Olumide Ibikunle is the immediate past president, Pharmaceutical Association of Nigeria Students (PANS), Igbinedion University, (IUO), Okada, Edo State. In this exclusive interview with Pharmanews, the young and astute Ibikunle, whose mother, Pharm. (Mrs) E.A Ibikunle is also a pharmacist speaks on some grey areas in the profession that needs to be addressed urgently by the stakeholders in the profession. He also expressed his views on some crucial issues affecting pharmacy education in Nigeria, especially the challenges facing public universities in the country. Excerpts:
Why did choose to study Pharmacy?
Growing up, my love for Biology and Chemistry helped inspired and shaped my dream of being a health practitioner. However, I realised that I was squeamish at the sight of blood and would rather spend time understanding animal health and hygiene as opposed to being a surgeon. I also developed the idea of expanding the frontiers of research efforts in finding a lasting cure to HIV/AIDS and other deadly diseases bedeviling our world. While my viewpoint of the entire health value chain has become refined, I have clearly seen how studying Pharmacy will help me make impact in the world.
Also, I am a second generation pharmacist as I took after my mum, Pharm. (Mrs) E.A. Ibikunle, a pharmacist. This obviously also played a huge role in my love for the profession and I am sure she is most elated that I am going to be inducted into the profession soon.
What informed your decision to study in a private institution and not a public one?
I used to be a pharmacy student at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), which is a public institution but I left OAU during 2012/2013 session and got transferred to IUO in 2013. I never had a preference for either a public or private institution but, by circumstance, I am graduating in a private institution. But they are both great schools with bright products.
What prompted your decision to involve in PANS politics?
PANS IUO is one of the most organised student associations on campus as it has a well-defined structure; but over the years, the nonchalant attitude of pharmacy students towards politicking and right leadership has made it less active compared to other student bodies. I saw a potential for greatness in the association which needed someone with experience and exposure to manage. Obviously the trend was not going to change without the emergence of a dynamic leader. While I was at OAU, I served in the capacity of assistant general secretary which exposed me to the structure of PANS and its basic activities.
What areas of the pharmacy profession do you think the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) and other stakeholders need to address urgently?
Firstly, the issue of internship placement needs an urgent overhaul. Some Pharmacy students now stay more than a year before getting placement to do their compulsory internship programme, which is a prerequisite for being fully licensed to practise in the country. This is not good enough. The programme should also be made more inclusive and rewarding.
In addition, a state-of-emergency needs to be urgently declared on the issue of non-pharmacists dealing in pharmaceuticals, as the integrity of this noble profession needs to be preserved, not given out cheaply to quacks. This is imperative because it is taking away the need for pharmacists in our society, leading to unemployment and an unsafe society. The earlier this is done, the better for the pharmaceutical world.
Lastly, the PSN and the PCN need to work together especially in the areas of creating bills or legislation that affect the lives and living conditions of pharmacists. For instance, the law that prohibits pharmacists from not having more than a job at a time needs to be reviewed as quacks now hide under this guise of inadequate number of pharmacists to sell drugs. This has made our society more unsafe.
What can government do to improve the standard of pharmacy education in Nigeria?
Although the PCN and the NUC are doing very good jobs in regulating and improving the standard of pharmacy practice in Nigeria, more can still be done to make pharmacy schools here rival those in the western world by enforcing the improvement of the standards of laboratories and libraries books in pharmacy schools.
A board or council examination can be introduced, which will be a requirement for giving and renewing working license in the country. Government should dedicate more funds to the study of Pharmacy in the country, by giving grants to facilitate innovation and not looking up to the western world for help in times of health emergencies like the time of Ebola.
Finally, the pharmacy curriculum should be reviewed by the appropriate government body to meet the required and internationally accepted standards.
What is your message to IUO pharmacy students?
It has been one of the greatest blessings of my life to serve pharmacy students at Igbinedion University as the president of PANS. As I reflect on the year, I have come to understand that all alumni, students and friends have a strong love for this association. So, I want to urge them to make academic excellence their first priority before every other social activity on campus. They should learn more, do more and become more. They should rule their world and be great ambassadors of PANS Igbinedion University both within and outside the campus.
Also, I want to implore them to give the new administration more cooperation and support so as to take PANS IUO to an enviable status of global recognition.