Ha Nguyen and Tram Nguyen, two fourth-year pharmacy students, recently traveled to Japan to complete a six-week clerkship at the Tokyo University of Pharmacy and Life Sciences (TUPLS), where they were able to work with students and faculty on research projects, visit local pharmacies and hospitals, and present a lecture.
“Our typical day at TUPLS was working on our reports in the morning and performing lab work with students in the afternoon,” Tram Nguyen said. “During the last week of rotation, we helped [Associate Dean] Michael Wincor with his seminar, and we had the opportunity to give a lecture on depression.”
The clerkship allowed for learning opportunities in a research environment and out in the field.
“The most interesting aspect of the clerkship for me was the interaction with the students, professors and pharmacists in both community and hospital pharmacies,” Ha Nguyen said. “I learned not only about the pharmacy education and practice in Japan, but also its culture, and those are all great and memorable experiences for me.”
Despite not knowing the language, both students found ways to communicate.
“I learned basic Japanese before my rotation, and many students taught me how to speak Japanese during my time at TUPLS,” Tram Nguyen said.
“I used body and sign languages as much as possible,” Ha Nguyen added. “Despite the language barrier, I had a spectacular time in TUPLS and Japan in general.”
The clerkship gave the USC students an opportunity to learn about pharmacy practice in Japan and also to teach their Japanese peers about pharmacy practice in the United States. Generally, pharmacy practice and education in the United States has a more clinical focus than in Japan.
“Our visits to community and hospital pharmacies widened our knowledge and helped me compare and contrast between the pharmacy systems in Japan and in the U.S.,” Tram Nguyen said. “More importantly, I was able to explain the important roles of pharmacists in the U.S. to the Japanese students and encouraged them to do the same in their country.”
Added Ha Nguyen: “I think nowadays, beside knowledge and skill, it is really important for students to develop an appreciation and passion for the pharmacy profession. I hope that I have somehow inspired the students there by talking to them and showing them my personal and professional experience.”
For Tram Nguyen, the opportunity abroad was particularly relevant to her future aspirations.
“I hope to have my own independent pharmacy in a Vietnamese community,” she said. “The Japanese pharmacy system is quite similar to the one in Vietnam, so I hope what I learned from this clerkship will be able to help me improve the Vietnamese system in the future. As a result, this experience, to a great extent, is valuable to my professional life.”
The program was organized by the school’s Globalization Office, headed by Wincor.