College Partners with University in Ethiopia

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St. Louis College of Pharmacy and Mekelle University in Ethiopia recently entered into an agreement which opens up new opportunities for students and faculty and expands the international reach of the College.

Sixth-year students Bryan Bridgford and David Kim were the first two students from the College to go to Ethiopia for a clinical experiential rotation.

“We saw three to four cases of tuberculosis a day,” Bridgford says. “That’s not something you’d normally see here.”

The genesis of the partnership began when a faculty member from Mekelle University was visiting a colleague at Washington University School of Medicine, whose office was across the street from the College.

“They were walking by and saw the sign on our parking garage,” says Goldie Peters, Pharm.D., associate professor of pharmacy practice. “The Mekelle University pharmacy program is pretty new, and they were looking for some assistance in establishing a doctor of pharmacy program.”

Peters has traveled to Ethiopia three times in the last year to help establish the partnership. He says international rotations are not vacations. Students are held to the same academic and professional standard as if they were in America.

“When students go over there and become attached to internal medicine or a pediatric unit, it’s not as different as people expect,” Peters says. “That’s the draw. The experience is something they’ll remember forever, but it’s still a similar clinical experience to if they were in an American hospital.”

Peters says Ethiopia is in a state of transition right now. Basic infrastructure like roads and buildings are going up alongside cell phone towers. Bridgford and Kim traveled on paved, cobblestone, and dirt roads in their daily commute from their living quarters to the hospital.

“What impressed me the most was the attitude of compassion and sympathy towards the patient,” Kim says. “I’m looking to start a career in community pharmacy after I graduate, and it was a great lesson to learn and apply towards my future patients.”

Students will have another opportunity to travel to Ethiopia early next year, and a faculty exchange program may also be possible. In the interim, Peters is focusing on educational issues with his counterparts in Ethiopia.

“I’ve already started working with the team on their curriculum assessment and feedback, especially on their experiential rotations,” Peters says. “We went through some of their curriculum and compared it with ours. They’ve made some significant progress, but now we need to figure out how to keep going.”

“From South Africa and Swaziland, to Saudi Arabia, to Mexico, the College is actively establishing partnerships with institutions around the world to establish or strengthen pharmacy programs,” says Ken Schafermeyer, Ph.D., director of international programs. “We’re using our experience and insights gained in each location to both enhance our work around the globe and also give our students the knowledge and tools to be future health care leaders.”

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