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My Enriching Experience Studying Master’s in Pharmacy Practice Programme at IMU

01 Jul 2021

Carmen Chong (in the photo above) is our current student from IMU‘s MPP2/20 cohort. She worked in a retail pharmacy as a part-timer and developed an interest in the management of retail pharmacy business. Based on her future plan to have a career in community pharmacy settings, she enrolled into the Master in Pharmacy Practice (MPP) programme and selected Pharmacy Management stream. Carmen is also doing her Provisionally Registered Pharmacists (PRP) training under PRP – Research and Development (Academia). Many fresh pharmacy graduates would have preferred to do their Provisionally Registered Pharmacists (PRP) in either private or government sectors to a postgraduate degree. Many of my peers, including myself, have a dilemma in considering to study a master’s degree, as many would have questioned its worth, especially if you are a fresh graduate from Bachelor of Pharmacy (BPharm) programme.

I did my research by exploring the different pathways a pharmacy fresh graduate can pursue to complete their PRP training. At the same time, I consulted my BPharm lecturers and working pharmacists on this matter. Knowing that IMU provides a programme that allows students to complete their master’s degree concurrently with their PRP training programme within a year, I decided to join the master’s programme as it is a “fill two needs with one deed”. Besides, completing a master’s degree will be a more difficult choice to make in the future as I commit to more financial and career ties.

As a final year student of the BPharm at IMU, it was very easy and convenient for me to approach the Admission Department to enquire regarding the master’s programmes available at IMU. I was directed to seek advice from Dr Marikannan, MPP’s Programme Director regarding the Master’s programme for PRP training. Dr Marikannan was very helpful in answering my enquiries about the programme and explained the various options available, if I choose this path. I then discussed with my parents about the possibilities available and they were supportive of my decision. Initially, my biggest moral dilemma was whether to complete my master’s degree and live on my parents’ expenses for a year or just join the workforce to lighten the financial burden of my parents. Interestingly as an IMU alumna, I received a special bursary on tuition fees and it was helpful for me as it relieves my parents’ financial burdens to some extent. In unison, my family and I did not want to miss out this opportunity to finish my master’s degree and PRP together.

To do my PRP training with IMU, I am required to be a full-time master’ student and have an eligible PRP preceptor to guide me throughout my PRP training with IMU. Mr David Chong, my PRP preceptor, had always been guiding and assisting me throughout my PRP application progress.

My application for ‘Provisional Registered Pharmacist (PRP) through R&D academia’ was accepted by Pharmacy Board Malaysia earlier in 2020. On this track, I need to undergo intensive training in Research and Development (Academia) setting for a period of 52 weeks. I have already started my research module, in which I prepared and presented the project proposal.
 Currently, I am in my second semester and conducting my research work, which is a part of MPP programme. Based on the stream I have chosen, my master’s research project is focusing on the “Management of Medicine Wastage, Medicine Return and Safe Disposal of Medicines in Malaysian Community Pharmacies”. I am doing this research under the supervision of my research supervisor, Dr Kingston Rajiah, who was very supportive in guiding me throughout my research work.

Carrying out qualitative research amid the COVID-19 pandemic can be challenging, but Dr Kingston was very understanding, helpful and guided me out of my problems. We worked together to come out with a research plan and got ethical approval for the research project on time. I will be starting my PRP training in a clinical setting at Pantai Hospital under the guidance of Mr David Chong soon after I completed my research work.

Studying During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, the teaching and learning sessions were conducted online , either synchronous or asynchronous. In my opinion, the quality of the online delivery was no less than any face-to-face sessions. The arrangements of synchronous online sessions on the weekends allowed me to balance my study time very well. The guidance I received from all lecturers were more than adequate and I had benefited a lot from it. Through Pharmacy Management specialisation, I was exposed to many business management and entrepreneurship knowledge that are relatable to the pharmacy business in Malaysia and the world. The external experts in business management and marketing broadened my horizon with their teaching. I was always interested in business analytics and managerial sciences. When I was taught to analyse business annual reports and business plans in their lectures, no words could describe my excitement and joy while gaining these new pieces of knowledge.

If I were to mention my challenges throughout my master’s programme, it would be retaining the pharmacy knowledge learnt and dedicating time to read on materials to complete my assignments. I would need to dedicate time to revise pharmacotherapy guidelines and read on study materials related to my Pharmacy Practice specialisation to complete my assignments. Having self-discipline is also extremely important while attending online classes, especially with all the distractions when studying at home. However, being able to view the recorded sessions definitely helped with my understanding. Retail pharmacy businesses encompass knowledge from both healthcare and business background. I believe that both pharmacy and business management knowledge are indispensable tools for pharmacists nowadays in building a sustainable pharmacy business. Learning while working is possible through IMU Master’s programme.

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