A Case for Pharmacy Leadership in Global Health

Of all health professionals, Pharmacists probably have the strongest advocacy campaigns calling for the recognition of the capacity to provide services and care to patients beyond the current general scope of merely dispensing medicines. Across the globe, the pharmacy profession has experienced significant growth in the last decade.

While leading the International Pharmaceutical Students Federation on expanding the involvement of the federation in global health affairs especially with the World Health Organization, the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, and more, there was a significant lack of guidance and precedence of engagement from the Pharmacy Profession on which we could build on.

Coming back to the local context, I once had a discussion with an authority in the health sector about the lack of Pharmacists in a managerial role such as Director of a Hospital or other non-clinical, administrative role in healthcare, they pointed out that it can only be blamed on Pharmacists not showing up with the capacity, but I believe there is bias to some extent. And in the past weeks, young pharmacists took it to twitter to send out complaints and arguments with other health professionals on similar issues.

Globally, a friend made an interesting revelation in a young pharmacists meet up, he said that the best school of medicine in the world will have a number of their prominent professors start their career in a clinical setting, getting into a policy decision making position in a ministry, international organizations, and conduct the most policy related researches before returning to teach at the school. While for the best school of pharmacy in the world, the prominent professor will have evolved at the school in a purely academic environment, in the country and mostly focused on pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences directly related issues. Students from these schools will have completely different aspirations and capacity in their leadership positions.

During the 70th World Health Assembly in Geneva, a remark putting medical doctors above other health professions on global health leadership served to unite pharmacy, nursing and veterinary students present who started, under the hashtag #WeNotMe, to talk about the strength in diversity and what this diversity could bring to Global Health Leadership, reforms and advances that are long overdue.

I engaged my position as President of IPSF as stepping stone for my goal to be serving as a policymaker in a position that allows me to first-hand shape, build and strengthen health systems. I sought to learn about global health, to engage in health policy discussions, I used this blog as a platform to share my thoughts and ideas. But I kept having the impression that as a Pharmacist, it is a wrong goal to have. While I make my next steps, it is proving to be even more challenging to have entry points into a career path that would lead up to my goal. I speak for many of us who are growing up to discover the role of a pharmacist that goes beyond the status quo.

As we shape the future of the profession, I would mandate us, the young generation to bust the bubble, let’s remove limits on what we can or cannot do as Pharmacists. Although we still seek to justify our role in the health systems, let’s combine this fight with having more of us defining and shaping the future of these health systems and the future of Global Health. let’s take up roles beyond our limits, and by doing so, there is no way the profession will lag behind, we can make change happen from within the systems.

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