Huzaifa Ahmad Muhammad is the president of Pharmaceutical Association of Nigeria Students (PANS), Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Chapter. In this exclusive interview with Pharmanews, the final year student of the Faculty of Pharmacy shares his views on the lingering debate over the Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D) programme in schools of pharmacy, as well as other important issues surrounding pharmacy education in Nigeria. EXCERPTS:
Tell us about your journey as a pharmacy student in the last five years.
I was admitted into ABU, Zaria, in 2015, and after our classes began, some of my classmates nominated me for the post of class representative and I won. Since then, I have been the class rep for my class and even now as the PANS president and the responsibilities that come with it, I still carry out my class representative functions judiciously.
Besides all these, I have held and still hold many political posts in the school, including: chairman, Students’ Representative Council, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences (ABU-SRC); national vice president, Katagum Students Association (KSA); public relations offiicer, KSA-ABU; academic secretary, KSA-ABU; financial secretary, KSA-ABU and now serving as the secretary-general, KSA-ABU.
I also served the Bauchi State Pharmaceutical Students Association (BAPSA) in various capacities. I am the current financial secretary, ABU Faculty Presidential Forum; and of course the president, PANS-ABU. I am also serving on the board of many organisations and associations.
What prompted your decision to study Pharmacy?
To be honest with you, my love for business brought me to pharmacy school. Since when I was in JSS 3, I told myself that, as the firstborn in my family, I am expected to be the breadwinner. I then sat and thought of what to do to help my younger ones. Most of the kids around our neighborhood couldn’t attend the kind of school I was privileged to attend, mostly because they couldn’t afford the fees.
As a businessman, my dad did for me what most civil servants around us couldn’t for their children. I began to see the advantages of business over civil service. Then I thought of a course that would make me self-employed. I asked one medical doctor in my area for guidance, and he said Pharmacy. He told me that the job opportunities for a pharmacist are wide and that pharmacists are professionally versatile. Since then, my love for Pharmacy has grown.
Why did you contest for PANS-ABU presidency?
PANS in any school of pharmacy is a vibrant association. So it is here in ABU, Zaria. The association has been blessed with a lot of highly competent, experienced and skillful presidents in the past. Indeed they were my first motivation. To be sincere, I never thought of vying for the post until five months to the election. Ideally one needs to start campaigning as early as possible, but I didn’t do that and that helped my opponents to get more people on their sides.
I was encouraged by some people to also contest, so I placed a call to my dad and he also encouraged me to go ahead – and here we are today. So, those who encouraged me, too numerous to mention here, were my second motivation. I am working day in day out to keep the standard and make PANS-ABU, Zaria, greater.
What aspects of your responsibilities as the president do you consider particularly challenging so far?
Funding the association is the aspect of my responsibility that I do consider particularly challenging as the president, if any. PANS as an association normally depends on dues from students and solicitations. It was part of my campaign promises that we shall look for an independent source of income, maybe a business centre, so that PANS will do all its activities without solicitations.
Within this long break, we have designed a garden which will serve as our capital project. The estimate of that project is almost 1.5 million. Throughout the break, all I have been thinking is how to source the money for this very important project.
Are there challenges associated with studying Pharmacy in the north compared to the south?
Studying Pharmacy in the north is more challenging compared to the south because of the period it took us here before accepting modern education which was not the same in the south. This may be augmented by the fact that community and industrial pharmacies are widely available in the south which serve as both motivation and training grounds for pharmacy students there. I think this is the only challenge, if there is any.
Some people are of the opinion that the much publicised Pharm.D. programme is both potentially advantageous and problematic. What is your opinion about this?
I think the best way to handle the many controversies around the transition to the unified Pharm.D degree is to allow both Pharm.D and B.Pharm run concurrently in any faculty that wishes to have them both and allow students to choose between the two. With this, more traditional training of herbalism and compounding will be preserved while the patient-centered approach is gradually introduced.
Fortunately, the newly inaugurated chairman of the PCN board, Prof. Ahmed Tijani Mora, has mentioned that “there is the issue of review of the topics in the B.Pharm programme and the emerging Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D) degree programme in the Faculties of Pharmacy in our Universities” during his inaugural speech. So, I am certain that the PCN which is the body saddled with the responsibility of regulating pharmacy education in Nigeria will look into the issue and come up with a solution.
When you finish pharmacy school, which area of pharmacy practice would you consider, and why?
Community pharmacy, also known as a retail pharmacy, is the most common type of pharmacy practice. It allows the public access to their medications and offers advice about their health. And, you know, as somebody with a business background as I have stated earlier, it will give me ample opportunity to be self-reliant. So, I want to practise community pharmacy, so as to make an impact on the public health and at the same time be self-employed.