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Community Faculty

Creating Global Health Opportunities for Pharmacy Students

Author cupharmacy | Publish Date May 18, 2015

There is a region in Southwest Guatemala called Trifinio, which is home to a large banana plantation that employs nearly 5,000 workers a day. The people that work at the plantation and reside in the surrounding area live in impoverished conditions with extremely limited access to healthcare.

Seeing a clear need for healthcare, the plantation owner decided it was time to do something. Working alongside Dr. Edwin Asturias, Director for Latin American Projects at the Center for Global Health here at the University of Colorado, a CU clinic was setup offering a wide range of services, from pediatric care to disease management.

Since the clinic is funded through CU, residents and students from the school will have the option to go down to Guatemala for rotations. Enter the School of Pharmacy.

A committee at the school including Dean Ralph Altiere, Drs. Doug Fish, Kari Franson, Jodie Malhotra and Sarah Scoular was formed to get pharmacy involved with the clinic. The goal of the committee is to start a rotation for P4s at the Guatemalan clinic for a six week block of time. Residents would spend their time training local pharmacy technicians, caring for patients in an ambulatory care setting and teaching the local population about disease management and preventive care.

Drs. Jodie Malhotra and Sarah Scoular will co-precept the residents working at the clinic. “Jodie and I will go down there for the first week to help get things established and make sure they’re receiving the support they need. After that, we will stay in touch via Skype and email. We will also occasionally FaceTime the residents while they are consulting with patients.”

Establishing a clinic like this has been a goal of Sarah’s since she started working at the school. She says, “There are a lot of international opportunities out there for med students, but not for pharmacy students.”

Sarah has a long history of using her pharmacy education to care for people on a global scale. In 2006, she became involved with Timmy Global Health, providing quality healthcare to impoverished populations in Ecuador. She also spent time in the Dominican Republic taking care of Haitian refugees and caring for indigenous people in Guatemala.

“Having those international experiences was what kept me in pharmacy school.” Unfortunately, though, many of these international opportunities are hard to find if you’re a pharmacy student, so it has always been a goal of Sarah’s to help establish international clinics that employ pharmacy students.

“Pharmacy students want to get involved, which is great because we need to get more pharmacists involved in global health.”

Sarah views this clinic as an important stepping stone and she hopes to see many more options out there for pharmacists interested in global health in the years to come.