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Pharmacy Team Returns to Pune, India Health Clinic

January 27, 2023

A team of students, alumni, and faculty from the Wegmans School of Pharmacy returned to Pune, India after a two-year COVID hiatus to engage in a medical mission at the Koinonia Medical Clinic.

Members of the pharmacy team staff a medical clinic in Pune, India.

The health care clinic, which is staffed by a physician and is open year-round, was established in 2010 in partnership with the Koinonia Fellowship. Members of the School of Pharmacy have served there regularly since its inception.

In January, two first-year pharmacy students, one fourth-year student, one alumna, and three faculty members traveled to the clinic to help provide health care services to residents in Pune. Thanks to a $5,000 grant from the J. Homer Butler Foundation, the team was able to help stock the clinic with vitamins, blood pressure equipment, medication, eye glasses, and hygiene kits. This is the sixth grant the University has received from the Butler Foundation; over the last decade it has allowed Fisher to bring more than $35,000 in medications, supplies, and equipment to the clinic, and helped fund the purchase of an electrocardiogram (EKG) machine, dental equipment, an autoclave, and audiology equipment.

While in India, the team saw about 600 patients in Pune City over the course of several days. They also staffed a separate clinic in a rural town two hours outside of the city, seeing around 600 patients there.

Dr. Christine Birnie, dean of the School, and alumna Alicia Habershaw ’12 used the opportunity to conduct research while there. In 2012, Birnie and Habershaw were a part of a team that looked at the effect of education and socioeconomic status on incidents of hypertension and diabetes in patients at the clinic. The 2023 trip served as a chance to update the study 10 years later.

For pharmacy student Simryn Lang, the trip was four years in the making.

“The main reason I was drawn to St. John Fisher and the Wegmans School of Pharmacy was the emphasis on service. I learned about the trip to Pune, India in my first year of pharmacy school and set a goal to attend before I graduated,” she said.

While the pandemic may have pushed back her goal by a year or two, the trip was worth the wait. It became extra special as her sister, a first-year pharmacy student, was able to attend as well. Lang was able to use the trip to complete one of her APPE rotations, a requirement for all fourth-year pharmacy students.

“In a setting where needs are vast and resources are minimal, it was rewarding to provide medical education and assistance to those that were able to attend the clinic,” Lang said. “The ability to stay on site provided a unique view into the lives of the residents of that community.”