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The Memorial experience

Pharmacy students benefit from study abroad program

special feature: Back to school

Part of a special feature coinciding with the beginning of a new academic year at Memorial University.

By Heidi Wicks

When asked why she chose to study pharmacy at Memorial, visiting student Marina de Assis Florentino replied: “It’s a wonderful university, St. John’s is an enchanting city, and Newfoundlanders are the kindest people I’ve ever met.”

A native of Brazil, Ms. de Assis Florentino had always wanted to study abroad, and had noticed the expanded scope of practice in pharmacy in Canada as compared with her home country.

Two projects

“The experience changes your life, brings you more responsibilities and daily challenges,” she said of travelling to a foreign country to pursue her academic goals. “I have noticed a difference between the Brazilian health-care system and the one here, and that is that pharmacists have a more important role here in the care of patients — they are more proactive, there is more integration between physicians and pharmacists, they can do more recommendations and followups and they help a lot in educating the patients, whereas in Brazil their major role is to dispense medications.”

Ms. de Assis Florentino is a student in the Faculty of Medical Science of Campina Grande in the city of Campina Grande in the state of Paraiba. Since arriving at Memorial this past summer, she has been involved in two major projects: one on inherited gynaecological cancers in Newfoundland and Labrador, and another involving women with chronic pelvic pain, which requires a multidisciplinary approach.

Brazilian visiting student Marina de Assis Florentino in the School of Pharmacy lab.
Brazilian visiting student Marina de Assis Florentino in the School of Pharmacy lab.
Photo: Chris Hammond

“I was working on a project regarding women with chronic pelvic pain, where pharmacists had an important role as a support to the patients and working with doctors to avoid the overuse of narcotics,” she said.

International opportunity

Dr. Carla Dillon, associate dean, undergraduate studies, School of Pharmacy, says that although there is no official name for their visiting student program, the school has hosted international students in the past and hopes to continue doing in the future.

“I thought it would be a good experience for not only that student, but also for our student body.” –Dr. Carla Dillon

“We started having visiting international students in 2015 when we were contacted by Memorial’s Internationalization Office indicating that a pharmacy student from the College of Pharmaceutical Sciences in the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil wished to take pharmacy courses in the fall semester,” she said. “I thought it would be a good experience for not only that student, but also for our student body.”

Student experience

Pharmacy student John Abbott, Class of 2018, has spent a lot of time with the international students who have come through Memorial’s pharmacy program. He also notes the differences in Canada’s health system and other parts of the world.

“I noted that in Australia, pharmacists can give sick notes to their patients for work or school purposes. And pharmacy practice seems to be more specialized there than in other countries,” he said.

Although Mr. Abbot has yet to do a semester in another country, he has applied to do a rotation abroad for his final Structured Practice Experience placement.

The School of Pharmacy also hosts exchange students from Tasmania.

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