First APPE a life-changing experience

SPM: International Pharmacy


During our first APPE, we traveled to Honduras to work with Global Brigades, the world’s largest student-led global health and sustainable development organization. It was more than an APPE to us—it was a life-changing experience. We now consider Honduras a second home. 

Part of the team

We worked with an interdisciplinary group of Honduran and American physicians, dentists, nurses, and undergraduate students from the United States. Every day, our team packed trucks with medical supplies and drove along dirt roads to small rural communities that have limited or no access to health care and medications. As student pharmacists working alongside a Honduran pharmacist, we played a critical role in identifying and preventing medication-related problems, dispensing medications, organizing/managing our medication inventory, and engaging in quality improvement initiatives. 

In these remote villages, it was our responsibility to catch drug–drug and drug–disease interactions, assure appropriate use of medications regarding pregnancy and lactation, identify potential allergy and pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic contraindications, and assure appropriate dosing of all medications—all without the use of computerized technology.

How to save a life

Our most memorable moment occurred when a young man was carried over an hour to our make-shift clinic, which was set up for the day in a remote, rural community. He accidentally sliced through bone, veins, and arteries in his foot with an
axe. With the help of our interdisciplinary team, we used the supplies we had to stop his severe bleeding. Global Brigades then provided him transportation to the nearest hospital located more than an hour away. It is likely that without our help, this man would not have had access to medical care or transportation. We played a large part in saving his life.

It is heartwarming how appreciative and thankful the Hondurans are for your time. As volunteers, we spent more than an hour in travel time to and from the clinic locations. Although we traveled the distance by car, the local villagers traveled long distances by foot, often through rain or scorching heat. To our surprise, we were greeted every day with smiling faces and we were welcomed into the community not as guests, but as family. The community members were beyond thankful for our service. This experience provided us with education beyond just pharmacy; we made lasting friendships and memories. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “Live simply so others may simply live.”

You can do it, too

The Global Brigades pharmacy staff at the main office in Tegucigalpa.

Engaging in any meaningful experience takes hard work and persistence. Putting your wheels in motion far in advance is key to making the most of your experience and overcoming potential roadblocks. For student pharmacists who are interested in public health or global health, the best way to begin is to talk with a faculty member who has experience in this area and/or reach out to your university’s office of international affairs (or equivalent). Using the existing expertise at your university will enable you to refine your interests, evaluate programs, and plan appropriately for your experience (i.e. travel vaccinations, insurance, safety/political considerations, etc). 

The best way to make an impact is in large sums, so seek to become involved with the International Pharmaceutical Students’ Federation (IPSF) through Twlug–ASP. Reach out to your chapter’s International Vice President for information about IPSF, setting up travel plans, organizing a trip agenda, and meeting fellow volunteers. Remember, these trips can be expensive, so fundraising may be something worth considering.

For more about Global Brigades, go to .