Students of the College of Health Sciences (CoHS) of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science in Technology (KNUST) would undertake a core programme in Ghanaian Sign Language for Health Communication as part of their training. Professor Yaw Adu Sarkodie, Provost of CoHS, announced this at this year’s White Coat Ceremony for Pharm D students of the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences (FPPS).
The Ceremony saw 194 students being gowned by faculty, preceptors, alumni and parents. Professor Mrs. Frances Owusu-Daaku, Chairperson for the White Coat Ceremony Committee administered the Pledge.
According to Professor Sarkodie, the move is to enable health practitioners understand and serve their patients especially those with hearing disabilities better. He continued that knowledge in sign language would also afford persons with disability the opportunity to get maximum care. He noted that studies have shown that most citizens with disabilities are not able to get maximum care from health facilities.
Professor Sarkodie revealed that the Ghanaian Sign language for Health Communication has started with the level 200 students of Pharm D, which would be extended to the entire College. The Centre for Disability and Rehabilitation Studies is facilitating the programme.
Professor Adu Sarkodie also encouraged the students to venture into community practice to help manage metabolic related diseases such as hypertension, stroke, diabetes and others by screening patients. He observed that most Ghanaians do not visit the hospital until they are sick, and as community pharmacists, they could support by going into the communities to screen and conduct basic tests. He therefore called for government support in this initiative.
In his address, Professor Mrs. Rita Akosua Dickson, Dean of FPPS, said the White Coat Ceremony signifies the transition from the study of preclinical knowledge to the acquisition of clinical knowledge and more. It is a transition from an initial four years of rigorous academic and professional training where emphasis is laid on the basic, biomedical and pharmaceutical sciences to a pharmacy apprentice.
She continued that the event also signifies a contract for excellence in training the pharmacy student to provide total compassionate pharmaceutical care and highlights the importance of scientific scholarship, amidst emphasising the highest principles of moral, ethical and legal conduct.
Professor Mrs. Rita Dickson reminded the students that becoming a professional comes with huge responsibilities. She added that as students of pharmacy, professionalism means practicing with excellence and accountability, and to act with respect, honour and integrity at all times.
In the keynote address on the theme: “Pharm D: The New Standard of Pharmacy Practice?”. Pharm. Rauf Audu, Registrar of the Pharmacy Council Ghana (PCG), said pharmacy practice and education dates back to the British colonial days where the first recruits were trained to assist medics at that time till the establishment of a Dispensing School at Korle Bu.
He noted that realising the wide disparity in the quality of practice of the locally trained and foreign trained practitioners, there was the need to improve the quality of training as a new standard. The dispensing school was then moved from Korle Bu to the Kumasi College of Technology, then came the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) with degrees offered ranging from BSc to BPharm and now Pharm D.
According to him, these are the reforms that training the future pharmaceutical manpower has gone through to meet the global challenges in the pharmacy practice. Pharmacy standards and practice he said, have necessitated that we meet international best practices required by World Health Organisation, International Pharmaceutical Federation, Commonwealth Pharmacists Association and the West African Health Organisation and others.
The Registrar of the PCG noted that this set the tone for a new standard of pharmacy practice where one accepted Pharm D programme has become the minimum pharmacy degree of practice. He continued that many international professional associations such as the American Association of Pharmacy have mandated that a Doctor of Pharmacy degree should be the minimum professional degree.
He added that currently, universities of America offer Doctor of Pharmacy degrees. In the same vein, PCG has directed all schools of Pharmacy to follow suit.
He reiterated that Pharm D is a professional degree similar to any other professional doctorate qualification which makes graduates have uniquely defined competencies as part of the new standard set for their training.
Rev. Professor Charles Ansah, the Pro Vice-Chancellor, said the success of the Pharm D programme is as a result of the collective efforts of all stakeholders including Faculty and staff, the Pharmacy Council, Ghana Health Service, Ministry of Health, the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana, preceptors, alumni and individuals.
Rev. Professor Ansah announced that the first batch of top-up students in Pharm D would be graduating in November, 2018. He continued that the programme will improve the competencies of BPharm holders. He also revealed that management has given approval for a progressive plan to improve all pharmacy laboratories to meet global standards. On behalf of management he pledged the support for the programme and the Faculty.