Study Abroad Essay Contest Winners: Pharmacy in the UK

Angela D'Alessandro, Third Place Winner of the American Student category

With a pre-determined course schedule as a pharmacy major, I never imagined I would have the opportunity to study abroad. This changed for me in my sixth and final year at Wilkes University Nesbitt College of Pharmacy. I interviewed for a position to study abroad as part of an exchange program for my required advanced pharmacy practice rotations. I was graciously chosen and attended the University of Huddersfield in Huddersfield, England for three and a half weeks in November 2012.

I was eager to learn the differences of pharmacy practice in the United Kingdom compared to the United States, as well as learn how the National Health Service operates. During my stay, I attended lectures and labs with pharmacy students at the university. I found the curriculum to be very similar to what I am taught at Wilkes University with only slight differences. One difference is that students attend a live tissue lab to see how medications affect metabolism in the body. In this lab, students and I treated guinea pig intestine tissue with varying strengths of a drug. Machinery was used to measure intestinal tissue and rates of metabolism. While I was taught how to perform these calculations mathematically at Wilkes, it was interesting to have a hands-on approach to learning this material.

I also visited five different community pharmacy placements and two regional hospitals while abroad. During these visits, I had the opportunity to witness usual daily workflow. One of the biggest differences in community pharmacy I saw is that pharmacists in the UK can dispense methadone for patients suffering with addiction. In the US, patients must go to a doctor’s office to receive methadone for treating addiction. This highly addictive and abused medication is given to patients in the UK under strict supervised doses. I was shocked and excited to see this practice in action. Pharmacists in UK hospitals have a larger presence on each of the wards. A pharmacist and technician are usually present on each floor of the hospital during the day. They are able to provide necessary clinical services and are more readily available to interact with patients. While this exists in some US hospitals, it is not widely practiced. This was inspiring to see and I hope that one day pharmacists in the US can move toward this practice.

The biggest and most exciting difference to witness while abroad was England’s National Health Service. Residents are provided with national healthcare. Some patients, depending on age and co-morbid disease states, have prescription charges waived. All other non-exempt patients pay one standard pharmacy fee per prescription, regardless of the medication. Services in the hospital are completely paid for by the government. While visiting Leeds Teaching Hospital, I had a discussion with one woman receiving a course of chemotherapy. She found it hard to believe that Americans, with the help of insurance, are responsible for paying for treatments.

While studying at the University of Huddersfield, I was honored to meet chancellor Sir Patrick Stewart. His advice and admiration for the profession of pharmacy was inspiring. Dr. Mahendra Patel was my faculty advisor at the university. His hospitality was immeasurable. I enjoyed listening to what others wanted to teach me about their culture and profession. This trip opened my eyes to differences in how pharmacy is practiced but also affirmed that regardless of where we are, our main focus as healthcare providers is the well-being of the patient.

My study abroad trip through Wilkes University was my first time visiting Europe. In addition to my academic responsibilities, I took some time to visit and enjoy London, England, as well as Paris, France. I completed a studio art minor while studying pharmacy at Wilkes. It was absolutely amazing to be able to witness works of art including Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament in London, and Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. I also visited the Louvre Museum in Paris. After learning about the “Mona Lisa,” by Leonardo da Vinci, in textbooks and art classes, it was breathtaking to be standing in front of such a well-respected piece of art.

I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to study at the University of Huddersfield. I made long-lasting friendships with my mentor, Dr. Patel, and students at the university. I look forward to one day having the opportunity to visit again and to welcome them to the United States and Wilkes University.

– Angela D’Alessandro


For more information about the Study Abroad Essay Contest, visit studyabroadessaycontest2013.yolasite.