Pharmacy Research, Practice, and Education in Uganda

This summer, Assistant Professor Melanie Nicol and three students spent time in Uganda as part of the college’s Advanced Pharmacy Practice Elective. The APPE is designed for students to learn about pharmacy practice and research in the central east African country.

The students who accompanied Nicol to Uganda were Sara Brown and Kunkun Wang, both fourth-year students; and Prosperity Eneh, a master’s student and Global Pharmacy Engagement, Education and Research Fellow.

During the APPE, the group spent their time going on rounds with interprofessional teams at local government-owned and private-for-profit hospitals, and sitting in on medical visits at an infectious disease clinic. They also went on rounds with a meningitis research team, which provided a unique experience for the students to see firsthand the intersection of clinical research and clinical care.

Uganda“I am grateful that I can provide these international experiences to pharmacy students,” said Nicol. “These opportunities are invaluable training experiences as they force students to apply their skills in evidence-based medicine in a unique way. They cannot always rely on the U.S. guidelines they have learned to provide the answer needed.”

While this was the second year the APPE has been offered, this was Nicol’s sixth
trip to Uganda. She first visited the country in 2015 during the launch of the University’s Uganda Hub, which aims to advance research and education in East Africa by focusing on partnership and initiatives that are mutually beneficial to all collaborators.

For the past couple of years, Nicol has collaborated with researchers in Uganda to advance her studies on the penetration of drugs used to treat HIV and related infections into tissue compartments such as the genitals, brain, and lymph tissue. HIV is an important health concern in Uganda, where an estimated 1.4 million people live with the infection.

Student Reflections from Uganda:

Kunkun Wang“It’s a perfect rotation that composed of almost everything possible: research, hospital pharmacy, clinic pharmacy, public health areas such as policy making and health system administration, and the coolest part, going to the morgue and watching autopsy!” — Kunkun Wang

Sarah Brown“My perception on Ugandan healthcare has dramatically changed. Beforehand, I was expecting primitive care. Now, I understand that doctors practice evidence-based medicine just like in the United States, but the lack of resources is the driving factor behind the difference in care. Having daily labs for a patient is something I never thought twice about, before coming to Uganda.” — Sara Brown

Prosperity Eneh“One aspect of the healthcare system in a developing country like Uganda that is very much different from what I have experienced in U.S. healthcare is the role of family and friends in care provision. In each hospital setting we have visited while here, family is everything to the patient. In the absence of family, chances of positive patient outcomes are greatly reduced. The family of the patient is so important that at Mulago Referral Hospital, patients with no family or friend with them receive a special yellow blanket wrapped around them to identify these patients.” — Prosperity Eneh

Read more about this year’s Uganda APPE at