International Experiences for Doctor of Pharmacy Students at Pacific University School of Pharmacy

We believe that international experiences help our Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) students at Pacific University School of Pharmacy develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes to broaden their horizons related to differences in healthcare between the U.S. and other countries, immerse in a different culture and language, and explore understandings of health, thus providing them an invaluable opportunity to grow as global healthcare professionals. 

All global experiences are pursued as an elective international advanced pharmacy practice experience (APPE). These experiences take place during the last year of the PharmD curriculum. Our international APPEs are available to all students enrolled in our 3-year and also 5-year PharmD pathways through application and selection.

The School currently offers three different international opportunities and continues to explore and expand other opportunities for future sites.

  1. Two are designed as a reciprocal exchange program with two pharmacy programs with Japanese Universities in Tokyo: Hoshi University and Musashino University.
  2. The second type is a mission-based program to Belize that is done in collaboration with Hillside Health Care International.

Both types of experiences are available during APPE block 4 during the fall semester. The competitive application process opens in the early fall, one year before the rotation will take place and students submit application materials to the Office of Experiential Education. Members of our administrative team then review all applications and students’ preferences for the three different possible international rotations. The capacity of each site is three students per site; therefore, these four-week intensive experiences are available to nine students each year. No matter in which country and institution the students are placed, all of the current rotations provide many different opportunities for insight into healthcare practices, as well as cultural and social experiences in the host country. Students are expected to cover all their travel expenses associated with the trip and the hosting sites help to coordinate affordable housing, schedule, and pickups. The past two years, the School was able to fulfill the requests of our students, all applying who were in good academic and professional standing were able to take part in one of these experiences. The reciprocal exchange program is currently overseen collaboratively by Dean Marvanova and Assistant Dean Fry with the excellent administrative assistance of Laura Smith.

What Happened This Academic Year?

Pacific University School of Pharmacy Students that were selected this academic year had to complete a college-level course that prepared them for international travel, received further orientation from Pacific and also from their hosting University and preceptor/administrative personnel. During their stays in Japan, the students were exposed to research experiences in select basic research labs, were able to attend specific pharmacy classes, had an opportunity to attend a custom created Japanese language intensive course (offered by Musashino University), as well as tour different pharmacy and medical facilities. Our students were also able to interact with Japanese pharmacy students and faculty, experience Japanese culture, and further learn about the Japanese healthcare system, the role of pharmacists and pharmacy education in Japan. They also learned about Chinese medicine commonly called “Kampo” in Japan. Kampo is commonly prescribed by physicians in Japan, since patients can choose western medicine or Kampo to be prescribed for treatment.

We asked student representatives who traveled to Musashino and Hoshi Universities some questions and to provides us with select pictures from their trips, and we would like to present these experiences from their points-of-view:

  1. Chris Ridner, Class of 2024 (APPE international site: Musashino University in Fall 2023)

School of Pharmacy Student at Musashino University in JapanQ.  Why did you want to go to Japan?

Some of the things I enjoy most in life are traveling and learning new languages. When presented with the opportunity to travel to Japan and study at Musashino University for one of my rotations, I felt like I had a once in a life-time opportunity to experience something that I had been striving for both in and outside of my professional life.


Q.  What were one or two things that you did that were memorable?

  • Learning and performing a traditional tea ceremony 茶の湯 , first with our Japanese language instructor and then with the friends and family we became close with while visiting.   
  • Taking the bullet train to Kyoto and seeing all of the beautiful castles, temples, and history alongside many other beautiful stops along the way.

Q.  What will you take away from your learning in Japan as you enter the pharmacy profession?

One of the biggest lessons I learned in Japan that I will take forward with me as I enter the pharmacy profession is the use and view of medicine that other cultures have. Throughout my studies, I learned that Japanese people are less inclined to taking pharmaceuticals as readily as we are and instead may turn to traditional Chinese medicine, or Kampo first to try and remedy their ailments. During our site visits, we were given the opportunity to visit a Kampo factory called Tsumura and were able to observe the Kampo creation from beginning to end. Seeing how the herbs are grown, dried, and even ground down into fine powders was an eye-opening experience and something I will never forget moving forward. 

  1. Terry Pham, Class of 2024 (APPE international site: Hoshi University in Fall 2023

Q.  Why did you want to go to Japan?

I chose to go to Japan for my pharmacy rotation at Hoshi University because of my deep fascination with the unique healthcare system and pharmaceutical practices in this country. Japan has a rich cultural heritage, and I believe that immersing myself in this pharmaceutical environment will provide me with invaluable insights into different approaches to patient care and medication management. 

Q.  What were one or two things that you did that were memorable?School of Pharmacy Student at Hoshi University in Japan

The best part of my visit to Japan was being able to visit the Japanese Red Cross Center Hospital, which was a remarkable experience that provided valuable insights for my understanding of Japan's healthcare system. As I explored the hospital, I was impressed by its commitment to safety and precision in patient care. The professionalism of the staff and the seamless integration of advanced technologies underscored the institution's dedication to medical excellence.


Q.  What will you take away from your learning in Japan as you enter the pharmacy profession?

The exposure to Japan's advanced pharmaceutical practices and cutting-edge research has broadened my knowledge base, equipping me with a global perspective on healthcare especially pharmacy, which I will continue to improve as I enter the pharmacy profession. 

As this is a reciprocal exchange program, this year Pacific University simultaneously hosted two fifth year pharmacy students (terminal pharmacy degree in Japan is a BS in Pharmacy that is a six-year program) from Hoshi University for four weeks during the Fall semester (September and October 2023) and two students in the Spring semester from Musashino University (January and February 2024). Similarly, to our students in Japan, the visiting Japanese students attended select didactic PharmD classes with our PharmD students, toured/visited a variety of community pharmacies, ambulatory care clinics and hospitals and the hospital pharmacies. They also toured our pharmaceutical research lab, met with our faculty, participated in student organization outreach and events, interacted with Pacific University students and explored the U.S. life and culture.

Drs. Marvanova and Fry Visiting Universities in Japan

The School of Pharmacy continues to strengthen the existing relationships to further improve current programs, but also recently began exploring new opportunities to broaden the number of experiences available in different countries. In an effort to ensure quality of rotations and strengthen the rotations and relationships with Hoshi and Musashino Universities, Drs. Marvanova and Fry traveled for a five-day business trip to Tokyo, Japan after this academic year’s rotations completed. The goals of this visit were to strengthen the relationships between these universities, share and enhance understanding of the U.S. and Japanese pharmacy education, credentialing and roles and responsibilities of pharmacists in the U.S. and Japan. They were able to meet with representatives of the University and the teams responsible for the exchange program and coordination of experiences in both Universities. Dr. Marvanova and Dr. Fry also provided several presentations at universities and healthcare facilities, engaged in discussions regarding roles of pharmacists and pharmacist credentialing, pharmacy education, education provided by Pacific University School of Pharmacy, and how our students would best benefit from the visit to Japan and their four-week experiences. They also learned about Japanese healthcare, pharmacy education, role of pharmacist credentialing and specializing after graduation with a BS in Pharmacy in Japan and the role of pharmacists and processes in community and health-system pharmacies. In addition, this was the first trip to Japan for both of them so the experience of culture and living (even so briefly) in Tokyo, was indispensable to ensure a flourishing of these relationships and further enhance their abilities to support both Japanese and US students during this reciprocal exchange.

What is Planned for the 2024-2025 Academic Year?

Next academic year, the School will have a total of eight PharmD students who will be traveling abroad in the Fall 2024, during APPE block 4 (September-October 2024) with three students attending Hoshi University, three students attending Musashino University and two students traveling to Belize. The Belize rotation is different from those in Japan, since this is not a reciprocal exchange, but rather a relationship set with Hillside Health Care International where students, if selected and approved, travel to Belize, join the medical team and provide pharmacy care as part of the team for 4 weeks. Therefore, it is less of an academic/research rotation, but more clinically focused on direct patient care. The School will be hosting three students from Hoshi University during the Fall semester and three students from Musashino University in the Spring semester. The School will also continue to seek new opportunities for reciprocal exchanges, such as a potential new relationship with a Finnish University and a reconnection with a University in India.

We are committed to the enhancement of these experiences and further building new professional enrichment experiences and opportunities for our students!

— Written by Dr. Marketa Marvanova and Dr. Maddie Fry

Monday, March 18, 2024