A Pharmacist Hands Out Advice, Not Just Drugs
Our encounters with pharmacists at a hospital or clinic are brief; the only glimpses we get of the pharmacists’ world are rows of cabinets and shelves behind the glass panel at the dispensary. In reality, a pharmacist does a lot more than distributing prescribed drugs; they advise patients, doctors, and nurses on drug use and dosage, as well as engage in research and pharmaceutical production. The pivotal role of pharmacy in our healthcare infrastructure means that a career in this field offers good prospects and job satisfaction.
The pharmacy programme at CUHK is run by the School of Pharmacy under the Faculty of Medicine, and the annual intake quota was scaled up from 30 to 55 in 2012, and further increased to 61 last year.
Yuki Cheng, a Year 3 student enrolled in CUHK’s pharmacy programme, has always wanted to engage in community service. A chemistry and human sciences enthusiast, Yuki believes that pharmacy is the subject of her choice. Her decision was also affected by the sad fact that one of her close family members is suffering from Graves Disease, an autoimmune disorder that can lead to hyperthyroidism. Witnessing herself the havoc wreaked by the side effects of medication on someone she loves dearly, Yuki began to wonder the difference it would have made should her family member be better informed and supported. It was then that the younger Yuki came to realize the importance of pharmacy to public health. Such experience has cemented Yuki’s determination to apply herself to pharmacy studies, which is in fact far more diverse than she had originally thought. Now she knows that pharmacy is a multidisciplinary subject, covering a wide range of fields such as pharmaceutics, medicinal chemistry, pharmacy practice and law, biochemistry, and herbal medicines, etc.
Upon graduation, Yuki shall be joining a profession of which 25% of its workforce is made up of CUHK graduates. On top of hospitals and clinics, pharmacists in Hong Kong also find employment in pharmaceutical companies, teaching and research, geriatric care and civil service. According to Prof. Zuo Zhong, Director of the School of Pharmacy, many CUHK BPharm alumni are now serving key positions in various pharmacy sectors in Hong Kong.
A pharmacist’s responsibilities often require direct face-to-face contact with patients, clients and other healthcare professionals. This requires adaptability and good communication; both essential attributes of any pharmacist. For this reason, CUHK’s pharmacy curriculum highly emphasizes ‘out-of-classroom’ activities to help students acquire the soft skills necessary for team work and professional success.
‘The School of Pharmacy encourages us to participate in different learning activities to broaden our horizons. For instance, I have been engaging in outreach services with the full support of our faculty. We also have access to research and internship opportunities,’ Yuki said.
Practical trainings, clinical clerkships, community and outreach programmes, as well as other forms of experiential learning, are an integral part of the curriculum. The School ensures that every pharmacist-to-be is equipped to face real-life workplace challenges. CUHK’s pharmacy students also have the opportunity to participate in overseas pharmacy exchanges to Universities outside of the region such as the University of Wisconsin Madison in the United States and the University of Toronto in Canada. This allows the students to appreciate a global view of pharmacy practice and broaden their perspectives.
To Yuki, perhaps the true measure of a pharmacist’s success is his or her ability to help patients maximize the benefits of their medication. Very often, patients suffering from chronic diseases also have to grapple with ageing, disability and poverty, problems that can be caused or aggravated by a long-running medical condition. And such problems may compromise the optimal use of medication.
‘In my training, I have seen first-hand how pharmacists can help patients use drugs appropriately, and that pharmacists can offer helpful advice and counselling to patients. I certainly hope that I can apply what I’ve learnt here to give patients a helping hand,’ she said.
Published: Summer 2017
Last Updated: Summer 2018