Thursday, April 18, 2024

Infrastructure dev’t to ease pharma’s ‘birth pains,’ improve learning experience

By Allianah Junnice Bolotaulo & Paul Ray Donaire | November 30, 2023

As a program that was once without a standalone building, Silliman University’s (SU) pharmacy department started its journey with humble beginnings. 

“In 2018, of course, [the pharmacy department did] not have a building and [was] directly under the [College of] Arts and Sciences, so they [utilized] the AH (Ausejo Hall) building and the biology and the chemistry laboratory rooms,” said Dr. Mae Brigitt Bernadel Villordon, dean of College of Arts and Sciences.

Despite presenting a challenge, the small pool of pharmacy students—13 to be specific—made it “manageable” back then. 

Dr. Villordon also said that during their first three years, they had no problem managing the college. 

“I think we filled it until the fourth year, kumpleto na (it was complete) […] we were able to accommodate them, except that there was no building because gi-construct pa man to ana na time (it was under construction at that time),” she said. 

In January 2023, during the second semester of the school year 2022-2023, they inaugurated their building despite it not being functional yet due to the blended learning setup.

Pagsugod gyud sa second sem, face-to-face nata, didto na namo [sila] gipabalhin (Once the second semester started, face-to-face was brought back. It was at the time we transferred the students to the building),” Dr. Villordon said.

Since then, and with B.S. Pharmacy Coordinator Nurhielmina Hinaut acknowledging “[a] lack of lab rooms and equipment,” developments have been made to improve SU’s pharmacy program.

Recently, the bidding for the installations and provisions of NAB laboratories concluded. With suppliers already secured, the program is waiting for the approval of the Board of Trustees (BOT) for the release of funds. 

As such, Hinaut said that she hopes the supply and installation of laboratory furniture will commence by early next year.

Dr. Villordon acknowledges these developments as “part of the birth pains” since the program is still new. 

Overall, however, she anticipates that the program will have everything that it needs from facilities to equipment by the year 2025. 

The program today

Currently, the laboratory rooms at the New Academic Building (NAB) are undergoing carpentry in preparation for the specific glassware and apparatuses needed by pharmacy students. 

For the time being, the program utilizes Science Complex (SC) rooms for their laboratory classes, particularly those of the chemistry and biology departments. 

“Since they are part of the CAS family, the other programs are also very supportive, so maka insert ra gyud mi (we were allowed to insert),” Dr. Villordon said.

For their lectures, the students stayed at NAB as the four lecture rooms are already functional. 

Hinaut said that students’ learning is more theoretical as of now because they are unable to do all the hands-on laboratory activities. 

“I think the first-year [students] can also attest that na naay may lab activities (despite having lab activities), not all [can be done] because of the lack of lab rooms and equipment,” she said. 

While the program is still able to use laboratory rooms in SC, pharmacy laboratory classes are advised to be held in NAB so that students would not need to go to other science departments anymore. 

Building developments 

Moreover, the program already acquired all of the necessary glassware and some of the basic equipment for laboratory classes. For now, these materials are kept in storage while waiting for the tables and cabinets.

Kung naa na ang lab rooms (If the lab rooms are completed), we can make do with the glasswares while waiting for the specific pharmaceutical equipment and devices,” she said. 

She added that the department has specific equipment and devices for lab classes that cannot be found in other science departments.

Along with the two laboratories, a mini pharmacy is underway for pharmaceutical simulations. Hinaut expressed the need to improve the mini pharmacy so their students can practice doing medication or patient counseling. 

“[This is] to give them the feel of what a pharmacist does in the pharmacy […] not only to sell or to dispense [medicine], but they have other roles para ma appreciate pud nila ang profession (so that they would appreciate the profession),” she said. 

Among the most recent inclusions of the program is the botanical garden as required by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Order no. 25, series of 2021. 

Some of the priority equipment listed in the said memorandum are a furnace, centrifuge, ultrasonic bath, rotary evaporator, and disintegration apparatus. 

The offices in NAB are also being improved. They are expected to be completed before the year ends.

“You have to consider that we just started, we cannot have all the equipment that they have in what time, all the apparatus,” Dr. Villordon said. 

Financial strain on students

As a pharmacy student, CAS Science Representative Ysabel Allesandra Du said that facilities improve students’ learning in understanding various concepts.

“We get to do the on-hand work of the career we’re set to have an internship on during their senior year, etc,” she explained. 

Du said that the program should expose students to both theoretical and practical aspects of pharmacy to work effectively in real-world situations and as a member of the healthcare team.

While she acknowledged that the department ensures the students are involved in activities, Du said that students are still required to purchase the needed materials with personal money.

“Our tuition alone is very expensive, and worksheets, plus the extra effort needed to process the lending of laboratory spaces and equipment, plus the additional costs of materials for our works, do not answer where the money is spent on,” she added. 

On addressing such issues, Hinaut stated that, with laboratory glassware provided, students will no longer have to spend or be allowed to buy such equipment. 

“We have all those basic laboratory glassware […] it will not happen anymore,” she affirmed. 

With these developments, Hinaut said that students can expect “improved” laboratory activities that align with pharmaceutical science.
The students will have better practical learning na maka help nila sa board exam kay [performing] hands-on naman sila (The students will have better practical learning that will help them in their board exam since they will be performing hands-on),” she said.

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