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Pharmacy Council: More in the mortar than one pestle

Published:Saturday | January 23, 2016 | 1:00 AM
Ellen Campbell Grizzle

Pharmacy Council: More in the mortar than one pestle

With reference to recent concerns in the press regarding pharmacy graduates from the University of Technology, (UTech) Jamaica, I write to reiterate that our students are well prepared for the internship experience in which skills are further sharpened for entry into the professional sphere.

We recognise the nation's concern about the capacity of all students to integrate knowledge into practice. Thus, we have designed a full four-year undergraduate Bachelor of Pharmacy degree that provides the opportunity for students to apply knowledge through laboratories, clinic duty, dispensing modules and finally externship (a full semester of patient facing practice in community pharmacies and hospital settings.)

Thus, the course structure requires that students engage in 118 hours of lectures with tutorials and 643 hours of practice-based courses that are rigorously monitored and assessed. Our course structure is similar to the best pharmacy programmes in the world. We have designed an excellent combination of theoretical and practice-based applications that prepare students to enter the 12 months of vocational training under the auspices of the Pharmacy Council of Jamaica (PCJ).

The registrar of the Pharmacy Council of Jamaica's (PCJ) has expressed concern about the 50 per cent failure rate of the recent examination at the end of their 12-month training programme. This is not a trend. Indeed, by the next sitting of the examination, more than 90 per cent of our graduates are normally successful.

Nevertheless, I am of the opinion the failure rate for 2015 at this first sitting after a 12-month period of training requires investigation. In our University, when such 'anomalies' (30 per cent failure or above 80 per cent passes) occur, we examine the quality of instruction, the content of the module, students' evaluation and the level at which the examination is set, among other factors. This process reveals findings that prompt changes to improve the module and our course of study. We commend such a review process to the PCJ at this time.

For our part, we welcome the scrutiny and feedback that, over five decades, has fuelled the development of our excellent pharmacy programme. I do not seek to absolve the UTech, Jamaica of its responsibility to produce graduates who are competent practitioners with excellent critical thinking skills and good citizens. However, the evidence of my assertions of success is in the quality of our more than 4,000 graduates and their contribution in the areas of health, management, drug development and business sectors all over the world.

Our graduates are preferred because of their capacity to provide solutions in resource constrained settings. They can be found in rural and urban Jamaica, across the Caribbean, in leadership positions in all parts of the United States of America, Canada, the United Kingdom, the Middle East and Africa. Our graduates are proud of the training that they received at UTech, Jamaica (formerly CAST).

Therefore, the public has no cause to worry about the pharmacists who are trained at the University of Technology, Jamaica and registered by the PCJ. Indeed, the training and registration process are rigorous but in the end, the public benefits. I seize this opportunity to assure Jamaicans and people all over the world that the excellent service that our graduates provide is no accident. This outcome is because of outstanding training in an exceptional pharmacy programme that demands excellence and civility, and provides strong professional mentorship and support from our alumni working under the purview of the PCJ.

Ellen Campbell Grizzle

Associate professor and dean, College of Health Sciences, University of Technology, Jamaica.

columns@gleanerjm.com ellen.grizzle@utech.edu.jm.