South African Clinical Pharmacists Train at Ohio State in Transatlantic Partnership

South African Clinical Pharmacists Train at Ohio State in Transatlantic Partnership

By Alaina Bartel
Outreach and Engagement Communications Student Intern

"The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing."

Made famous by Socrates, these words resemble how Natalie Schellack, associate professor in the Department of Pharmacy at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University in South Africa, views her line of work.

"I feel like Christopher Columbus, there is so much to learn. The further you go, the more you realize the less you know. I love my work," Schellack said. "We get to learn every day, from everyone: students, faculty members, and patients. I'm a student of the world, and to me that is powerful."

Schellack, along with Delyne Subrayen, a ward pharmacist for a private sector South African hospital, Netcare Sunward Park Hospital, visited Ohio State in late October to discuss their progress with the South African Antibiotic Stewardship Program: a partnership with South African pharmacists and physicians and Ohio State.

Debra Goff, associate professor of pharmacy and infectious disease specialist, started the program in 2013 to help improve antibiotic stewardship-the correct and effective prescription of antibiotics-in South Africa.

"The world is running out of effective antibiotics. We're trying to teach appropriate use of a precious limited resource that we're running out of, and that is the whole goal of this program," Goff said. "As Ebola taught us: the world is one, and the disease could be here in no time."

Since 2013, the program has had several advancements. According to Schellack, it has created awareness of antimicrobial stewardship, broadened their knowledge base, and created an internship program for younger upcoming pharmacists. Most notably, their work has been published in an international infectious disease publication.

The article included 42 Netcare hospitals, including Netcare Sunward Park Hospital, where Subrayen works. The study stemmed from the "train the trainer" program, where the first two pharmacists from South Africa to study at Ohio State in 2013 returned home to train additional clinical pharmacists on how to provide services, Goff said. Then, the pharmacists in the 42 hospitals applied their recently attained knowledge to nearly 32,000 patients over an 18-month time period.

"As a visiting professor to South Africa, we're going down as the mentors and experts, but I feel sometimes we get more than we give," Goff said. "We learn from them, and it just never stops. It is so professionally and personally rewarding."

Subrayen said after visiting Ohio State and performing surgical patient rounds in the intensive care unit, she is able to see how the education they are receiving in South Africa aligns with the practice of clinical pharmacy here in America.

"From seeing what you're doing here, we can also take things back, and adapt them for our setting, because obviously our resources aren't the same," Subrayen said. "We want to see how we can achieve similar results with having much fewer resources."

Additionally, Schellack said it motivated her when they met with established pharmacists at Ohio State, because she saw what they started with, and where they are now.

"We have similar starting points, so it just shows that it is achievable. I think that vision is going home," Schellack said.

Within the coming years, Subrayen hopes to have more international publications, and collaborate with more countries like the United States to combat antibiotic resistance around the world. Schellack said she hopes, within 10 years, that clinical pharmacy will be established in South Africa, and that there will be a clinical pharmacist on every patient round, delivering services to the patients as well as the physicians.

This program is supported in part by a 2014 Engagement Impact Grant from the Office of Outreach and Engagement.

This work aligns with Infectious Disease Detection, Treatment and Prevention, one of the investment areas in The Ohio State University's Discovery Themes initiative. This focus area centers around understanding the interactions among hosts, pathogens and the environment that result in disease, including drivers of pathogen evolution and antimicrobial resistance, animal reservoirs, host range and immunity, as well as the impacts of infectious diseases on natural and agroecosystems and a sustainable food, fiber and biofuel supply.

The Discovery Themes initiative is a significant investment in four thematic areas in which the university will make a global impact: Energy and the Environment, Food Production and Security, Health and Wellness, and Humanities and the Arts. As the nation's most comprehensive university and one of the top institutions for industry-sponsored research, Ohio State is able to collaboratively develop solutions that will transform our world.

Contact: Debra Goff,