September 15, 2014
Jerika Nguyen, Class of 2017

This summer, four University of Michigan PharmD students participated in international pharmacy internship experiences through the International Pharmaceutical Students’ Federation Student Exchange Program (IPSF-SEP). IPSF was founded in 1949 for the purpose of “studying and promoting the interests of pharmaceutical students and to encourage international co-operation among them.” The Student Exchange Program is one of IPSF’s primary initiatives. In the United States, students who are members of the American Pharmacists Association Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA-ASP) gain automatic membership to IPSF.

Thanks to the unique opportunity that IPSF-SEP provides, U-M College of Pharmacy students found themselves in placement sites across the globe. The individual internship experiences were as diverse as the countries in which they took place, and ranged in duration from 2.5 – 4 weeks.

  • Dunedin, New Zealand (Brock Jackson - Class of 2017)
  • Nantes, France (Emily Jaynes – Class of 2016)
  • Monastir, Tunisia (Jennifer Liang – Class of 2017)
  • Algiers, Algeria (Jerika Nguyen – Class of 2017)

Jackson and Jaynes explored international pharmacy practice in the community setting. “While there are a lot of similarities between the French and American pharmacy systems, one of the most striking differences is the fact that you can’t buy any drug product in France without speaking to the pharmacist,” Jaynes explains. “Medications like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and cetrizine are all available without a prescription, but they are behind the counter in the way that pseudoephedrine products are behind the counter in the United States. Customers have to ask the pharmacist for a box of acetaminophen, and the pharmacist then takes the opportunity to counsel the patient on appropriate use.” In New Zealand, Jackson worked at the Meridian Mall Pharmacy and attended classes with local pharmacy students.

Liang worked in the hematology department of the hospital in Monastir, Tunisia where she observed pharmacists working alongside biologists and lab technicians to interpret blood sample tests. Additionally, Liang attended the IPSF Eastern Mediterranean Pharmaceutical Symposium, which was also taking place in Monastir. “It was fascinating to hear about the differences among healthcare systems in each country, and to see how the scope of practice varied for pharmacists,” says Liang.

Nguyen spent her SEP experience at Novartis with the Market Access team in Algiers, Algeria. The main project of this exchange was a comparative analysis of the health care systems of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Algeria, and whether they fell under the Beveridge, Bismarck, or Liberal models of health care systems. “The IPSF student exchange program gave me the opportunity to combine my academic interests as a student pharmacist and French minor in an unfamiliar cultural and professional setting,” says Nguyen. “I've previously worked for an independent community pharmacy, a free health clinic with a medication assistance program, and two hospital systems, but this internship exposed me to the inner workings of a multinational pharmaceutical industry.”

All four students heard about IPSF-SEP through their involvement with APhA-ASP.

“I highly recommend this internship to any and all students. Definitely a trip of a lifetime!” ends Jackson.