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Education abroad: Developing as a health professional to benefit our healthcare system here in the U.S.

Education abroad: Developing as a health professional to benefit our healthcare system here in the U.S.

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Published by Joey Mattingly
A description of my pharmacy education experience in British Columbia, Canada.
A description of my pharmacy education experience in British Columbia, Canada.

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Published by: Joey Mattingly on Feb 16, 2009
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Education abroad: Developing as a health professional to benefit our healthcare system here in the U.S.

Standing by the counter at a bank in Vancouver, the teller asked if I had any preference to how my money was exchanged. I simply replied “No ma’am.” She glanced up, along with the other teller next to her, and with a smile she said, “From that accent it sounds like you’re not from around here.” My southern accent and Kentucky mannerisms entertained many of the Canadians I had the opportunity to meet this past May as I completed a four-week Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience at the Ministry of Health in British Columbia (BC). My love for politics and pharmaceutical policy led me to developing an experiential rotation in government outside the borders of the United States. The delivery of healthcare in the U.S. has become one of the most important issues to Americans as the November elections draw near. With millions of brilliant minds and trillions of dollars spent, we are stuck scratching our heads trying to figure out why the system is failing so many people. I decided on a Canadian rotation to avoid any major language barriers and to allow me to hit the ground running to learn as much as possible in four weeks. I was curious to see how another country tackled some of the same problems we face in America and if I could learn anything that would prepare me for a career in health policy. Working for the Drug Use Optimization branch within their Ministry of Health’s Pharmaceutical Services Division (PSD), I could see how pharmacists were playing a major role in improving medication use in the province. Since healthcare is primarily funded at the provincial level, the leaders in the BC government are charged with the monumental task of running an affordable system that includes all citizens of the province. As you can imagine, cost effective strategies and optimizing medication use were of high importance in managing this task. During a four-week rotation I had the opportunity to gain a broad knowledge of the process involved in a system that, when compared to ours, has more universal access and more government involvement. I had the chance to spend a week at the provincial capital, Victoria, and watch elected officials debate the issues in Parliament. I met with all of the major directors within the PSD and discussed their role in government provided healthcare. As a part of my experience, I created and delivered two presentations to members of the PSD during my rotation.

One focused on expanding the role of the pharmacists and the other focused on improving health literacy. Studying abroad aided in my development as a professional ready to practice in a global economy and a better understanding of different cultures. This experience has now spurred my interest in exploring other healthcare delivery systems developed by Switzerland, Australia, or Great Britain. I would love the opportunity to see other systems in action and have a better understanding of their practices. As the healthcare debate wages on throughout the upcoming years it is important that we keep our eyes open. We must be open-minded to new ideas and solutions for problems that develop during the process of caring for our sick. While problems in our healthcare system are cause for concern, it is important to recognize the opportunities that our created for students and practitioners committed to finding solutions. For a small town boy from Bardstown, Kentucky, my trip to a foreign city was definitely an eye-opening experience. I strongly encourage students and new practitioners to gain international healthcare experience to get a better understanding of how many countries, similar to the United States, take on these tough issues. Regardless of U.S. healthcare rankings or opinions by politicians it is important that we continuously evaluate the state of our healthcare system. As leaders, we must make a commitment to keep improving and making the delivery of health better every day.

Author Information: Joey Mattingly, PharmD/MBA Candidate from the University of Kentucky, 2008-2009 APhAASP Speaker of the House.

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