SIUE SOP Students Experience India

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Caleb Braasch, Catherine Gilmore, Lauren Skarupa and James Reimer Four Southern Illinois University Edwardsville School of Pharmacy (SOP) Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience (APPE) students recently returned from their international rotation in Mysore (Mysuru) and Ooty, India. 

Fourth-year (P4) students James Reimer, of O’Fallon, Caleb Braasch, of Edwardsville, Lauren Skarupa, of Decatur, and Catherine Gilmore, of Springfield participated in a unique professional and cultural experience. The group spent four weeks in India as part of a five-week clinical rotation.

Students had the opportunity to participate in hospital treatment team rounds with healthcare teams. Clinical experiences include infectious disease care, pediatrics, general medicine and oncology. Students present clinical cases as part of a team, alongside their student peers from Jagadguru Sri Shivaratheeshwara (JSS) Academy of Higher Education and Research. 

“This rotation was initiated in 2014, and since its inception, 10 SIUE SOP have completed APPEs in India,” said Kelly Gable, PharmD, BCPP, professor and SOP coordinator of global partnerships. “Through our shared university partnership, seven JSS students have studied at SIUE. At the SIUE School of Pharmacy, we embrace and encourage students to challenge themselves through experiencing culturally enriching learning opportunities, both within the U.S. and abroad. This experience is just one of the several global education learning opportunities that we offer our students.” 

With an interest in traveling and learning more about other cultures, Gilmore jumped at the opportunity. “I was intrigued to see how the healthcare system in India differed from America, especially in regard to pharmacy,” she said. “The role of a clinical pharmacist is much different in America, with pharmacists integrated in various aspects of healthcare. In India, this is only starting to take off. It was exciting to share how we practice pharmacy and ways we can help them push the profession forward in their country.”

Gilmore had the opportunity to make a significant impact on a patient’s care. “A patient’s antibiotic was not being dosed appropriately, and I explained to the healthcare team why the dose should be increased, and how the patient could improve much quicker if the change was made,” she said. “The recommendation was accepted, and the patient significantly improved and was discharged within a few days. Showing the team the impact of an intervention from a pharmacist/pharmacy student, and how it affects patient outcomes was just a small way to help improve pharmacy practice there.”

Gilmore would encourage other students to participate. “I cannot fully explain the impact this trip had on me,” she said. “From learning about various disease states that are not prevalent in America, such as dengue fever, tuberculosis, typhoid fever and thalassemia, to trying amazing foods and exploring new sites, to becoming friends with our pharmacy student counterparts, this trip far exceeded every expectation I had.”

Gilmore was able to experience the drastic differences in healthcare outside the U.S. “I have always been conscious about unnecessary costs and keeping out-of-pocket costs down for patients, but it wasn’t until I saw how billing was done in India that I started making a more conscious effort,” she said. “Patients at the private hospital must pay out-of-pocket for every service they receive, before they receive it. For example, before a doctor can order lab work, the patient must pay for it. This experience has helped me have a better understanding of other cultures, and how religion can play such a vital role in healthcare decisions for many patients, and how important it is to respect those decisions.” 

Gilmore said the entire trip was enriched exponentially by their exposure to the JSS College of Pharmacy students. During their free time, the SIUE SOP students also had the opportunity to celebrate Onam, a celebration from Kerala, a southern state in India from which many of the JSS students originate.

Photo: SIUE SOP students Caleb Braasch, Catherine Gilmore, Lauren Skarupa and James Reimer in India.