Caitlin Albrecht and Caroline Patz: Learning Overseas - An APPE in Germany

Students (l-r) Elise Muench, Jochen Pfiefer, Caitlin Albrecht, Caroline Patz and Andy Yip with their German instructorsCaitlin Albrecht and Caroline Patz were among the students who went to Germany and they thoroughly appreciate having had the opportunity to learn abroad. 

“Going abroad for one of my APPEs has already added a lot of value to my fourth year of pharmacy school,” Patz said. “It provided me with a unique lens with which to view pharmacy both in the United States and globally. Additionally, it gave me a lot of exposure to health care policy and alternate health care systems that I would not have otherwise received as part of my education.”

Their time in Germany consisted of many different things. Everything they did contributed to an overall irreplaceable experience. They spent time with key stakeholders in the German health care system including the Federal Joint Committee, a pharmacist-owned wholesaler (NOWEDA), The Ministry of Health Innovation Hub, the House of Physicians, and a local pharmacy board. They also met with German pharmacy and medical students with whom they had discussions, gave and listened to presentations, and worked through cases. They observed a surgery operation and spent time in a German community pharmacy to compare and contrast regulations, medications, and personnel between the U.S. and Germany. In addition to all of this, they also enjoyed visiting the many historical sites Germany has to offer.

“Our time in Germany was very exciting because no two days were the same,” Albrecht said. “Our focus was to meet with various stakeholders in the health system across the country, including community pharmacists, wholesalers, policy makers and representatives from medical associations. We also focused on the history and culture of Germany to inform the context of the health system as it stands today. Through our continuous dialogue with people from all over Europe, we developed an understanding of the attitudes and philosophies toward health care in the region, and the complex systems that provide care to patients.”

The students learned a lot from their time in Germany. They learned how to evaluate a health care system, how the U.S. health care system compares and contrasts to the German system, the influences on health policies in Germany, and much more. However, what might be the most valuable lesson learned is that there is always more to learn.

“I learned more than could ever be summarized here, but my biggest lesson was finding out how much I don’t know,” Albrecht said. “This experience was humbling and left me wanting to learn even more about international health systems in the future.”

With Albrecht being interested in international regulatory systems for pharmaceuticals, she thinks the lessons she learned will be applicable in her future career. She intends on applying to Industry Fellowships with a global emphasis that would enable her to build on what she learned and apply it to other international markets.

For Patz, who isn’t as interested in international pharmacy, her main takeaways were a little different.  

“I think that international pharmacy experiences are important because they give us a unique global perspective we would not otherwise gain from the curriculum,” Patz said. “They allow us to look at our health care system in the U.S. and critically evaluate it from an international lens.” 

When asked if they would recommend this to other students, their responses were similarly positive. “Absolutely,”said Patzand “Wholeheartedly,” said Albrecht.

 

Story by Owen Mageau