The Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) has held the fourth White coat ceremony for its Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm D) students under the theme “The Pharm D Pharmacist and Pharmacovigilance in a digital age”.
The ceremony which took place on Friday 11th October 2019 at the College of Science auditorium KNUST saw overwhelming participation by students, staff, parents, and loved ones who witnessed the gowning of the class of 2021.
The White coat ceremony is a tradition in Schools of Pharmacy globally that signifies a transition from pre-clinical knowledge acquisition to clinical knowledge acquisition among others. The event signifies a rite of passage of students into the last 2 years of the Doctor of Pharmacy training, referred to as the Clinical years.
The Pharm D Journey so far
In a welcome address delivered by the Dean during the event, Prof Berko Panyin Anto acknowledged the contributions and tireless efforts of the leadership of the Faculty of Pharmacy- both past and present, Alumni, Preceptors, Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana (PSGH), Pharmacy Council, Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), and the Leadership of KNUST towards the Pharm D programme which commenced from the 2012/2013 academic year as a replacement for the traditional Bachelor of Pharmacy (B.Pharm) in the country.
Prof Anto expressed his joy over the recognition of Pharm D graduates in the healthcare space and subsequently informed the gathering on the successful placement of graduates on the houseman grade of the single spine salary structure of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) for their mandated one year housemanship.
According to Prof Anto, the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences KNUST is a trailblazer for the five Pharmacy schools in the country accredited to run the Pharm D programme namely: University of Ghana (UG), University of Cape Coast (UCC), University of Health and Allied Sciences (UHAS), University for Development Studies (UDS), and Central University (CU), as over 70% of lecturers in the aforementioned Pharmacy Schools in addition to the Deans of UHAS and UCC are products of the Faculty.
The Dean admonished the students to develop analytical, evaluation, and creative skills after training, to be better positioned to examine information, make inferences based on evidence, as well as offer and defend opinions based on sound judgements in practice.
He further emphasized the need for Pharm D pharmacists to organize, integrate and utilize scientifically proven concepts to achieve better patient outcomes.
Prof Anto concluded his address by urging students to see the ceremony as the commencement of the race towards their goals of becoming renowned Pharmacists worthy of the pride of the healthcare fraternity and the nation.
The Pharm D Pharmacist and Pharmacovigilance in a digital age
The Chief executive officer of the Food and drugs authority (FDA), Pharm Mrs Delese Mimi Darko spoke on the theme for the ceremony as the guest speaker.
She stressed that pharmacovigilance encompasses monitoring of safety of patients when exposed to medical products and services, and as such digital solutions are required at all stages of pharmacovigilance to foster patient safety.
Mrs Darko cautioned participants on the inadequacy of information on the safety of medicines which she claims arises from several factors.
One of these factors according to her, is the usage of medicines in uncontrolled environments as it is a big challenge obtaining feedback in a timely and standardised manner from wider distribution network fuelled currently with technologies like usage of drones.
She again spoke on the possible contribution of the anticipated African Continental Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) to the aforementioned factor. "There is therefore the need for monitoring, and control of drugs entering the country. Again short duration of clinical trials in drug development processes makes it possible for some adverse effects of drugs to go unnoticed prior to their availability on the market," she added.
Mrs Darko therefore tasked Pharm D pharmacists to lead the way in the efficient and transformational detection, assessment, understanding, and prevention of adverse drug effects using modern technological tools available in the digital space, to reduce harm and improve patient safety.
She ascribed this call to pharmacists as she believes they are well placed to perform the task of monitoring due to their in depth knowledge in drug formulations, mode of action of drugs, and disease aetiology.
According to her, the Pharm D pharmacist is even in an exceptional position to identify adverse drug reactions, understand their mechanism of occurrence and put in place interventions to protect patients from the harms of medicine due to their more in-depth training in clinical practice and medicine safety monitoring course modules prescribed by the curriculum of training.
Mrs Darko reiterated digital platforms like online reporting tools- Safety Watch System and the recently launched MedSafety App have been made available to facilitate reporting on the safety of medicines.
The MedSafety according to her is a mobile application that allows patients and healthcare professionals submit reports on drug safety, obtain instant feedback, receive regular news and alerts, as well as create their own list of medicines they wish to receive personalized information on.
The FDA boss further emphasized that information on adverse drug reactions when obtained needed to be included in product literature, package insert or patient information leaflets, to enable health professionals give the right medicines to the right patients at the right time. She concluded her speech by congratulating and admonishing students present to become more knowledgeable in the profession on medical products and make good use of available digital tools in the delivery of their mandate.
Gowning and administration of pledge
The Gowning session was moderated by Professor Mrs Frances Owusu-Daaku, head of the White Coat ceremony planning committee. A total of 228 students were gowned with branded white Coats by planning Committee members, Preceptors, Invited guests, and Parents, symbolizing transaction into clinical rotation year. The Gowning took place in batches with cheers from family, friends and loved ones present. The administration of the pledge was held afterwards.
Advice to students and closing remarks
Presenting closing remarks on behalf of the provost of the college of health sciences and the vice chancellor, Prof Ellis Owusu-Dabo encouraged Pharm D students to demonstrate professionalism and appropriate values in practice. He advised Pharm D pharmacists to work with other members of the healthcare team in the benefit of patients. And whiles at this they should learn from the experiences of health practitioners who have been in practice for years before their appointments, He added.
The White coat ceremony was moderated by Dr Mrs Cynthia Amaning-Danquah of the Department of Pharmacology, and saw participation from dignitaries including Pharm Mrs Mimi Darko, Chief executive officer of the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), Pharm Mrs Evelyn Oduro, the Regional director of Pharmacy Council, Pharm Benjamin Botwe, president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana (PSGH), Pharm Denis Awitty, executive secretary PSGH, Mrs Joycelyn Aziz, director of Pharmaceutical Services of the Ministry of Health, Pharm Alhaji Kofi Baryeh, Ashanti regional director of Pharmaceutical Services, Prof Theophilus Christian Fleischer and Prof Dr David Obiri Darko, Deans of Schools of Pharmacy UHAS, and UCC respectively, Preceptors who assist in practical training of students at various health facilities, Faculty alumni, representative of the Vice Chancellor and the provost of the college of health sciences KNUST, Faculty Staff, other invited guests, Parents and students.
The event was sponsored by Amponsah-Effah Pharmaceuticals limited, Aspee Pharmaceuticals Limited, Laud K Pharmacy, Vital Pharmacy, Western Pharmacy, Juliponia Pharmacy, Habmay Pharmacy limited, and the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana (PSGH).