You are here
Across the Globe
From the heartland of America to the Gold Coast of Africa, The Raabe College of Pharmacy is committed to improving pharmacy practice and education
Patrick Acheampong, PharmD ’11, felt an instant connection when he arrived on ONU’s campus to begin pharmacy studies in fall 2008. Ada’s peaceful environment and friendly people reminded him of his home country of Ghana in West Africa, even though the two places couldn’t be further apart culturally or geographically.
The signing ceremony for the formal agreement between
Ohio Northern University, the Pharmacy Council of Ghana
and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and
Acheampong nurtured this thread of connection. He initiated a pharmacy rotation site in Ghana for ONU students and linked his ONU pharmacy professors with their counterparts at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) – home to Ghana’s premier pharmacy school.
His efforts blossomed into a partnership that far exceeded his expectations. This past summer, the Raabe College of Pharmacy forged a formal agreement with the Pharmacy Council of Ghana and KNUST to help them improve pharmacy practice and education in their country and beyond.
Frances Owusu-Daaku, KNUST’s vice dean of pharmacy faculty, calls the partnership “history in the making.” Dr. Jon Sprague, dean of the Raabe College of Pharmacy, hails the partnership’s far-reaching implications: “We have a tremendous opportunity to influence and improve health care not just in Ghana, but across all of West Africa, thereby impacting millions of lives.”
More than 24 million people live in Ghana alone – a country slightly smaller than the state of Oregon. The West African nation borders the Ivory Coast to the west, Burkina Faso to the north and Togo to the east, with the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of New Guinea to the south. Called the “Gold Coast” by the British for its rich gold resources, Ghana achieved its independence from Great Britain in 1957. Although several languages exist in Ghana, English is the official language and is used in educational settings.
Dr. Jeff Talbot (far left) and Dr. John Sprague (second from
right) tour Ghana this spring.
A developing nation with a stable political climate, Ghana struggles to modernize and improve the standard of living for its citizens. Health care quality and availability remain pressing concerns. According to the World Health Organization, Ghana ranks just 135th out of 191 countries in overall health system performance. In fact, the number of cases of non-communicable diseases, such as malaria, continues to rise in the country.
Just like in America, pharmacists in Ghana work on the front lines, says Dr. Jeff Talbot, associate professor of pharmacology. “They are one of the few clinicians accessible without an appointment,” he explains. “People can walk in off the street and see a pharmacist.”
Yet most Ghanaian pharmacists aren’t equipped with the knowledge, tools or resources needed to provide qualitycare, adds Talbot, who spent time touring clinical practice sites and interviewing Ghanaian pharmacists in 2009 and 2012.
“They are passionate professionals who want to improve therapeutic outcomes for their patients,” he says. “They do a tremendous job with the resources they have, but they could do so much more with just a few more tools.”
Sprague, who also traveled to Ghana this past spring, said the health care challenges he witnessed both humbled and motivated him. He saw outdated technology and medical reference materials, inadequate patient record keeping, and a lack of standards of practice. “Modernizing and advancing the practice of pharmacy will force all branches of health care in the country to improve,” he says. “Pharmacists can push and drive that change.”
Launching a PharmD program
The West African Health Organization (WAHO) identified the transition from a Bachelor of Science to a doctorate degree in pharmacy as a first step toward change.
WAHO tagged KNUST to become the first university in West Africa to make that transition. The Raabe College of Pharmacy signed a memorandum of understanding with KNUST and the Pharmacy Council of Ghana to offer guidance as they develop and implement the PharmD program in a relatively short period of time.
“We (in the U.S.) went through this several years back, and it’s a huge task,” says Sprague. “They will need to dig in and stub their toes a few times to get it done. Our role is to be a consultant: not to control change, but to support it.”
Visiting pharmacies gave Dr. John Sprague a better understanding
of the challenges faced by pharmacists in Ghana.
Sprague says the Raabe College of Pharmacy plans to offer pragmatic advice, review curriculum, initiate faculty-student exchanges, assist in the development of a continuing education program for practicing Ghanaian pharmacists, and help update technology and materials. The college is seeking grant funding to support the initiative and also encouraging ONU alumni to get involved.
“ONU will be crucial in helping KNUST implement its PharmD program and avoid potential pitfalls,” says Owusu-Daaku. “And KNUST will bring a whole new dimension to pharmacy – both culturally and globally – to ONU.”
The PharmD program, once up and running, will transform the role of the pharmacist in Ghana, adds Owusu-Daaku.
“I look forward to a time when the pharmacist in Ghana will be seen as an equal member of the health care team, taking a more active role in patient care that goes beyond dispensing and minor intervention,” she says. “I look forward to the time when the pharmacists’ input is sought on medication decisions and when pharmacists operate chronic clinics so physicians have more time for diagnosing illnesses. It should improve our health care delivery and save both patients and the government money.”
Learning goes both ways
ONU also benefits from the college’s partnership with KNUST because cultural diversity leads to learning and personal growth, says Talbot. “I have a lot of enthusiasm for this partnership because it provides a chance to not only serve, but also have your own perspective changed,” he explains. “You go there (to Ghana) and come back a different person.”
According to Talbot, ONU pharmacy professors, students and alumni will have the opportunity to interact with Ghanaian students and professors on campus, as well as to travel to Ghana to teach and learn. “We hope to bring KNUST pharmacy professors here, and send ourprofessors over there, to teach and visit pharmacy practice sites,” he says. “And we hope to bring more Ghanaian students here to study. They bring an unparalleled perspective to the classroom.”
Pharmacies in Ghana cope with outdated technology and medical
reference materials, inadequate patient record keeping, and a lack
of standards of practice.
Ghana already serves as a rotation site for sixth-year ONU PharmD candidates. During the rotation, students not only learn about the practice of pharmacy in Ghana, but also become fully immersed in a different culture. This fall, five ONU pharmacy students are traveling in Ghana to participate in the elective international Advanced Practice Pharmacy Experience (APPE).
Cynthia Amaning-Danquah, a pharmacy professor at KNUST, and her husband, Daniel Amaning-Dunquah, a pharmacist who owns several independent pharmacies and who sits on the Pharmacy Council of Ghana, are hosts and preceptors for the ONU students. They open their home to the students and generously share their time and knowledge with them. “I believe the benefits (of the partnership) on both sides are beyond human imagination,” says Daniel. “The transformation of lives, to me, is the key driver.”
Amanda Binkey, a sixth-year pharmacy student from Ada, Ohio, and Jessica Davis, a sixth-year pharmacy student from Somerset, Ohio, departed on Aug. 30 for a four-week APPE rotation in Ghana. “I am ecstatic about the trip,” wrote Binkey before her flight departed. “The Amanings have been wonderfully patient answering my endless emails and questions. Numerous people have told me this will be the trip of lifetime, and I intend to make the most of it.”
The two students set up a blog on ONU’s website to share their experiences. In their blog, they write about the challenges of pharmacy practice in Ghana, the hospitality of the Ghanaian people, and many cultural practices – from the meaning of extended family, to traffic, to shopping – so radically different from life in the U.S.
The Amanings enjoy hosting the students. “ONU students, when they visit Africa, come to appreciate the privileges they have that their colleagues in Africa do not,” says Cynthia. “Therefore, they learn to make good use of what they have when they return to the U.S.”
Moving health care forward
Although still in its infancy, the ONU/KNUST partnership promises to impact many lives on two continents – thanks to the vision of one Ghanaian international student and his ONU pharmacy professors who believed in his vision and helped it grow.
“This is the beginning of many good things to come,” says Acheampong. “I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of this wonderful endeavor and for the many people who are making it happen. In the next few years, the first batch of PharmD students from KNUST will walk, and, like a proud dad, I will be content within myself knowing I played a significant role in making this happen.”