’t like to blame the government, they are really guilty in the area of funding. There’s the infrastructural part of pharmD education. That’s why most Universities haven’t started the programme. The infrastructures, designs, clinical and laboratory equipments required for the running of the programme are very expensive. This has incapacitated many tertiary institutions with the government showing little or no concern. This also applies to the Bpharm programme. A suggestion was raised during the council meeting of the recently concluded 90th PSN conference that held in Abia that pharmacy students should be trained with original and potent drugs, chemicals and the same standard equipments used by NAFDAC officials in their laboratories. These facilities are expensive and government sponsorships aren’t encouraging.
What advice do you have for aspiring pharmacists in the country?
Just like I would advise anyone heading into tertiary institution, to be hardworking, focused, prayerful, hopeful and patient, Pharmacy has a lot in stock for anyone who is ready and prepared to delve into the soil of the profession. It takes an extra in the ordinary which many people are to be an extraordinary pharmacist. The extra is how creative you are, and how prepared you are for the various opportunities the profession would present to you. Just like pharmacists Adepoju Kehinde Philips told me, “never be a stereotype, be active in any activities in school. Anything you find your hand doing, do it well. Take time to build a good reputation for yourself even if it means denying yourself of pleasure, not many days from now, you will be glad you did.” Take time to reflect on this.