The Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences under the Faculty of Health Sciences at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) has held its fifth White Coat ceremony.
This year the ceremony was held for fifth-year students to officially launch them into their years of practical studies, mostly referred to as clinical years.
This year’s ceremony was under the theme ‘Pharmacy Practice’ and was streamed live for the first time in its history because of COVID-19 – allowing well-wishers and friends of the participating students all over the world to join the ceremony virtually.
Delivering the welcome address, Professor Berko Panyin Anto – Dean of the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, said that though the COVID-19 pandemic has affected many planned events of the university, the ceremony could not suffer the same fate due to its importance.
Credited to Arnold P. Gold Foundation in 1993, The White Coat Ceremony is a tradition practiced by most medical and other health sciences-related programmes in higher learning institutions all over the world to usher their students from pre-clinical years into clinical years.
At such events, students are gowned in a white coat, which is a symbol of service and care. Again, it equips students with a sense of professionalism through administration of the pledge.
The Director of Coordination at Ministry of Health, Dr. (Mrs.) Martha Gyansa- Lutterrodt – who doubled as the first guest speaker in the history of the event – in her keynote address recounted the contribution of pharmacists in the fight against COVID-19 in Ghana.
She said that after Ghana recorded its first two cases, which were imported into the country, there was a call for intensive action to contain the disease across the country.
Despite the challenges that faced the health sector and pharmacists with emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, even with little or no evidence from history as guidance, pharmacists found novel ways of doing things. She mentioned that it became obvious within the pharmaceutical space that information systems had to be strengthened so that immediate responses could be offered to patients when needed.
She mentioned that pharmacists have acted in various manners and levels to contribute in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, pharmacists played the role of frontline health care providers – being the first point of call for patients who are infected.
As public health pharmacists, they had to find innovative ways to create public health awareness regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, and leverage modern technology to collect and disseminate information for decision-making.
In the capacity of hospital pharmacists, they have managed drug shortages, developed and supported the implementation of treatment protocols, and participated in patient rounds.
They have also interpreted laboratory results for COVID-19, participated in clinical trials, repurposed drugs, offered medication management advice, and promoted antimicrobial resistance.
As community pharmacists, they have provided direct patient care: dispensing medications to patients, educating patients on health services, accessing patients for renewal of chronic medications, clarifying misconceptions about COVID-19 and organising virtual drug information forums for other health professionals.
In the capacity of regulator-pharmacists, they have among others provided emergency use authorisation guidance and safety monitoring of new and repurposed drugs, including vaccines.
As policy-oriented pharmacists, Dr. Mrs Martha Gyansa-Lutterodt said they masterminded the policies, guidelines and strategies which have driven all actions directed at containing the pandemic.
She finally advised students to take their studies seriously, as this forms the basis for a successful career. She also cautioned them against mistakes, as the current era of increased societal literacy fuelled with information by a very vibrant social media and the regulatory environment (right to information) does not allow for mistakes.
Speaking on behalf on the Vice Chancellor, the Pro-Vice Chancellor, Prof. Ellis Owusu Dabo, advised students to cultivate the right form of attitude in order to realise their dreams.