International Programs Extend College's Global Reach

Published on 01 December 2012

To educate students to address global health issues, STLCOP recently created the Office of International Programs and named Ken Schafermeyer, Ph.D., professor of pharmacy administration, as its director.

The office currently offers International Service Learning, a course that serves as a prototype for future international program courses. The class will travel to Guatemala for two weeks in early January to help build houses with Habitat for Humanity; last year’s students volunteered in Costa Rica.

In May, Schafermeyer took two students on an advanced pharmacy practice experience rotation to Swaziland, Africa. The group helped establish a curriculum for a two-year pharmacy assistant program at Southern Africa Nazarene University. They also volunteered at Raleigh Fitkin Memorial Hospital, which had only two pharmacists and a handful of technicians dispensing medications for 200 inpatients and 700 outpatients each day.

Stressing the importance of long-term commitments, Schafermeyer says he wants to avoid one-shot medical missions to temporary clinics. “Many patients need continuity of care rather than episodic care,” he says. “A one-shot effort serves more to train health care workers than it does to help patients. Consequently, we want to focus on sending students to clinics or hospitals that are well established and where students can help as well as learn.”

He plans to return to Swaziland in the spring to follow up on the pharmacy assistant program at Southern Africa Nazarene University. Ideally, he would like to bring a few more sixth-year students along with him.

Schafermeyer would also like to establish more international programs. Plans are in place to add several more courses and clinical rotations, as well as extra-curricular international service learning experiences, study abroad programs, and student exchange programs.

In fact, a student and faculty exchange program is being established with Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León in Mexico (UANL). According to Amy Tiemeier, Pharm.D., director of professional affairs, UANL faculty visited the College earlier this year to learn about pharmacy education in America. An agreement to start a student and faculty exchange program resulted from their visit. In August, the College sent a pair of students to UANL for one week to determine “what types of exchanges would be reasonable: cultural, educational, introductory, and/or advanced practice experiences,” Tiemeier says. “We would also like to develop some exchange programs with faculty.”

STLCOP’s international initiatives also include having students from other countries study here. In the spring 2013 semester, the College will welcome four students from Saudi Arabia. “They have pharmacy degrees from universities in Saudi Arabia,” Tiemeier says. “However, the American degree is highly valued, so they are coming here to expand their education. All have worked as pharmacists and hope to practice more clinically after attending STLCOP.”

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