Often when asked “what is a pharmacist?”, common answers include “not sure”, “a pill counter”, “glorified shopkeeper”, “person trained to read the doctor’s handwriting”, “legal drug dealer” and many other various answers. As students we are learning and discovering what a pharmacist is every day and recently I have visited a place, which has taught me that as future pharmacists, we cannot limit ourselves and our title to a definition, as this is a profession which knows no bounds (except the legal ones) and is continuously developing as the world advances around us. Along with this advance, we must indicate, accelerate and overtake outdated practices and we must use these advances to ignite, innovate and implement new concepts to serve the world in the best way possible.
My name is Akbar and I’m a pharmacy student at King’s College London, preparing to begin my third year. I haven’t written a blog style article before, but my recent experiences have forced my hand to share this with my fellow students and professionals on this forum, in an attempt to shed light on the greatest gathering of pharmacy students and professionals from across the world, although words simply cannot do justice to my physical and mental experience. In March, I was introduced to the International Pharmaceutical Students’ Federation (IPSF) by my friend and class mate, Osenadia. Soon after, I discovered some of the details of an event described as a world congress. I simply could not get it out of my mind and just had to attend. Four months later, thanks to generous support from Roche, I was on a plane from London Heathrow to Harare International as a delegate from the United Kingdom.
The congress was chosen to be hosted in Zimbabwe, which is land locked by the five southern African countries – Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia South Africa, and Zambia. The events were primarily hosted by the University of Zimbabwe, located in what is rightly known as the sunshine city, Harare, which sincerely has the fitting motto in the widely spoken local language – Shona “Pamberi Nekushandira Vanhu” ~ “with service to the people”. Wherever I turned to one person for help, there was always more willing to assist me, a stranger, helping me in whichever way they could with the famous, kind and wide Zimbabwean smile.
I landed at Harare international airport on the 29th of July, naively expecting it to be a warm and humid evening. However this wasn’t the case as the glassy cool temperature instantly reminded me of the home comforts of a winter coat. Yes, it was winter in Zimbabwe. Winter begins in June and ends at the end of August. Although the nights were chillingly cold, the dark cover of night was glittered with countless beautiful stars shining in clear view every night without fail.
This annual gathering was the International Pharmaceutical Students’ Federation’s 62nd World Congress, for which I had to travel into Harare, Zimbabwe. The World Congress is the flagship event of the IPSF, which was rife with an electric atmosphere that one simply must be a part of at least once in their life as a pharmacy student. It is the largest annual gathering of pharmacy students across the world, consisting of an interactive and educational -packed ten days, where leaders of international pharmaceutical students associations, pharmacy students and professionals as delegates from over 80 countries take part, all with the same quest for pharmaceutical excellence.
The congress serves as a platform to discuss global pharmacy related issues, with a host of educational and scientific symposiums consisting of speakers internationally recognised as specialists and the best in their respective fields who delivered their coveted knowledge in their own unique fashion, which gave a taste of what pharmacy educatioAn is like across the globe. Every speaker had their own unique story that lead them to stand where they are today and having listened to their experiences, I learned things that simply aren’t taught at any university or found in any textbook.
We had the opportunity to take part in multiple public health campaigns in a school, orphanage and the city centre, where we explained to the general public about neglected southern African diseases – how to identify them, how they are caused, who is at high risk, how to prevent them and what action to take if the disease is contracted. This truly gave me the satisfaction I had hoped pharmacy would give me and it has only fuelled my desire and passion to strive to service mankind in a way that will benefit us greatly.
Also present were representatives from the high offices of the United Nations, World Health Organisation, to explain their mission and targets, which gave great insight into their aims and the logistics of fulfilling those aims. This also provided as an undeniably fantastic opportunity for networking. At the congress, competitions were held for patient counselling, clinical skills and compounding at beginner and advanced levels, where we learned the different styles and approaches of a variety of countries and cultures.
Along with all the work, there was a spectacular excursion programme where we were fortunate enough to witness some of the beautiful nature Zimbabwe has to offer and brilliant evening social events every night, which included – the opening ceremony, masquerade party, pool party, traditional Zimbabwe night, international night and gala night. These events allowed us to socialise well with sea of mixed cultures and getting a flavour from each part of the world whilst making friends for life.
This momentous gathering taught me valuable lessons I had not anticipated to learn, allowed me to interact with people from places I never thought I would meet, sent me to a place I never dreamed of visiting. The most important concept that this congress gave me a strong sense of unity. United as pharmacists, we can take on any challenge. The impact we have on the world, together, is massive and that the world needs us as a unit where we have open dialogue and create an environment where we learn from each other and teach the lessons we learn, to others. “The service you do to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth” ~ Muhammad Ali.
Declaration: This trip was kindly sponsored by Roche.
3rd Year Pharmacy Student,
King’s College London,