UC pharmacy students explore universal healthcare in Australia

Pharmacy course provides up-close look at Australian healthcare system

For many pharmacy students, there can be great barriers to studying abroad. However, an intrepid group of students in the James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy pushed past those boundaries and spent three weeks near the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns and Sydney, Australia.

Michael Doherty, associate professor of pharmacy and associate dean for experiential education, designed the program to emphasize the different health care systems between the United States and Australia. Given the rapidly changing climate surrounding health reform in the U.S., a greater understanding of universal healthcare provides students with professional knowledge of innovative healthcare models.

Among the student cohort who traveled “down under,” fourth year Hannah Fry and third year Courtney Campbell highlight their takeaways on study abroad, why they decided to go, advice for other students and more. 

Was this your first time traveling internationally? Why did you decide tostudy abroad? Why did you choose the program that you did?

UC Pharmacy student Hannah Fry wears a lab coat and holds a glass bottle filled with clear liquid in a lab.

UC Pharmacy student Hannah Fry in Australia, May 2023 | Photo/provided

Fry: This was not my first time traveling internationally, but it was my first time traveling without my family. I enjoy traveling to learn about different cultures and get first-hand experience of daily life. I decided to study abroad to experience the differences between pharmacies in Australia and compare them to the U.S. In previous trips, I have visited pharmacies out of necessity and found it interesting to see how they varied from those at home. These were in countries where English was not the dominant language, so I was fascinated to see how things could be different in an English-speaking country that practiced universal healthcare.

Campbell: Yes, this was my first time traveling internationally. I have always wanted to study abroad but never had the chance. I thought that this would be a wonderful opportunity, since this was relevant to my degree, and I would be able to see many aspects of pharmacy in another setting. I also felt that for my first time going abroad, being in an English-speaking country would make me feel more comfortable. It seemed like a bridge to be able to explore the world more fully.

What was the highlight of the experience for you? What surprised you most? Whatis your most vivid memory of the experience? 

Fry: I found the balance between study and tourist experiences the most surprising. Before we left, I looked at the schedule and it seemed like there was a lot of educational focus because it was a study abroad. However, most of the time it was half pharmacy focused and the rest was on our own. It was incredible to be able to leave school and go explore to feel just like an Australian student. Some experiences we had were once in a lifetime and I could not be more grateful for those moments.

Campbell: I think the highlight of my experience was being able to do fun “tourist-y” things all while learning more about the health systems of another country. I think the most vivid memory was being able to snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef. It was a day away from learning and school and just being able to be out in nature with classmates that had grown to become my friends. It was a magical experience and was a check off my bucket list.

What was your major takeaway from studying abroad? How will the experienceaffect your future?

UC Pharmacy student Courtney Campbell bends down to feed a white wallaby.

UC Pharmacy student Courtney Campbell feeds a wallaby in Australia, May 2023 | Photo/provided

Fry: Reminding myself that it is possible to move after becoming a pharmacist. There was a pharmacist in one of the drug stores who went to pharmacy school and practiced in the U.S. before he moved. He said it was a difficult and lengthy process, but he doesn’t regret it. I found that inspiring because no matter where I end up, there are options for me to change my course in life and get a fresh start.

Campbell: The vast difference between the healthcare systems of the U.S. and Australia. Their healthcare system leaves no citizen uninsured and makes sure to provide for all. There are additional programs for those who are elderly or impoverished, but since insurance is not tied to employment, there is no need for anyone to fret if they were to get sick or injured. The government provides for all citizens and makes sure payments for hospital visits and for prescriptions are reasonable. This is something that could be implemented in the United States to better help our own citizens.

This experience inspired me to be more vocal about healthcare for all and making sure no person slips through the cracks in the system. There should be no reason a person must pay hundreds of dollars for prescription medication or a hospital visit. Healthcare should be based on compassion, not corporate greed.

What would you say to other students in your college considering study abroad? 

Fry: I would strongly recommend studying abroad, whether it is for two weeks or a year. The opportunities gained by studying abroad are ones that cannot be found anywhere else. I thought hard about whether I should go to Australia to sacrifice my break later this year. I kept reminding myself that the experience was one that I could not have ever again, but I can push through a year of a heavier workload. It is a recommendation I will continue to give because it is a decision that I will never regret.

Campbell: I would tell other students to jump at the opportunity if they are able to do so, if they can fit it into their schedule and handle it financially. It was an eye-opening experience and everything that was planned for us made it a once-in-a-lifetime trip. There are people who dream about travelling to foreign countries who never get the chance. If there are no barriers to taking such a trip, they should go simply for the experience.

Featured image at top: UC Pharmacy students in Australia | Photo/provided 

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Prepare yourself for a global future. Whatever your program or your passion, UC offers study abroad and international work experiences that will take you where you want to go. Explore the possibilities. 

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UC pharmacy students explore universal healthcare in Australia

August 24, 2023

For many pharmacy students, there can be great barriers to studying abroad. However, an intrepid group of students in the James L. Winkler College of Pharmacy pushed past those boundaries and spent three weeks near the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns and Sydney, Australia.