Mélanie Mahoney: Learning Lessons Overseas

Mélanie Mahoney Headshot

This past September, third-year student Mélanie Mahoney attended the 78th FIP World Congress of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences in Glasgow, Scotland. The intention of the congress is to bring pharmacists from all over the globe to discuss ways to enhance the role of pharmacists, in order to ensure patients and health systems receive the full benefits from the medicines they use. Mélanie had a great time and brought many valuable takeaways home with her. She talked about her experience with the College of Pharmacy.

What interested you in going to FIP?

I first heard about FIP during my first year when I attended a Multicultural Pharmacy Student Organization meeting on international pharmacy conference opportunities. I looked into the conference online and the more I researched, the more excited I got about the opportunity to attend an international conference, learn about a variety of topics, hear diverse perspectives, and meet pharmacists and students from around the world.

Why did you decide to go?

I have so many varied interests related to pharmacy, but global health and healthcare on an international scale has always been a strong passion of mine. My friends Seojung and Joe had been to FIP last year and hearing about their experiences convinced me that I would really be able to get a lot out of the conference.

What did you do there?  What was your experience like? Did you like it?

At the conference I was able to attend a variety of sessions on topics ranging from policy and advocacy to pharmacogenomics and medicine assisted death. Not only did I learn a lot from the sessions I attended but I also had the opportunity to network with pharmacists from around the world. In the evenings I attended receptions hosted by different countries where I was able to speak to pharmacists about different healthcare systems and pharmacy practices. I really enjoyed my time at FIP!

What did you learn? Did you learn anything that really opened your eyes to a new perspective? If so, what was it?

I learned about lots of different topics at the sessions I attended. While I appreciated learning more about clinical topics I am interested in, it was most eye-opening to see how pharmacists and students from around the world view these different topics. In one session we broke out into small groups and I was with three pharmacists from Australia, Sweden and Nigeria. We discussed the biggest issues facing the profession and it was really a unique experience for me to hear such diverse responses from these professionals and then discuss as a group our similarities and differences.

Did you form any lasting connections?

Yes! My husband and I became friends with an Australian pharmacist after he convinced us to try Vegemite (look it up- I think it’s disgusting!) at an evening event. I also got to network with pharmacists from around the world and met some amazing people. I am trying to coordinate a video meeting with one of the pharmacists I met so he could speak to a student group at the College of Pharmacy.

Why are you interested in international pharmacy?

I was born in France and am a dual citizen. I have always been passionate about travel and experiencing more of the world than my immediate surroundings. There is so much going on outside of just the United States that I think it is important to learn from others beyond our borders, especially when it comes to healthcare. Even if I don’t end up with an “international” job right away, I will continue to keep an open mind to what is going on in healthcare and in pharmacy around the world.

Do you think an international experience is important for all pharmacy students? If so, why? What do you gain from it?

I think an international experience is a great way to broaden your understanding of the profession and of the role you have and the impact you can make. While an international experience can be very difficult (costs, time, etc.), I think it’s really worthwhile to put in the effort to make it happen.

What was your favorite part about being there?

My favorite part about FIP was hearing so many diverse perspectives on issues related to pharmacy and healthcare. So many times I heard things stated in a different way than I had ever heard but yet I agreed or at least was able to understand their unique perspective. I found that as a whole, pharmacists around the world have a lot more similarities than differences. A favorite moment of mine was noticing a triathlon sweater at a conference and complementing the pharmacist wearing it. The wearer was a pharmacist/triathlete from Norway. We got to talking about triathlon for a bit and learned that we will both be competing at the same world championship next year in Switzerland! It was very cool to find someone at the conference who shares more than just one of my passions!

How do you see yourself applying what you learned at FIP in your own career?

This is hard for me to answer since I’m not really sure what my career will look like yet. In general, my experience at FIP will provide me with more resources and contacts around the world. It’s great to know that if I am looking to get some new opinions and perspectives, I have broadened my network of who to reach out to.

What are your plans after graduation?

I’m really not sure yet and that is pretty stressful. I’m interested in industry and I’m in the Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology research emphasis. I’m also interested in infectious diseases and antimicrobial stewardship. I love working in the emergency department of a hospital and I’m pursuing my Masters of Public Health with an interest in global health and epidemiology. Basically, I have far too many interests and I’m hoping that rotations will help me identify a good starting point for my future career in pharmacy.