Studentships: a great way to spend summer
Third-year student Andrew Davis spent last summer in rural and remote areas of Tairawhiti, meeting and talking to people picking up their medication from small depots.
Meanwhile, fellow student Suchaya Sanhajariya was back in the lab at Otago University conducting experiments into the lipophilicity of drugs.
Catherine Fletcher, another of their classmates, was conducting a literature review into the health and medicine taking practices of migrants to New Zealand.
They spent their summers in quite diverse ways, but all were participating in summer studentships offered by the school of pharmacy. The studentships enable students who have completed their second or third year of the BPharm degree to undertake research projects over 10 weeks during the summer break, for which they are paid a tax-free scholarship.
In Andrew’s case he was awarded a Maori health research scholarship from the Health Research Council. Andrew is of Nga Rauru descent and his research was related to Maori health.
All three enjoyed their experience and would like to do some more research in the future. For Suchaya, who is this year a fourth-year student, it was the second time she had taken part in a summer studentship. She particularly enjoys the chance to learn something different outside of the usual class situation. This past summer she investigated the lipophilicity of seven ionisable drugs by measuring the increase in surface pressure in phospholipid monolayers.
For Catherine, her research into migrants was topical as she is originally from Malaysia. She undertook a literature review into the health and medicine-taking practices of the Chinese, South Asian and Dutch migrants in New Zealand and found there are barriers including language and a lack of knowledge of the health system which make healthcare less accessible to them.
She particularly enjoyed the one-on-one time she was able to spend with her supervisor, lecturer Dr Susan Heydon.
Travel was a big part of Andrew’s research which saw him visit pharmacy depots in places like Tolaga Bay, Ruatoria and Te Puia. His project explored the barriers people have to accessing medicines in the Tairawhiti region as well as identifying storage conditions for medicines in transit and at depots.
He found the cost of medicines, the cost of petrol and having a physical disability or impairment were all barriers to access, while often medicines were not stored in optimal conditions. In one extreme case a woman who had a disability and who lives alone with no electricity, had to rely on getting a ride with someone else to pick up her medicine.
Most alarming was the fact 41 per cent of participants had already run out of their medicines by the time they were picking up their new medication.
Needless to say, Andrew says his summer studentship was an eye-opening experience.
Article written by Liane Topham-Kindley for Pharmacy Today
Andrew Davis' summer studentship took him to Tolaga Bay on the East Coast.