76th FIP World Pharmacy Congress: Perspectives from a First-Timer
My FIP world congress journey started with observing the council meeting attended by members of the FIP board and executive committee. I was also there to show support to our former president Leonila Ocampo, as she was nominated for the vice president position. While Ma’am Leonie may have not won the election, we were somewhat satisfied with the turnout of the votes as she came it at second place and about 60 votes short of the winner Mr. Thomas from the USA. What was more fascinating for a young pharmacist like me was witnessing how pharmacists from different parts of the world show respect and demonstrate unity among each other as they work on one common interest—uplifting the pharmacy profession, wherever they are however they can. I have observed this initially right after elections as Ma’am Leonie Sir Thomas and Sir Hiag greeted each other telling each other how honoured they were to have shared the nomination with each other. At that point, I thought to myself it could have been just because of the elections. But moving forward to days that passed by during the congress, I have realized how this respect and unity in the profession became the general theme of the whole congress.
Figure 1. Nominees for the Vice President position from left to right: Dr. Hiag Prosper, (Cameroon); Dr. Thomas Menighan, (USA) and Ms. Leonila Ocampo, (Philippines)
All throughout the congress, I had the pleasure of interacting with pharmacists from all over the world from all ages and various background, through formal (i.e. open forum) and informal occasions (i.e. YPG party). Language was not even a barrier to communication. I had realize how communication was so much more than just spoken language, and that there will always be ways to communicate as long as the intention to relay a message is present. For one instance, I had a chance to meet Pharmacists from Argentina after the session on strengthening the profession through great promotional campaigns. During the open forum of that session, I had to ask Prof. Sinclair about what was the Australian pharmacists’ experience on making sure pharmacy owners support the implementation of promotional activities that usually might incur some cost. This was a question coming from my perspective that pharmacies in the Philippines are usually owned not by pharmacists but by non-pharmacist businessmen. While Prof. Sinclair emphasized that it was a different case in Australia—they were able to protect legal provisions of ensuring only pharmacists own pharmacies and hence pharmacist-owners can understand the importance of promotional activities, the situation of the Philippines was somehow similar to a country like Argentina wherein pharmacists are employees and not owners of pharmacies. This common sentiment allowed me, Carolina, Sylvia and Sonia to share experiences even if they were speaking Spanish and very little English while I can’t speak any Spanish at all. We had to talk using translation apps and the lesson from this conversation was simple, language is not even a barrier to communicate ideas.
Figure 2. Young pharmacists from different countries gather for the YPG Business Meeting
Figure 3. Sonia, Sylvia and Carolina joins me for a photo opportunity after some sharing about our experiences as Filipino and Argentine Pharmacists
There were a lot of opportunities to meet pharmacists in the FIP Congress. I was able to participate to the business meetings of two groups that I have an immediate association with, the WPPF and YPG. It was very timely to have met key people from these groups as the Philippines is hosting the WPPF Summit Planning for the Enhancement of Pharmacy Practice in the Western Pacific Region on September 25-26. Apart from this, YPG Philippines is also organizing a leadership forum on the 24th wherein I will be given an opportunity to share to young Filipino pharmacists and pharmacy students the experience and learnings I gained during the 76th World Pharmacy Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The PPhA is also conducting a post-summit seminar on the 27th. Both occasions will be an avenue to acknowledge the FIP Foundation for Education and Research for their continuous support to pharmacists worldwide, especially the Filipino Pharmacists. As the associate editor of The Hygiean, the official newsletter of PPhA, the documentation of these events as well as the FIP World Congress will also be featured to make Filipino Pharmacists updated with the projects of YPG, WPPF FIP, and FIPEd.
Figure 4. Photo opportunity with Mr. John Jackson, WPPF President and Fellow Congress Scholar Su Su from China during the FIP World Congress
It was truly a remarkable experience to have joined the FIP World Pharmacy Congress in Buenos Aires. I have fulfilled my objectives coming to the congress to learn about pharmacy practice world-wide through my participation to various sessions such as those related to pharmacy and social media, transformative scale-up of the workforce and diagnostic testing by pharmacists. Most importantly, the congress allowed me to meet pharmacy experts whom I think can help some of my colleagues as well. In particular, I will have to connect Dr. Ally Dering-Anderson to my friends in the Pharmaceutical Division of the Department of Health Philippines for their work on antimicrobial stewardship in community pharmacies in the US, which may be the direction where the Philippines might proceed in the coming years. My attendance to the congress was also a perfect timing for my graduate studies, as I am about to submit my thesis proposal for my Masters in Health Professions Education degree by October 2016. I will be working closely with the continuing education committee of the PPhA for this thesis proposal and the perspectives I have gained from the congress will surely be a big contribution. Finally, as I continue my work in the academe, particularly in the education of Filipino pharmacy students, support personnel and pharmacists, my FIP Congress experience will be very relevant towards more involvement and participation in the development of Pharmacy Support Workforce curriculum and BS Pharmacy curriculum aligned to the FIP global competency framework for pharmaceutical services.
Words cannot fully describe the gratefulness I feel for having been given this kind of opportunity. What I cannot put into words, I will have to put into action. I look forward to the day when the things I would like to do after being inspired by my first FIP Congress are already part of the reality of the pharmacy practice in my country.