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Interview with Sarel Malan, PhD

31 October 2011
Interview with Sarel Malan, PhD

Director, School of Pharmacy University of the Western Cape South Africa
University of the Western Cape
South Africa

Dr. Sarel Malan has worked as Director of the School of Pharmacy at the University of Western Cape in Bellville, South Africa. During the FIP Congress in Hyderabad last month, Dr. Malan sat down with FIP Congress staff member Lisa McDevitt to discuss his school’s program and its challenges and strengths.

One of Dr. Malan’s main challenges is capacity.  South Africa suffers a shortage of pharmacists as well as a shortage of academic staff at the limited number of institutions that produce pharmacists.  The University of the Western Cape, as all South African institutions, has been requested to double the numbers of pharmacy student enrollees in order to address the shortage.  To increase capacity without sacrificing quality, Dr. Malan must convince university administrators that the traditional ratio of one lecturer to 20 students is not appropriate for certain aspects of pharmacy education.  For example, objective structured clinical examinations (OSCE) and other such practical training require one-on-one faculty attention.  A particular strength of the University of the Western Cape’s program is their demonstration of social responsibility through service learning, said Dr. Malan.  All pharmacy students are required to complete practical sessions in community clinics.  Community clinics are generally staffed by nurses and healthcare workers and provide care to target populations, including patients infected with tuberculosis and HIV.  The role of the pharmacy students is to evaluate drug utilization, provide drug information, and assess adherence.  In addition to the community clinics, pharmacy students are involved in non-drug-related projects such as clean water and nutrition projects.  Evaluation is primarily through student reflection.

Dr. Malan said that schools looking to develop service-learning projects of this type should begin by forming relationships. Key players form a triangle with three essential components:
1.) The educational institution or university,
2.) The community, and
3.) The Department of Health and/or healthcare providers. 

Successful service learning projects require collaboration of all three partners, and all three stand to benefit, he said.  The service-learning program includes community clinics, day hospitals and academic hospitals.  Students rotate and participate at all levels during the last two years of their studies.

A second strength of the South African training program is that pharmacists are trained mostly by fellow pharmacists. This includes the pharmaceutical sciences, which are taught by pharmacists with the appropriate PhD or other postgraduate degree.  In some other countries, pharmacists are on a professional or practice-based track where pharmaceutical scientists may be chemists or some other content expert but not pharmacists.  In the South African context, students in both the professional and scientific tracks become pharmacists first.

The School of Pharmacy confers approximately 75 Bachelor’s degrees in pharmacy (BPharm) and 10 Master’s degrees in pharmacy (MPharm) or pharmaceutical sciences (MS in pharmacy) per year.  They also have approximately eight doctoral students (PhD) and one doctor of pharmacy (DPharm) student currently.  In this curriculum, the Bachelor’s degree is the entry-level degree for all pharmacy studies.  The Master’s degrees are full research degrees.  The MPharm and DPharm degrees are in a professional track, whereas the MS in pharmacy and PhD are in a scientific track.  The program also attracts some international students; approximately 10% of enrollment is international students. BPharm students are from Africa, while postgraduate students are from both African and India.

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