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International Spotlight: FIP Provides Opportunity for Pharmacists to Expand Their Horizons

By Alina Cernasev, PharmD, PhD student and Jason Varin, PharmD

Change in a pharmacist’s world is ever-present. What is happening in our immediate, personal domain can sometimes be overwhelming and often monopolizes our professional thoughts. By taking a step back and looking beyond our environs, we may be able to learn how to manipulate change based on what others have done, are doing or will be doing to effect change. In this recurring series, we will share several “snapshots” of what is happening beyond the confines of our borders.

For over a century, pharmacists from around the globe have been gathering annually to discuss current issues in the field of pharmacy. The Pharmaceutical International Federation (FIP) conference provides a forum to share ideas and to discuss existing and develop new directives in pharmacist provided health care. The 2016 FIP conference took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This meeting produced an excellent venue for pharmacists and pharmacy students to learn more about the latest patient care processes, international practice guidelines, and pharmacy curriculum developments from across the globe. The conference theme was “Reduction in Global Disease” with a focus on educating the patient.

Dozens of keynote speakers, panel discussions and poster presentations provided the structure of the meeting. It was very difficult to choose which events to attend, as many I was interested in were presented concurrently. Every session I attended was interesting and focused on important topics. For example, a topic that captured my attention was medical marijuana. I now have a better understanding of the current research and how other countries are using cannabis for medical purposes and are implementing legislation affecting its use.

I learned that several states in the U.S. have legalized marijuana use in one form or another, and that its use was (at the time of the meeting) illegal in Australia. I also learned that in 2013, Uruguay became the first country in the world to completely legalize marijuana. Private citizens may cultivate up to six cannabis plants within their homes. However, all sales of cannabis must be conducted through the federal government.

A workshop that drew my interest was the application of health literacy to optimize patient counseling and outcomes. I found the experience relevant because it offered me a more complete understanding of how to apply simple and appropriate terminology while avoiding medical jargon and overly technical terms when counseling patients.

These sessions provided an excellent opportunity to network with other pharmacists with similar interests from around the world and exchange ideas and experiences. For example, David (a British pharmacist) explained the expanding role of pharmacists in clinics in the United Kingdom. Michelle, a Swiss pharmacist, outlined the use of adherence methods used in treatment of HIV/AIDS populations. Tommy, a scientist from Sweden, described regulations that govern OTC distribution in Europe.

In conclusion, I feel that the FIP conference is the best opportunity to learn about pharmacy practice from around the world. I was able to improve my understanding about pharmacists’ implications in research and health care campaigns, pharmacy curriculum, medications usage and application of guidelines from an international perspective. I met many pharmacists with whom I formed professional and personal relationships, that I believe will last a lifetime.

This was an incredible opportunity to expand my professional development horizons. I am grateful that the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy and the Minnesota pharmacy community encourages and helps support student pharmacists to take advantage of these opportunities that will in turn create patient care initiatives and improve patient outcomes, here and abroad.



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