The healthcare industry is one that is constantly evolving, and the fact that some diseases and medical conditions have only recently been accurately diagnosed illustrate the need for more extensive research and expertise, which in turn will guide effective healthcare practices.
Towards this end, the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Department of Pharmacy runs two undergraduate programmes: the flagship Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Pharmacy (PMC) which trains students towards professional practice as pharmacists, and a new Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Pharmaceutical Science (PHS), that trains students to take up a wide variety of careers in areas including but not limited to research & development, manufacturing, and regulation of medical products.
Dr Eric Chan
National University of Singapore
As an Associate Professor at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Department of Pharmacy, Dr Eric Chan harnesses his experience to teach undergraduates the concepts related to pharmacokinetics—the study of how a drug is processed by our body. On the importance of this study, Dr Chan says, “By investigating and modelling the complexities and variabilities of these processes, pharmaceutical scientists are one step closer in prescribing the right drug at the right dose, frequency, and duration for the optimised and personalised therapy of a given patient.”
Modules in pharmacokinetics are just some of the concepts that PMC and PHS will impart to students. “The new undergraduate programme in Pharmaceutical Science provides the undergraduate students with opportunities to take a deeper dive into the concepts of pharmaceutical sciences, interact closely with the professors in research and discover one’s strengths and aspirations in preparation for a career in the pharmaceutical industry,” Dr Chan shares about the programme.
He further elaborates that the programme thrives on small-group teaching and learning, extensive internship, experiential learning opportunities, and a comprehensive, end-to-end appreciation of the workings of the entire pharmaceutical industry not covered in other programmes.
But how exactly is PHS different from the existing Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy? “The two programmes diverge where PMC equips individuals with pharmacy professional skills and therapeutics knowledge to support the range of practices as pharmacists. Pharmaceutical science goes deeper into the science and the mechanics of diverse functions within the industry,” Dr Chan explains.
Functions in the pharmaceutical science industry are diverse, accompanied by a growth that shows no signs of stopping. Dr Chan’s forecast of the industry is a positive one. “Singapore continues to be a regional hub for the pharmaceutical industry, with an increasing presence of biotechnology industry as well. We see greater partnership forged between the companies and local academic institutions which supports further growth, knowledge transfer, and innovations in time to come.”
A Dose Of Good Education
Bachelor of Science (Pharmacy) – National University of Singapore
In an era where significant improvements have been made to healthcare and medicine, there are still many who don’t fully understand how it all works. For final-year pharmacy student Angeline Lai, being able to help patients understand their medication better is meaningful work. Whether as a clinical pharmacist or working behind the scenes, it’s all about improving public healthcare for this 23-year-old.
What was your motivation to pursue this degree?
I have always been interested in doing healthcare, so it was just a matter of choosing between all the different healthcare specialties. Pharmacists are like scientists of the healthcare system. You specialise in the drugs, and then you use your knowledge to help patients choose the most appropriate medications when they don’t have enough knowledge to do it themselves, and I think that’s quite meaningful. I also found the pharmacy curriculum very flexible, because even if I eventually decide not to go into clinical pharmacy, I have the opportunity to go into the pharma industry.
What do you like about the curriculum at the Department of Pharmacy?
I like that it’s very well-rounded. I thought we would be learning a lot about what each medication does and how to use it. But in fact, we learn about the different ways that you make different dosage forms, and about the technologies and equipment used to make medicine. We also learn about the communication and teamwork skills needed to impart your knowledge to the patients when they need it.
How does the Pharmacy undergraduate programme provide students with the opportunity to learn by experience?
One such opportunity is called Service Oriented Undergraduate learning (SOUL), and it is part of the curriculum from years one to three. You get to go out and spend a certain number of hours working in a community pharmacy like Guardian or Watsons, or a hospital pharmacy, and you shadow pharmacists who teach you what they know and give you hands-on experience.
I also went for a year-long industrial attachment experience at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) together with three other students. We spent a year learning about the inner workings of the pharma industry. We learned the different aspects, from regulatory to supply chain to marketing.
What career do you intend to pursue upon graduation?
I don’t have my heart set on a specific career yet, but I look forward to making contributions to healthcare, hopefully in public health, where I can find ways to improve the public’s knowledge and understanding, not just of medications, but also of how to maintain their health and well-being.