When you are a 19-year-old wanting to leave Uganda and explore what is outside the borders, you would think starting with a degree in a foreign country would be a suitable fit. To be honest, I was wondering what kind of degree that was out there could merge my interest in chemistry and pharmaceuticals together after finishing high school in 2011. While doing some research on universities, my father came across the Pharmaceutical Chemistry programme offered by International Medical University (IMU) in Malaysia. This programme also had the option of having credit recognition and transferring to Australia to study Master of Pharmacy (MPharm) at either Curtin University or University of Sydney after the completion of the Bachelors degree. At that time, it felt like I had hit the jackpot with a chance to in two countries and that is how I found myself studying Pharmaceutical Chemistry (PC) in IMU. During my three years study in IMU, I have had a lot of unforgettable moments. In terms of the programme, I am appreciative of how approachable the lecturers were in answering questions, guiding us in the laboratory sessions, research projects and willingness to support me emotionally during my three years of study in Malaysia. I miss my classmates and their attempt at trying to teach me Bahasa or Mandarin, which up to now I cannot remember. I also had the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with international students who were in the same boat as I was, trying to blend in a new country. If there is one trait, I have gained from the PC programme that kept me going in my MPharm course at Curtin University, it is perseverance. The master’s programme was quite intense as I had 2 years to cover units that cover pharmacology, pharmacotherapy, ethics and legal pharmacy practice in Australia.
With the Pharmaceutical Chemistry programme, my research project was in synthetic chemistry, where I had to attempt carrying out an ‘Aldol’ condensation reaction of Gingerone and cyclohexanecarboxaldehyde catalysed by pyrrolidine to obtain the shogaol derivative. However, my research project during my MPharm study was a retrospective audit conducted at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital to assess the effectiveness of the Falls Risk Assessment and Management Plan (FRAMP) and identifying inpatients who are at a risk of medicated-related falls.
It was amazing to see how I was able to use the skills I had learnt with regards to collecting data and comparing articles from my undergraduate course, although it is in a different setting (synthetic chemistry vs retrospective clinical audit). I graduated with my MPharm in 2018 and had the opportunity to do my internship at Kimberley Pharmacy Services, Derby located in remote Western Australia. This was a choice I had made to get out of my comfort zone and see what it was like to live in small country town. I was fortunate enough to pass all my internship exams and get my pharmacy license at the start of 2020.
2020 has had its moments as it did feel like the whole world was dropped in the deep end when COVID-19 happened. This was also the year I had applied for permanent residence. Fortunately, a pharmacist is considered an essential worker and I found myself lucky to be able to serve the local community in Derby during this pandemic.
As it is my first year as a registered pharmacist, I cannot really say what my next plan is after 2020. However, I know that I’m quite keen to gain more experience working in rural communities and grabbing as many opportunities as I can in the near future to upgrade my skills as a healthcare professional.
Written by Annette Nangendo Zake, an International student from Uganda, PC 112 graduate