College training Saudi Arabian pharmacy educators

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“I was at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists Clinical Midyear Meeting,” says Michael Katz, who is director of the college’s international education efforts, “when a young man approached me and said he was a pharmacist from Saudi Arabia who wanted to further his education at the UA. And that was the beginning of a beautiful partnership.”

That partnership, with King Abdulaziz University (KAU) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, has resulted in a program to train 24 people who have recently graduated from KAU’s college of pharmacy at the UA. As far as Katz is aware, this is the largest agreement involving international pharmacy training in the U.S.

The object is to teach the Saudis, who are teaching assistants at KAU, more about clinical pharmacy practice and education so they can return to their university and further develop its clinical pharmacy education programs. The pharmacists will come in three rounds; the first started last fall.

COP teaching others to teach state-of-the-art clinical pharmacy practice

Clinical pharmacy education and practice is focused on improving the outcomes of patient drug therapy by working directly with patients, physicians and other health professionals. Within the system of health care, clinical pharmacists are experts in the therapeutic use of medications. They routinely provide medication therapy evaluations and recommendations to patients and healthcare professionals. Clinical pharmacists are a primary source of scientifically valid information and advice regarding the safe, appropriate, and cost-effective use of medications.

“What’s happening in Saudi Arabia, and also several other countries, is that they’re expanding their pharmacy education to be much more like ours,” says Katz. “Prior to this, they had few clinical pharmacists. The Saudi university, which initiated a PharmD program several years ago, felt that the skill level and training of their new pharmacists wasn’t advanced enough yet to teach students about state-of-the-art clinical pharmacy practice.”

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Each round of eight pharmacists will spend a year doing rotations at the University of Arizona Medical Center and other locations here to acquire internship hours toward becoming licensed as pharmacists in Arizona and learning about U.S. pharmacy practice and the American healthcare system. In the second year, trainees will be placed in postgraduate pharmacy residency programs. An optional third year may entail specialty residency training.

King Abdulaziz University pays for all expenses and the cost of training for the visitors. In return, the educators have committed to teaching at KAU for the same number of years that they study in the U.S.

America and UA were their first choices

Ahmed Al-Tyar, one of the Saudi pharmacists and the young man who approached Katz at the ASHP meeting, says he wanted to study at Arizona because “the UA is a very good university and its college of pharmacy is ranked in the top ten. I researched and talked to four universities before we spoke with Dr. Katz and chose the UA.

“Also, it is well known that American people are very friendly and open to other cultures,” he says.

Reem Mohammed Diri is a pharmacist attending the UA program with her husband, Alaa Bagalagel, who is also a pharmacist on the faculty of KAU.

“This is my first time in the U.S.A.,” she says. “Through education, I have found a passion: I want to discover a cure for cancer.”

International partnerships help patients around the world

Katz hopes the Saudi Arabia contract spurs a larger international training and education program at the college.

“I believe that since clinical pharmacy practice is more advanced in the U.S., we have a responsibility to provide that experience and training to other parts of the world,” he says. “Part of that is pharmacists helping other pharmacists, or pharmacy educators helping others who are involved in pharmacy education.

“But really, the bottom line is that this is going to help patients. And if we can improve the training and education of pharmacists in other countries, that’s going to translate into better patient care."