June 25, 2019
Jenae Robertz at the WHA
Jenae Robertz at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.

By Jenae Robertz, U-M PharmD Candidate 2021

This past May, I traveled to Geneva, Switzerland to attend the 72nd World Health Assembly (WHA) as part of the International Pharmaceutical Students’ Federation (IPSF) delegation. As one of 35 delegates chosen from around the world, we worked together to promote the role of pharmacists and pharmacy students in public health. One of our biggest tasks included writing policy statements supporting the stance of IPSF on key global health issues where pharmacists can have an impact, such as falsified medicines and patient safety. These policy statements were then read by members of our delegation on the floor during committee meetings. Other opportunities included attending various side events to learn about critical health topics facing our world, networking with individuals and organizations to establish partnerships, and maintaining a presence of pharmacy students on the global public health stage.

This experience had a profound impact on me far beyond what I could have imagined. I am passionate about public health and acting as a voice for pharmacy students in this arena was incredibly rewarding.  I loved being able to educate key stakeholders in public health on the value that pharmacists have to offer when it comes to advancing health across the globe.

I also learned about various technological innovations in health, such as a lock box that allows methadone patients to take home a week’s worth supply of methadone and dispenses it one day at a time using the patient’s fingerprint. Another intriguing innovation showcased at WHA included a smart phone app that recognizes falsified medicines. Pharmacists, physicians, or patients can take a picture of a capsule or tablet suspected to be falsified, and the app compares it to a database using 24 visual characteristics to determine if the medication is in fact its purported identity.

Perhaps of greatest consequence, I learned of the immense magnitude of the work that still needs to be done in achieving the World Health Organization’s goal of Health for All. Hardly discouraged, I left WHA galvanized to continue my pursuits in global public health as an ambassador for the profession of pharmacy. In the apt words of Dr. Tedros, WHO Director General, “Our work is just beginning.”