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Pharmacy Partnership with Egyptian University Propels International Outreach

February 4, 2019

This January, the Wegmans School of Pharmacy at St. John Fisher College launched a formal partnership with Future University in Cairo, Egypt.

Dr. Christine Birnie signs an MOU with officials from Future University.

Dr. Christine Birnie, dean of the School, traveled with Dr. Lisa Phillips to Egypt to present at an annual international conference hosted by Future. While there, they formally signed an academic agreement with officials from the university.

The relationship between the two institutions began when Egyptian doctoral student Hend Shahin approached faculty members at Fisher about continuing her research in pharmaceutics. Shahin’s husband was completing a medical residency at Rochester General Hospital, and she was eager to continue her own doctoral work while in the United States. While conducting volunteer research with Dr. Vivek Dave, an associate professor in the School of Pharmacy, she met another associate professor, Dr. Lipika Chablani, and found similarities in their research interests.

Both Chablani and Birnie helped Shahin work with her home university to formalize a plan to complete her doctoral work under Chablani’s supervision. Shahin was able to finish her research in Rochester and presented her final conclusions to faculty at Fisher last May.

Egyptian doctoral student Hend Shahin presents her dissertation research at Fisher.

“Dr. Chablani has been a great mentor, offering me guidance and support,” Shahin said, adding that she was able to take advantage of the College’s laboratories and faculty expertise. “Her experiences in the field helped me complete my project and solve any problems that popped up.”

Over the course of Shahin’s time at Fisher, Future University also sent another student to engage in a clinical observership, and more student exchanges are on the horizon. For several weeks this summer, Fisher hopes to host a handful of Egyptian students and faculty for another clinical observership, where they can see firsthand how clinical pharmacy in the United States operates. Birnie also hopes Fisher students will have the opportunity to travel to Egypt for their clinical rotation experiences.

“The School has worked to expand our footprint internationally, and Future University is an excellent partner for us,” said Birnie, adding that the different strengths and expertise of each institution creates a mutually beneficial relationship. “Future has a strong pharmaceutical science program and this partnership allows us to form research collaborations together. At the same time, clinical pharmacy practice in Egypt is in the early stages of development, so we can provide additional support for their clinically focused programs.”

A similar agreement with Sri Ramachandra in India has seen Fisher faculty members assist in curriculum development at the medical college, and both students and professors have engaged in exchange programs and research collaborations, in addition to participating in conferences and poster presentations.

Several years ago, the School formed an international outreach committee. Adding to the School’s strong history of international service trips and medical missions, the committee focuses on fostering collaborations that include research partnerships and new clinical rotation sites, among other efforts.

 “These international partnerships allow our students to learn about health care and research through an international lens,” Birnie said. “The partnerships teach students about diverse medical practices and cultural sensitivity, and expose them to the health care systems of other countries. We work in a global community and it’s important that our program reflect that.”