History Will be Made at PSN’s Hybrid 2020 Conference – Ohuabunwa

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-Says pharmacists must key into the digital revolution

Barring any last minute hitch, the 93rd national conference of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) holding in Oshogbo, Osun State from 2 to 7 November, 2020, is set to be the most attended so far in the history of the annual event.

This was the submission of Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, President of the PSN, during an exclusive interview with Pharmanews at the Pharmacy House, Anthony Village, Lagos.

Tagged “The First Hybrid Conference”, the gathering is expected to be attended physically and virtually.

According to Ohuabunwa, being the first time the virtual window is being made open, more participants would certainly avail themselves of the opportunity to be part of the event.

Describing the conference as an avenue for pharmacists to put their digital knowledge into practice, the PSN leader called on all stakeholders in the pharmaceutical industry to embrace the digital revolution, which is knowledge-based, adding that the economy of the world is rapidly tilting towards people with the right and requisite knowledge.

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Pharm.(Mazi) Sam Ohuabunwa

Below is the full text of the interview:

Sir, the forthcoming PSN conference has been tagged the first hybrid conference. Don’t you think this is going to affe3ct people’s response to the conference generally?

Yes, it is going to affect response but this is the best we can do in the circumstance of the new normal. Many people have gone virtual. Many conferences are being held virtually. Some have cancelled their conferences completely but we have decided to go virtual.

The lockdown has been relaxed; the economy is opening up. People are having opportunities for physical meetings but obeying the NCDC guidelines. That is what we are doing. We are trying to get the best of two worlds so that those who can’t come, either as a result of distance or ill-health or whatever, can still participate in the conference – which has never happened before.

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So, what you get is that there is going to be more attendance than before because, in the past, it was either you were physically present or not. But, with the new arrangement, you can be a part of the conference without being physically present. Though there may not be much attendance physically, the overall hybrid attendance will be much more.

Will the lukewarm approach of many CEOs to this conference not going to affect the economic aspect of the event?

At a first glance, it would look like that – that there may not be a large number of people. But luckily, we are also doing hybrid. We are going to let people there see your products both virtually and physically. As people are linked up to virtual participation in the conference, they also virtually watch the exhibition.

Again, in terms of exposure, there will be more exposure. If people cannot be there physically, they can see your products and listen to your pitch. What they may not probably do is touch your products or buy physically. Yes, we anticipate some reduction in income but we believe it is still going to be better than not having it at all.

If we are not going physical at all, the number of exhibitions would be so low and we would probably not be in a position to make more meaningful impact both in terms of benefit to the PSN and also in terms of benefit to the exhibitors because the annual conference is an opportunity to update. Companies use it to launch new products and new product extensions, as well as bring new developments to the attention of professional pharmacists.

So, it is an opportunity that we will not completely lose, even though it may not be as it used to be.

For those who are going to attend physically, no matter their number, are you confident that the right steps have been taken in the right direction, for their security?

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I think that security is assured, first by God. They say, safety is of the Lord. Secondly, we believe that #EndSars and all the associated protests have nothing to do with the ordinary Nigerian. They can cause disruption in traffic but they are even fighting against brutality and impunity. #EndSars and such protests are positive development to the economy and to the Nigerian polity.

If Nigeria has reached the level where the people’s rights and power are respected, then we are in the threshold of a revolution – the revolution we have been waiting for to restore power to the real owners.

Power is owned by the citizens but they have been so emasculated and disempowered that they have become victims. People who are supposed to be lords are now servants; those we call civil servants and public servants are now the lords.

Safety is not the issue and I believe that we have also looked at the crime rate in Osun and it is very low generally and therefore, it is a fairly safe haven.

I hear there is going to be an election into various offices during this conference. Why are elections into PSN offices staggered?

I think it is the wisdom of ensuring some level of continuity because, if you have a year when all officers are new and the old officers go, who is going to guide us when we are looking for something? There must be some people who can help with institutional memory; who can guide the newly-elected officers. So, it is good to stagger it in order to reduce the challenge of everybody being fresh.

Moreover, the logistics of holding all the elections in one year would be enormous. We have to also consider the issue of maintaining interest because if you put all the elections in one year, many people will only attend the conference once in three years. So, it is wiser we stagger the process to sustain interest. Last year, we had elections and this year, we are filling three positions. Next year, we will fill the positions of president, vice-president and others.

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What’s your message to all who will attend this hybrid conference?

The message is that the subject of this particular conference is important which is looking at how you can apply technology to pharmaceutical operations from training to manufacturing to community service.

We are in the 21st century digital economy and pharmacists are migrating from analogue to digital, in every sense of the word, both in the way they do business and the way they relate to patients. This has enabled them to bring more value to the profession and to reduce cost because technology is teaching us to be more productive. That is the subject of this conference. Technology is it. I mean ICT.

After COVID-19, anybody who does not know how to apply technology will have to return to the caves. COVID-19 has led to a lot of new knowledge in the frontiers of Medicine and Pharmacy. Healthcare generally has evolved and I think this is an opportunity for pharmacists to upgrade their knowledge on COVID-19 and post-COVID activities.

Any pharmacist that wants to be current, should take advantage of this hybrid conference. It is going to be a fountain of knowledge and information. So, my message is that every pharmacist should be at Osun, preferably physically. But for those who can’t make it to Osun, don’t miss this great opportunity to participate online because the economy of the world is going towards those who have knowledge; those who are current.

Pharmacists cannot stay in their old comfort zones and expect respectability and relevance. We must fight for every bit of the respectability and relevance we can get. And the starting point is knowledge.

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