PharmD students travel to Japan

For the first time, second- and third-year PharmD students from UA College of Pharmacy traveled to the port city of Kobe, Japan for a faculty-led study abroad experience.

After hosting a group of pharmacy students from Kobe Gakuin University, students asked Michael Katz, director of international programs for the college, ”Why can’t we have a trip like they had?” From that question stemmed the idea for the program. Following more than a year of planning, 14 students, along with Katz, started their journey on Aug. 7.

Faculty members and students of pharmaceutical science at Kobe Gakuin University (KGU) were the COP delegation’s hosts in Japan. Katz has a long-standing relationship with the university due to his service as a visiting scholar there, and several groups of KGU students have visited UA.  While Katz has been to Japan more than 100 times, none of the COP students involved in the 2014 program had traveled there themselves.

group of students smiling

During their 10-day stay, the group checked off several goals, which included learning about pharmacy education and practice and the healthcare system in Japan. The COP students also wanted to compare Japanese healthcare practices to practices in the United States.

Lectures by faculty at KGU were on topics such as herbal pharmacy, medication dispensing and administration, and the Japanese hospital and healthcare systems.

Throughout their studies, the American students learned how Japanese pharmacies keep track of their revenue using a point system and how pharmacists are limited to a certain number of prescriptions they may fill per day. The students toured Kobe City Hospital, where they discovered Japanese pharmacies do not use technicians and interns; rather, all dispensing activities are done by pharmacists. COP student Sara Hodges stated in her blog post about the trip, “The hospital pharmacy we visited was probably my favorite. It was such a large hospital and had so much technology that was just incredible.”

Many of the students commented that learning about herbal medicine, kampo, was their favorite experience because of the vast differences from U.S. pharmaceutical practices.

“Perhaps the most unique (and to me, the most unusual) aspect of pharmacy in Japan is the continued existence and practice of kampo pharmacy, a type of herbal/natural medicine derived from ancient Chinese practices,” explains Alyssa Hinchman.  

In comparison to U.S. practices, fellow PharmD student Hoang Phan believes, “Kampo medicine has potential to be very popular in the U.S. Although there are a lot of implications to consider, kampo medicine would appeal to patients who are after an ‘all natural’ approach to treating their ailments.”

Outside of lectures and pharmacy tours, the group enjoyed cultural experiences as they visited the cities of Hiroshima, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara and Tokyo. During their travels, they visited the Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima, Osaka Castle, the Harajuku district of Tokyo and various temples and shrines.

“While the students who went to Japan learned about pharmacy and health care, in my mind the most important benefits of the trip were cultural and social,” says Katz. “Even though we were there only 10 days, the UA and KGU students were able to develop a close bond.  While there are differences between Japanese and American cultures, the UA and KGU students learned that who they are and what they believe in are mostly the same. I am very proud of the UA students who traveled to Japan with me—they represented UA, our profession and our country very well.”

The students who represented UA COP in Japan include: Alyssa Hinchman, Sara Hodges, Rick Lasica, Douglas Lee-Chan, Ashley Loy, Lily Nguyen, Kimberly Pham, Hoang Phan, Caroline Riedel, Carol Rim, Tyler Ruddy, Caitlin Vaughn, Ronald Velasquez and Jingxin Yang.

For more insight into the students’ experiences, view the COP Japan trip blog.

Story by Justine O'Connell, communications assistant


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