During May 11-26, nine UF pharmacy students traveled to Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) in the United Arab Emirates to study the culture and visit the largest pharmaceutical manufacturer, Julphar, in the Gulf region. Participating students were Abigail Sprague, Brinda Dave, Abby Pollander, Ann Song, Elizabeth Simpkins, Jennifer Hawkey, Joshua Wyss, Natalia Shepetiak and Sweta Bharech.
“My visit … was exactly what I needed to gain a new perspective on my career,” said Dave, a senior pharmacy major. “Most importantly, I gained an understanding of another culture and will now be able to approach my future patients with empathy.”
The trip was part of the UF pharmacy department’s initiative to give students real-world experience. Currently, the U.S. pharmacy curriculum does not give students a chance to visit pharmaceutical manufacturers.
“Unlike the U.S., most pharmacy graduates, from places such as RAK, UAE and India, join the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry and have the opportunity to go on industrial visits as part of their curriculum. It’s just like clinical rotations in the U.S.,” said Chandra Sekar, Ph.D., associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences.
Most U.S. students never see how the medications they dispense are manufactured. The RAK trip gave insight into the processes and protocols a pharmaceutical manufacturer follows when developing new drugs.
The trip additionally provided students the opportunity to meet and network with students attending the RAK Medical and Health Sciences University (RAKMHSU). They also visited the Obaidullah General Hospital in RAK.
“Not only was it great to interact with the students at [RAKMHSU] and gain cultural knowledge, we also built new friendships with the students from Findlay,” said Ann Song, a fifth-year pharmacy major.
Sekar says the pharmacy department plans to take students back to RAK every other year. This will not only give UF students an advantage in their field, but will help progress the industry in the United States.
According to SelectUSA.Commerce.gov, the United States is the world’s largest market for pharmaceuticals, and U.S. companies hold the intellectual property rights to most new medicines.
“… all pharmacists are involved in dispensing [drugs and medications]; won’t it be better to have some idea of how they are manufactured?” asked Sekar.
Written by Evan Rowland