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As we approach the dawn of a new millennium, it is essential that we equip our students with the necessary skills to cope with the challenges of a knowledge-based economy. In this issue of CDTL Brief on the theme of ‘Preparing Students for the 21st Century Workplace’, we present several perspectives of how various NUS departments have modified, or perhaps should modify, their curricula and teaching methods to achieve this goal.

November 26 1999, Vol. 2 No. 5 Print Ready ArticlePrint-Ready
Teaching Pharmacy Practice
Associate Professor Chan Sui Yung
Coordinator of Pharmacy Practice Division
Department of Pharmacy
The Pharmacy Department is responsible for educating and training a health care professional who is ultimately licensed to practice and provide pharmaceutical care to the citizens of Singapore. Thus, the nature of the education provided is comparable to that of physicians and dentists: many science courses must be integrated and applied to the solution of clinical problems; specific courses must inculcate students with the values, skills and knowledge unique to pharmacy; and the teaching methods must encourage students to identify and solve therapeutic problems encountered in practice… The staff has aimed to modernize their curriculum through the addition of relevant coursework… that incorporates progressive objectives and modern teaching methods, including problem-based learning.

—Professors Mary Anne Koda-Kimble
(University of California at San Francisco),
Vincent H. L. Lee (University of Southern California), and
Ho-Leung Fung (University at Buffalo,
State University of New York),
Report by visiting committee appointed to review the academic activities of NUS’ Department of Pharmacy, July 1999

In 1995, to make sure that pharmacy practice meets the changing health needs of Singaporeans, Associate Professor Ngiam Tong Lan, then Head of the Pharmacy Department, decided to revamp the teaching of pharmacy practice. I was among the staff put in charge of this overhaul in the curriculum and teaching methods used. Since then, several new modules in pharmacotherapy and pharmacy practice have been introduced. The teaching of medical subjects to pharmacy students by the Medical Faculty was also streamlined to cater to the needs of the pharmacy profession.

Possessing the requisite management and clinical experience, our team comprising of Dr Low Chai Luan, Dr Li Shu Chuen, Dr Grant Sklar and I, together with our experienced teachers, namely Dr Paul Ho Chi Lui, Assoc Prof Kurup, Assoc Prof Eli Chan, and Dr Lim Lee Yong, have sought to relate practitioners’ experience to students via formal and informal sessions. Students have found the real-life examples interesting and enlightening. We have also been able to call upon past work contacts, pharmacists and doctors, for resources and support when needed in the planning and teaching of pharmacy practice modules.

The first completely open-book examination in the department was introduced in 1995 for the Pharmaceutical Marketing module. Project work (e.g. developing marketing/business plans, case analyses of the marketing of pharmaceutical products/services and creation/presentation of advertisements) provided the continual assessment component of this module. The objectives of these exercises were to build up the students’ oral and written presentation skills, as well as challenge their creativity and analytical thinking. This approach was new to the students as it was not traditional classroom teaching.

In 1996, the equipment for teaching and seminar presentation in the department was ‘modernised’ to support portable multimedia presentations with computer notebooks cum LCD panels, white-light overhead projectors and a scanner. We also purchased video cameras and a videocassette player/recorder for recording students role-playing as patients or pharmacists in ‘mock’ medication counselling sessions and for group projects in which students produced educational videos on health- and medication-related topics for the layman.

Practitioners from the pharmaceutical industry, community and hospital pharmacies now serve as part-time teachers by either giving lectures on the marketing of pharmaceuticals, seminars on drug development and clinical research or conduct problem-based learning in small groups on medication management and counselling.

In May 1999, the vacation attachment scheme for students at hospital and community pharmacies gave way to a formal preceptorship programme. Students are required to complete the 12-week programme in two parts over two vacations after Level 2000 and 3000 examinations. This programme aims to fulfil the following objectives:

  1. Gain an understanding of the practice of pharmacy and learn more about career opportunities available to pharmacy practitioners;

  2. Acquire and apply some knowledge, experience and skills to achieve professional competency in pharmacy practice;

  3. Begin to develop high standards of ethical, legal and professional conduct in pharmacy practice; and

  4. Begin to develop the commitment to keep abreast with developments and maintain professional competency in the pharmacy profession.

The Singapore Pharmacy Board has agreed in principle that this programme will fulfil in part the statutory pre-registration training requirement for admittance to the Pharmacists’ Register in Singapore.

The department has also implemented a part-time Master of Pharmacy (Clinical Pharmacy) programme by coursework for the working pharmacist in July 1999. It is a two-year programme that includes didactics, clerkship rotations at hospitals and a clinical research project.

Another development is the increasing collaboration with practitioners (namely physicians, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals) in the final year projects on various aspects of pharmacy practice research. In research terms, pharmacy is one of the most complex, but perhaps the least described, and analysed, health care profession. The generation of a research base that is sufficiently robust to support the ongoing changes in practice is an enormous challenge.

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