In this interview with Pharmanews for the maiden edition our Professionals In Diaspora column, Dr Nneamaka Adaobi Nwankwo who works as a hospital pharmacist at a Level 1 Trauma Centre in South Florida,USA explains why governments in developing countries, like Nigeria, need to start adapting pharmacy models that have proven effective in developed countries. Nwankwo, an indigene of Okija, in Anambra State, also speaks on her experience while studying Pharmacy in the United States of America, and why it is vital for pharmacists to embrace continuous education. Excerpts:
Tell us briefly about yourself. Your childhood and early education.
My name is Nneamaka Adaobi Nwankwo, but everyone calls me “Amaka”. I currently work as a hospital pharmacist at a Level 1 Trauma centre in South Florida, with a focus on paediatrics/maternity and critical care. I am the product of two amazing and loving parents who instilled in me the importance of hard work, respect, and humility. I am also the oldest of five children. I was born in Boston, Massachusetts, but then my family relocated to Miami, Florida in the early 90s. I attended the University of Florida and received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Human Nutrition in 2009.
Where did you study pharmacy and what was your most memorable experience there?
I studied Pharmacy at Nova Southeastern University in South Florida and received my Doctorate of Pharmacy Degree in 2013. I had many impactful experiences there, but my most memorable experience was taking part in the Annual Community Health Fair. As a student, it was great to be able to apply the knowledge I learnt in the classroom in the real world. It was intimidating at first, but I soon realised that I had all the tools I needed to educate someone else to help impact their health in a positive way. It was an amazing and empowering feeling.
What influenced your decision to study Pharmacy?
My dad was a big influence for me in deciding to study Pharmacy. He had been a pharmacist for over 20 years before he passed away last year. I strive daily to be half the pharmacist he was. He loved and respected his patients and they felt very highly of him as well. I am a very proud daughter. Honestly, it is one of the best decisions I have made in life. It is a great career to get into. The opportunities are endless and there is plenty of room to grow and learn.
What area of Pharmacy is your favourite and why?
As I mentioned earlier, Pharmacy is so diverse. There are so many areas to work in such as Retail, Hospital, Community, Ambulatory Care, Consulting, Mail Order, Nuclear, and Medication Therapy Management (MTM), just to name the common ones. My favourite area of interest is the Ambulatory Care setting. It is a unique setting that provides direct patient contact and helps to manage patients in-between provider visits, checking vitals, monitoring compliance, refilling prescriptions and educating patients on the importance of taking their medications as directed.
What should pharmacists be doing to enable them contribute more to health care delivery?
Pharmacists should remember that pharmacy practice is always changing and that it is very important to stay ahead of the game. It is vital to continue reading and attending educational lectures in order to understand how to move forward.
What should governments in developing countries like Nigeria be doing to improve the standard of pharmacy education and practice?
I believe governments in developing countries should be open to utilising pharmacy models that are common in developed countries and vice versa. I believe every country has something to learn from another. Enforcing the laws and regulations is important for safety and improving of standards as well.
In what ways are you contributing or hope to contribute to Nigeria?
In the future, I would love to be a part of mentoring Nigerian youths, especially young women. To explain to them the importance of education and help be a guide for them. I would love to start with my hometown of Okija in Anambra State, Nigeria.
How do you use your time outside working hours?
I utilise my outside work hours to explore what is next for me in Pharmacy. There is still so much out there for me to learn. I also enjoy traveling and spending time with friends and family. Pharmacy can be demanding at times and it is important to always take care of yourself first before you can help someone else.
What advice do you have for Nigerians coming to study in the U.S.?
The advice I have for Nigerians coming to study in the U.S. is get involved in organisations and meet people. It’s amazing how much we can learn from each other. You are in a unique position because you are coming from Nigeria to the U.S.; so your views may be different. Many people will be interested to know your point of view as a Nigerian. You will also learn so much as well.