College of Pharmacy Students Set to Trailblaze New UAMS-Thailand Exchange

By Ben Boulden

“Thailand has more tropical diseases that students here would never see in the U.S. They may learn and see that over there,” said Nalin Payakachat, Ph.D., associate professor in the UAMS College of Pharmacy Department of Pharmacy Practice. “The practice site is equivalent to a VA hospital. They will be able to see difficult, complex cases.”

The college’s Interim Dean Schwanda Flowers, Pharm.D.; Payakachat; and Seth Heldenbrand, Pharm.D., associate dean for Experiential Education; travelled there in May to make sure everything was in place for the first Advanced Practice Experience exchange to provide faculty and student professional development and clinical seminars, to tour the different departments in the pharmacy program and discuss with Silpakorn faculty and administration the possibilities of a future faculty exchange and research collaboration.

“Our visit went really well,” Flowers said. “We observed their clinical rotations and talked with several researchers about how we possibly might be able to exchange Ph.D. research students in addition to pharmacy students. I know our students will be supported and will be positively challenged while studying in a new, fascinating environment. The visit allowed us to talk about opportunities for interprofessional exchange and for visiting faculty to collaborate.”

Payakachat, a native of Thailand, taught at Silpakorn from 1994 to 2000 before pursuing a Ph.D. in pharmacy administration at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Three years ago, at the urging of some colleagues at Silpakorn, she coordinated the visit of two Silpakorn pharmacy residents while they job shadowed practicing pharmacists here.

That visit went well, and its success prompted Silpakorn to request a more established relationship with UAMS.

Then-UAMS College of Pharmacy Dean Keith Olsen, Pharm.D., signed a memorandum of understanding June 15, 2018, to establish a new exchange program with Silpakorn. Olsen met in his office with Tanasait Ngawhirunpat, dean of the Faculty of Pharmacy at the Silpakorn University to finalize the agreement.

“I’m glad to give back to my motherland,” she said. “It took a lot of effort to organize things to get the first pharmacy residents to come here for two months. I don’t gain anything personally, but I do get satisfaction from doing something useful for students in Thailand. It also might make UAMS more attractive for students in general when we have more opportunities abroad like this one.”

The three UAMS students in September will also get a chance to observe what interprofessional education is like in another country and immerse themselves in clinical practice in Thailand.

“We were impressed how well pharmacists over there function in a team with nurses and physicians,” Payakachat said. “It’s well set up there in that hospital. I think if students see how well Thailand is doing it, then it can be done here. They have clinical pharmacists in almost every unit. It’s impressive.”

The next exchange visit of Silpakorn students at UAMS likely will occur next year, Payakachat said. One purpose of the May visit to the Silpakorn university was to give faculty there an overview of the program here, what will be expected of the students and the requirements to come here, including proficiency in English.