Finnish pharmacy student Arto Heinonen poses in the front of this photo,
which was taken during a social event with UW students this past summer.
This past spring and summer, our School’s chapter of the International Pharmaceutical Students’ Federation welcomed another exchange student. Arto Heinonen came to the UW School of Pharmacy from the University of Helsinki in Finland, where he had just completed the third year of his five-year pharmacy program. (In Finland, the pharmacy degree program is either a three-year program comparable to a bachelor’s degree or a five-year master’s level program that allows one to specialize, go into research or be a pharmacist manager.)
Heinonen spent several weeks in Seattle. While here, he got the chance to socialize with our pharmacy students, tour Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, sit in on a few classes and witness pharmacy practice in Seattle. Specifically, he shadowed pharmacists at UW Medical Center, Swedish Cherry Hill, Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy and Bartell Drugs.
“I got to do a wide variety of things, ranging from going into IV rooms [sterile product areas] to working in retail pharmacies,” said Heinonen. “I enjoyed it all, and I especially liked the experience of being in a hospital pharmacy. I feel like I got a wide view and now have a bigger picture of how pharmacy is practiced in another country.”
Finland, a country with a population of 5.3 million and a universal healthcare system, has a significantly different pharmacy system than the United States. Drug prices are determined by the government, which means medication tends to be cheaper. Because there is a unified state insurer, pharmacists don’t work with private insurers. In addition, all medications, including over-the-counter ones, are distributed at licensed pharmacies.
Pharmacies in Finland are also built for a greater medication counseling role. They include many counseling booths where pharmacists provide advice about medicine to patients. The medication dispensing happens while the patient is in the booth, getting counseled by the pharmacist.
Heinonen said that he hopes Finland will move in a direction in the future where hospital pharmacy looks more like it does in the United States, with pharmacists providing many more clinical services. “I would love to see a lot more cooperation between doctors and pharmacists in Finland,” he said. “This cooperation seemed to work very well in the United States.”
The IPSF Student Exchange Programme (SEP) seeks to provide just these kinds of opportunities to pharmacy students from throughout the world to learn about how pharmacy is practiced in other countries. The UW School of Pharmacy IPSF SEP Committee has been welcoming students from other countries for several years now. Pharmacy exchange students in recent years have come to the University of Washington from countries including Ghana, Serbia, Holland, Australia and Costa Rica. Our SEP committee helps arrange for the exchange students’ stays, arranging housing (generally with alumni), rotations and other activities. This past summer, third-year student Adrian Hughes, the IPSF senior liaison, took care of setting everything up for Heinonen. Hughes enjoyed the experience and the opportunity to get to know a pharmacy student from another country.
“Arto provided us with a wealth of cultural and professional knowledge from Finland while he was here,” said Hughes. “He helped us see that things that we take for granted here, like clinical relationships with other healthcare providers, are different in other countries. He also was a great reminder that the student pharmacist spirit to help others and grow in our profession is pervasive.”
Michael Ayres, ’11, a member of IPSF throughout his time as a pharmacy student, still looks back fondly on the opportunities he had to interact with SEP exchange students from different countries. “Learning about other education systems and career opportunities was invaluable,” said Ayres. “In addition, the students’ visits became a great way to raise community among our own pharmacy students. It was a great leadership opportunity for students to help the exchange students find opportunities and contacts.”
The International Pharmaceutical Students’ Federation represents approximately 350,000 pharmacy students and recent graduates in 84 countries. Our student chapter is active in a number of different global health outreach, international exchange and leadership activities.
Heinonen, left, is joined by an IPSF exchange student who was at Idaho State University
this summer, Tiago Santos from Portugal. Santos came to Seattle
with a group of Idaho pharmacy students to meet Heinonen and tour the city.