By Patricia Nyokabi
I was first introduced to the exemplary work of the International Pharmaceutical Students Federation (IPSF) during a Leaders-In-Training workshop organized by Kenya Pharmacy Students Association (KEPhSA) in November 2013. I had been invited together with some colleagues in our capacity as officials of the pharmacy students association in the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) chapter.
The training was intense yet seamless. It was deeply enlightening especially for an individual who was budding in this thing we call leadership. Just a month earlier, I had organized an ‘Induction to Pharmacy’ conference at my university. I was badly in need of some training especially in an environment where every participant can identify with the struggles of leadership.
In the course of the training, a presentation was made about an upcoming IPSF African Pharmaceutical Symposium (AfPS) in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. I knew I had to be there, if not for anything else, for the wonder of the world venue for this symposium.
I put my mind to it, worked so hard and sure enough June/July 2014 found me in Zimbabwe. I was thoroughly impressed by the professionalism in the activities scheduled, the social cultural events, the General Assembly and the elections and of course the excursion to the mighty Victoria falls.
I knew deeply within myself that I had to plug into the work of the IPSF. I had experienced first hand the vital role that Contact Persons play in the running of the Federation. I would vie for the position of the IPSF Contact Person to Kenya during the upcoming elections.
Serving in this capacity was thrilling. It was my year of firsts. Running public health campaigns, responding timely to all the emails that needed my attention- sometimes up to 20 per day, communicating professionally online and in person, Skype meetings, using Google docs, forms, spreadsheets were skills gained. All important skills for any individual in this digital age, yet no school quite teaches you these skills, you learn on the job.
My highlights were; having 30 Kenyan delegates attend the 4th IPSF AfPS in Rwanda, organizing the first ever forum that brought together pharmacy students from all the 6 universities in Kenya that offer a Bachelor Degree in Pharmacy (the annual event is now in its 3rd year) and receiving the IPSF Development Fund Grant to attend the 61st World Congress in Hyderabad, India. For the outstanding achievements, I got the award for the Best IPSF AfRO Contact Person in the year 2014/2015.
I had discovered my life’s purpose in leadership and IPSF was giving me a platform to live it out! I was on such a leadership roll; passion and zeal almost palpable.
My next role would be the most fulfilling yet. I had prepared a bid for KEPhSA, Kenya to host the 5th IPSF-AfPS and upon winning I applied to be the Chairperson for the committee that would organize an event of such magnitude.
Previous hosts had been Algeria, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Rwanda. It was coming to my homeland, finally! First task was to get team members, then to identify a venue, get speakers, funds, delegates etc. It was such an intricate process for a period of almost a year.
I would look at everything through an AfPS set of glasses. All my friends and family were dragged into the AfPS planning process. I would be randomly walking in town, then I come across something that would feature in the symposium like speaker’s gifts, delegates notebooks etc then I frantically click away and bombard my team members with pictures of the ideas I had. I was in such an AfPS trance and I loved it! Plus with such dedicated team members that journey was truly worthwhile!
The event was held in June 2016 in the coastal city of Mombasa. The theme was: ‘Rewriting the African Narrative in Healthcare :Access, Quality and Innovation’.130 delegates from 10 countries in Africa took part. We had such a great variety of lectures, workshops, social cultural activities, an excursion to Mamba Village and a mentorship session at Allidina Visram High School.
Around that time I was also preparing for my final exams. I completed successfully and graduated in November last year.
IPSF has truly enriched my pharmacy school experience. The 15 semesters didn’t feel too long because I was always doing something on the side – organizing events, traveling etc. It gave me great exposure to pharmacy training and students from across the World. I made so many friends, some of whom now feel like family. I travelled the World from the Country of a thousand hills, Rwanda to the Wonder of the World, Victoria Falls, the Pharmaceutical city Hyderabad, India and finally to one of the few cities that bring together all the nations of the World- Geneva, Switzerland for the 69th World Health Assembly.
Towards the end of last year, I felt I had completed that part of my service to IPSF as I had pharmacy school and as with all the positions I’ve held, I passed on that baton too, to allow for the many other batons that will be passed on to me in various other capacities. I serve subtlely in an advisory role, when called upon to especially by individuals within AfRO.
Looking forward to what the future holds, especially within the healthcare provision space.
Heartfelt gratitude to all my mentors within IPSF, to all the individuals that I got to work with; the 5th IPSF-AfPS Reception Committee, the Regional Working Group 2015/2016, KEPhSA executive 2014/2015 and to everyone that I got to meet through IPSF. We made such great memories that I’ll reminisce for a lifetime!
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