US-Thai Consortium Hosts 20th Anniversary Conference at School of Pharmacy

Three-day conference offers opportunity for faculty, staff, and students from schools of pharmacy across the United States and Thailand to reflect on Consortium’s past achievements and plan future initiatives.

By Malissa Carroll
June 12, 2014

The US-Thai Consortium for the Development of Pharmacy Education in Thailand celebrated its 20th anniversary with a three-day conference at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy held May 28-30. Sponsored by the School and the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), the conference offered an opportunity for attendees to reflect on the Consortium’s past achievements and develop a plan for the future. It was attended by approximately 120 faculty, staff, and students from schools of pharmacy across the United States and Thailand.

“Health care in both the United States and Thailand is evolving,” said Natalie D. Eddington, PhD, FCP, FAAPS, dean and professor of the School of Pharmacy and executive director of University regional partnerships for the University of Maryland, Baltimore, in her opening remarks to conference attendees. “The US-Thai Consortium for the Development of Pharmacy Education in Thailand is an extraordinary partnership between schools of pharmacy in the United States and Thailand to advance pharmacy education in both countries, ensuring that our pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists have the knowledge and skills needed to care for patients as the health care landscape in both countries continues to change. This conference is an opportunity to not only reflect on our successes, but to also challenge ourselves and plan for opportunities that will help shape our future.”

The Consortium was established in May 1994 when nine schools of pharmacy from the United States and the American Association Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) signed a Memorandum of Agreement with eight schools of pharmacy in Thailand and the Committee for Pharmacy Manpower Development of the Thailand Ministry of University Affairs. It now includes 19 schools of pharmacy from Thailand and 16 schools of pharmacy from the United States, and strives to foster a formal link among those institutions in an effort to enhance their academic, research, and clinical programs.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Educational Innovations, International Program Certification, Research, and Faculty Development.” Edward Moreton, PhD, professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the School and member of the Consortium’s Steering Committee, led the local planning committee tasked with organizing the event.

“It is a pleasure and honor to host the US-Thai Consortium for the Development of Pharmacy Education in Thailand at the School of Pharmacy,” said Moreton. “I believe that everyone in this Consortium agrees –whether he or she has been involved since the beginning or only recently joined our efforts – that their participation in this remarkable group has changed their lives. It has changed the way they view education as well as professional cooperation. This year’s conference is a great opportunity for us to celebrate not only 20 years of collaboration, but also 20 years of friendship.”

Following the conference’s opening ceremony, attendees were updated on the Consortium’s activities. Several of the Consortium’s accomplishments were highlighted, including how schools of pharmacy in the United States have assisted with the transition from the five-year Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy to a six-year Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree in schools of pharmacy across Thailand. This change in the curriculum has helped shift the focus of Thailand’s pharmacy profession from one concentrated on dispensing medications to one dedicated to serving patients.

“The US-Thai Consortium for the Development of Pharmacy Education in Thailand has served us well,” says Sindhchai Keokitichai, PhD, dean of Burapha University and founding member of the Consortium. “This partnership has helped to strengthen the scholarship of pharmacy students from both Thailand and the United States, giving our schools of pharmacy a number of unique opportunities to collaborate to improve pharmaceutical care in both countries. With all that we have learned from our participation in this Consortium, I believe that our university is strong enough to lead pharmacy education not only in Thailand, but in our surrounding countries as well.”

Presenters also spoke about how participation in the Consortium among pharmacy schools in Thailand has increased from eight schools to 19. As a result of its participation in the Consortium, the College of Pharmacotherapy in Thailand has been able to establish six residency programs that enable faculty to pursue board certification in pharmacotherapy (BCP). It has enrolled 115 residents since 2004, proving pivotal for the recruitment and retention of clinical faculty in Thailand. Faculty with the BCP/PharmD are considered peers of those with a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).

“As one of the founding members of this Consortium, I find it very rewarding to see all that our members have accomplished in the past 20 years,” says Pavich Tongroach, PhD, former secretary general of the Commission on Higher Education within Thailand’s Ministry of Education. “With the help of our friends in schools of pharmacy across the United States, we are truly making progress. And, with the additional input gathered from both sides during this conference, I am confident that we can further accelerate and build upon this progress.”

“The relationships formed as a result of this Consortium have had a tremendous impact on the pharmacy profession in Thailand,” adds Wongwiwat Tassaneeyakul, PhD, dean of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Khon Kaen University. “I would like to thank Drs. Eddington and Moreton for their hospitality throughout the conference and express my appreciation to everyone who participated in this year’s event. Each time I attend these conferences, I make new friends and learn about new approaches that I can use to improve the quality of pharmacy education at my university.”

Additional conference sessions highlighted educational simulations and interprofessional education, international professional program certification, career paths for clinical faculty, and research. The Consortium’s five workgroups – including its Education Workgroup, Exchanges Workgroup, Residency Workgroup, Research Collaboration Workgroup, and Workforce Development Workgroup – also held meetings to discuss their current activities and plans for the future. These groups include faculty from schools of pharmacy in both the United States and Thailand who work together to meet the Consortium’s long-term goals of increasing the number of pharmacy schools and pharmacy faculty in Thailand and providing training for new pharmacists to improve the health and welfare of that country’s people.

“This year’s conference provided a unique opportunity for members of the US-Thai Consortium for the Development of Pharmacy Education in Thailand to come together with our colleagues from the other side of the world to share our ideas and successes, discuss how we can do things better, and improve the quality of education for student pharmacists not only in Thailand, but in the United States as well,” says Melody Ryan, PharmD, MPH, associate professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science at the University of Kentucky and co-chair of the Consortium’s Steering Committee. “The information that has been shared here fills me with a lot of hope for the progress of both countries.”

“The US-Thai Consortium for the Development of Pharmacy Education in Thailand represents an indelible milestone in Thailand,” adds Surakit Nathisuwan, PharmD, member of the Faculty of Pharmacy at Mahidol University and co-chair of the Consortium’s Steering Committee. “With help from our friends in the United States — including Dr. Moreton, who is one of our strongest supporters — we have helped to change the entire landscape of the pharmacy profession in Thailand in a very positive way. This meeting was a great opportunity to reflect on what we have already accomplished, which is very impressive, but also to look into the future, which I find very exciting. I am delighted to see the different initiatives being planned by our workgroups to advance our Consortium to the next level.”

In the future, new challenges to be addressed by the Consortium will include curriculum assessment, curriculum revision, and projecting future needs of pharmacists in the changing landscape of pharmacy practice in both the United States and Thailand.

“Just as the role of the pharmacist as a member of the interprofessional health care team is evolving in the United States, pharmacists in Thailand will also face an environment in which they will have increased responsibility for patient management,” says Moreton. “The pharmacy curriculum and clinical training of pharmacists and pharmacy residents in Thailand will need to keep pace with these expanded roles as full-fledged partners in the health care team.”

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