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15 January, 2016 00:00 00 AM

Private sector’s role in pharmacy education and profession

Although not many, several private universities are playing a praiseworthy role in promoting science education in Bangladesh which is conspicuously lagging behind compared to business education
Hasan Mahmud Reza, PhD
Private sector’s role in pharmacy 
education and profession

Tertiary education in Bangladesh is greatly diversified and contributed by the private sector which started its journey in 1992 with the establishment of the North South University — the first private university in the country. At present, there are 84 private universities countrywide providing opportunities for higher education for more than 60% of the total students who are going to universities every year. These universities are recruiting talented faculty members, introducing innovative and effective teaching methods, new subjects and up-to-date curricula to produce competent graduates who can face the challenges of the new century. In past 24 years, private universities have produced a large number of graduates who are contributing significantly to different professions home and abroad. It is commonly said that private universities are charging a high tuition fees while not providing quality education. This is not true in all cases: there are some private universities that have established their quality by producing skilled graduates who are holding top positions in national and international organizations, business firms, etc. The tuition fee is not even high as per cost-benefit ratio rather it is lesser than that paid in many English medium schools for elementary and intermediate education. Realizing several other benefits offered by the top private universities, many brilliant students are finding private universities as their ultimate choice and this sector is expanding tremendously.
Although not many, several private universities are playing a praiseworthy role in promoting science education in Bangladesh which is drastically lagging behind compared to business education. Actually, science education requires relatively a bigger budget to provide quality education, which many private universities cannot afford. That is why private universities have less interest in introducing science subjects and in many instances, private universities are failing to maintain the required standard in providing science education and the graduates from these universities will ultimately suffer later. Hence, when selecting private university for science education, it must be of prime consideration for the students to go with the frontline universities that have developed necessary infrastructure including laboratories, classrooms, library, research facilities, and qualified faculty members. We have a few of such private universities that are fulfilling the international standard in revolutionizing science education in Bangladesh.
Current trend in enrolment at university level demonstrates that pharmacy has been the top choice for students willing to study bioscience. However, when the issue of studying pharmacy arises, some additional requirements need to be considered seriously. First of all, a globally standard curriculum is inevitable.
Interestingly, pharmacy education and profession has grown in a different way in Bangladesh, which is exclusively based on industrial need. As pharmaceutical industry is heavily diversified now and going through a transition, it is important to consider this diversity in designing the pharmacy curriculum and accordingly students should be made competent by providing appropriate education and training. At the same time, prospective areas in health care settings such as hospitals, clinics and drug stores where scopes are waiting for pharmacists will also be considered in designing a good curriculum.
A large number of Bangladeshi pharmacists are going abroad every year, to help them finding a job, an internationally standard curriculum is very important. Next, to educate the students in line with the curriculum, a team of qualified faculty members is very important which can really teach well and help the students learn well. Although currently 24 private universities are offering pharmacy education in parallel with some public universities, these two important things are missing in many of these universities. Very recently a leading private university in Dhaka has introduced the globally acceptable Bachelor of Pharmacy Professional (BPharm Professional) course which is a five-year professional programme. The aim of this course is to produce globally competent pharmacists as this curriculum has been made in accordance with global standards containing a broad-based general education along with the pharmacy core education. Thus, the graduates will be able to compete internationally with their knowledge and skills and render improved service to society.
Pharmacy is an applied subject. The curriculum contains multidisciplinary courses, many of them require laboratory works; therefore, sufficient laboratory facilities must be made available on the university premises. For example, pharmacy students must have hands-on-learning in the areas of analytical pharmacy, molecular biology, pharmacology, biotechnology, microbiology, pharmaceutical technology and medicinal chemistry.
Therefore, university must make available of all these laboratories equipped with necessary instruments such as HPLC, LC-MS, FT-IR, Ultrasonicator, Gel-doc system, Thermal cycler, Fluorescence microscope, ELISA reader, Animal house, Clean bench, etc. A comprehensive knowledge and technical competencies in the area of pharmaceutical production is of utmost requirement for those who want to work in pharma industries which can be facilitated through a mini R&D laboratory, a miniature of pharmaceutical plant.
At this moment, one private university has established such a laboratory for the first time in Bangladesh. This university has housed many more useful instruments necessary for advanced research in specific areas of pharmacy. Considering all these factors, students have to be very careful in selecting their university specially for studying pharmacy which is essential for a better learning and a better job.
There is huge possibility to broaden the horizon of pharmacy profession in Bangladesh. The country has the strong base for pharmaceutical production which is further strengthened by the pharmacists. It is our glory that about 98% of the total domestic need of pharmaceuticals is met by our local companies, which has been possible largely by the contribution of our pharmacists. We are exporting the pharma products to 102 countries; however, the volume is still negligible yet expected to rise manifold in next few years. To achieve a substantial increase in export of pharmaceutical products, many pharmaceutical companies are now expanding their plants and receiving certification from different international accrediting bodies. It is obvious that these companies will hire many skilled pharmacists who will not only work in finished product manufacturing but also in active pharmaceutical production. Strategically, Bangladesh is in good position to make a huge growth in active pharmaceutical production.
As pharmacy is a multi-disciplinary subject, the opportunities it offers are limitless. Not only are pharmacists qualified to work in an industrial setting, they are well suited for collaborative work alongside doctors and other healthcare professionals giving patient care a whole new outlook in Bangladesh. The scopes for pharmacists in the industrial sector are available in Production, Quality Control, Quality Assurance, Product Development, GMP Training, Warehouse, Drug Research and Invention and Technical Services Department.
Pharmacists can also opt for jobs in the pharmaceutical marketing sector: Product Management Department, Medical Services Department, Sales Promotion/Medical Promotion, Clinical Services, Training and International Marketing Department. Pharmacists are also an integral part of Drug Regulatory Body, Pharmacy Council of Bangladesh, Drug Administration and Drug Testing Laboratories. Academic institutions and the organizations associated with drug research and development can be the good career choice for many pharmacy graduates. Although the limited opportunities for pharmacists are currently available in some hospitals, hospital pharmacy will demand a huge number of pharmacists in near future. Similarly more gateways will soon emerge for pharmacists with the introduction of community pharmacy in Bangladesh.
Thorough knowledge in all aspects of the life sciences, good communication skills, honesty, integrity, dedication, and strong ethics form the backbone of an able pharmacist. Some selective private universities are able to instill these qualities into the students allowing them to contribute to the betterment of the healthcare system of Bangladesh and the globe.

The writer is professor and chairman, department of pharmaceutical sciences, North South University


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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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