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A desire to serve humanity and a
passion for community health care
inspired Reena Torabi to travel from
Perth WA to Iganga in Eastern Uganda to
work as a pharmacist. She described her
experiences to Australian Pharmacist.
I graduated from the University of
Western Australia in 2007 with a Bachelor
of Science and completed a Master
of Pharmacy in 2010. I completed my
internship at the Hamilton Hill Guardian
Pharmacy in Perth and registered as a
pharmacist with the Pharmacy Board of
Australia in 2011.
My upbringing and faith as a Baha'i; which
teaches us to serve humanity and my
passion for the delivery of health care
to the community inspired me to visit
Uganda to work as a pharmacist during
September and October of 2011.
Iganga District Hospital in East Uganda
is a 120-bed hospital run by the Health
Ministry of Uganda and serves a
catchment population of more than
1.5 million people. Many travel on foot for
hours to reach visit the hospital.
The majority of my time in Iganga was
spent working as a pharmacist in the
hospital pharmacy dispensing medicines
for a variety of conditions many of which
are very rarely encountered in Australia.
A lot of what had been previously been
'text book' knowledge became a reality
to me as each day I was exposed to
conditions such as malaria, tuberculosis,
AIDS and problems associated with
The hospital wards are always full, far
beyond capacity. The over ow patients
are crammed into the corridors or cared
for on the oor. On many occasions the
hospital doctor would be unavailable
or the hospital would run out of gloves,
essential supplies or medicines and could
not assist until the patient purchased
Many complications arise, particularly
from tuberculosis and HIV, because of the
high prevalence of these diseases among
the population. Other chronic diseases
such as diabetes and hypertension,
that the average pharmacist in Australia
would dispense medications and deliver
health care services for regularly, are
mostly misunderstood in Uganda.
The patient generally only takes their
daily medication when they feel unwell.
Asymptomatic diseases are generally not
accepted, and are certainly not a priority
in terms of treatment and medication.
This ultimately leads to complications
being all too common because of years of
unmanaged chronic disease.
The dispensing practices are very
old-fashioned and under-developed.
There are no computers available for
dispensing or labeling. Medicines are
counted manually from large tubs into
clear plastic wallets onto which directions
are hand written. There are no local
dedicated pharmacy sta available so
dispensing is undertaken in the most
part by nurses and physician assistants.
Literacy is also poor so often counselling
involves drawing a simple picture of the
sun or moon on the packet to indicate
time of day to take the medicine.
In addition to working at this acute
care hospital, I had the opportunity to
volunteer at Suubi Medical Clinic, a rural
and remote clinic in Busu Village working
with local nurses and physician assistants.
Working in both settings presented me
with incredibly eye-opening experiences.
I found it challenging to balance the
strong desire I felt to respond to a
perceived need with the resources
available and limitations of what I could
I also had the opportunity to volunteer at
an orphanage in Iganga where there are
dozens of children whose parents have
died leaving them with the AIDS virus.
I feel blessed to be involved in and have
access to the medical system in Australia.
I want to retain my strong interest in the
developing world and hope to nd myself
working abroad again at some time in the
future. I truly hope that someday as we
work towards building an ever-advancing
civilisation, the barriers will be removed
allowing humanity on a global scale
to access the medical services they
Both Iganga District Hospital and Suubi
Medical Clinic are in great need of
volunteers. Please feel free to e-mail
me at: email@example.com for
A desire to serve
By Reena Torabi
Reena Torabi is a locum pharmacist
based in Perth WA. She also works at
University of Western Australia as a tutor
and laboratory demonstrator teaching
undergraduate students in the School of
Anatomy and Physiology.
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