Mackenzie Dove at St Mary's in Lancor, Uganda

Mackenzie Dove (second from left) and classmate Phillipe Boilard (right) spent five weeks on rotation in northern Uganda at St. Mary’s Hospital Lacor

Mackenzie Dove says international rotation in Uganda broadened perspective of pharmacy practice

Mackenzie Dove, a pharmacist who recently completed the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy’s PharmD for Pharmacists program, loves to travel and had always wanted to work abroad for a humanitarian cause. But she didn’t want to volunteer abroad until she felt that she had skills that would allow her to contribute to a community.

When she had the opportunity to take a five-week rotation at a hospital in northern Uganda that would use her pharmacy knowledge and skills, she jumped at the chance.

“When the opportunity arose, I felt that I needed to take it.”

“Having the opportunity to go as a pharmacist who was already practising in my own country and expanding my knowledge, I felt like I had valuable background knowledge that could actually help,” she says. “When the opportunity arose, I felt that I needed to take it.”

In August 2022, Dove and a classmate, Philippe Boilard, arrived at St. Mary’s Hospital Lacor, a large academic teaching hospital in Gulu, Uganda, where they were assigned projects. They stayed in a guest house on hospital grounds with students from different health care professions around the world.

For Dove’s project, she set up a non-sterile compounding room at the hospital, developed operating procedures for equipment in the room, and reviewed and updated compounding protocols. Dove says that some medications that are commercially available in Canada need to be compounded in Uganda, and at times it could be challenging to find the proper compounding recipes. But she was able to dedicate the necessary time to the project and trained Ugandan pharmacy interns on using some of the equipment and newly developed operating procedures for the space.

Mackenzie Dove inside pharmacy at St. Mary's Lacor
While at St. Mary's Lacor, Dove set up a non-sterile compounding room at the hospital.

“The hospital pharmacists at Lacor were capable of doing this work, but they are understaffed and are already doing so much to care for their patients. Through this rotation, I was an extra set of hands and eyes to be able to focus on this project and set them up to be able to use the space,” she says.

The Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy has been partnering with St. Mary’s Hospital Lacor and other international centres to send PharmD students to gain experience in international pharmacy practice. For the past couple of years, approximately 20 PharmD students from the entry-to-practice PharmD and the PharmD for Pharmacists program have gone abroad for international rotations.

“The global rotations, such as the one in Uganda, are so enriching to both our students and the host institutions. Knowledge exchange flows both ways and ultimately results in better patient care. Students gain a very different perspective that can only be achieved through international rotations,” says Kathy Vu, director of the PharmD for Pharmacists program. “We are very fortunate to provide these experiences for students in the PharmD for Pharmacists program.”

PharmD for Pharmacists program opens doors to more clinical work

Prior to the rotation in Uganda, Dove had been practising hospital pharmacy in Gander, Newfoundland, a town about 300 kilometres northwest of St. John’s. She started at the hospital in 2019, after earning her Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy at Memorial University in Newfoundland. In 2020, she started the PharmD for Pharmacists program through U of T’s Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, drawn to the program’s flexibility and the opportunity to gain a new point of view by attending a different university.

“I felt like pursing further education would allow me to fill in gaps in my knowledge, grow as a pharmacist, and enhance my clinical skills and clinical practice for my patients,” she says.

Dove also completed rotations at small, rural hospitals in Grand Falls, Newfoundland, and Winchester, Ontario and in the intensive care unit at the hospital in Moncton, New Brunswick. Through each experience, she became more aware of how the scope of pharmacy practice is different in each province.

“Practising in different places gives you a broader understanding of how pharmacy works in the world, and you can see the differences in practice in one part of the country to the next and in other countries,” says Dove. “Any opportunity to get yourself out of your comfort zone is worthwhile, and whether you like it or not, you learn something.”

Dove has now completed the PharmD for Pharmacists program, and early this year, she started a new role at a community pharmacy in Gander where she will have the opportunity to develop new clinical programs for the community. She says the PharmD degree has given her the knowledge and confidence to take on these responsibilities.

“The program opens doors for doing more clinical work and also to feel more confident in doing that work,” she says. “The opportunities I have now to develop these programs and care for my patients in this way are really exciting to me, and I feel more prepared and empowered to do that.”

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