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To the Editor. Over the past 2 decades, the paradigm shift in pharmacy services from dispensing to direct patient care has created the need for curricula change and introduction of new, clinical-oriented programs. In Malaysia, a multiethnic developing country in Southeast Asia, the pharmacy profession is still in a transition phase like many other developing countries. Currently, there are 13 pharmacy schools (4 public and 9 private) in Malaysia, producing over 600 pharmacy graduates per year.1 The basic degree in pharmacy is the bachelor of pharmacy, earned by completing a 4-year full-time program. Typically, undergraduate curriculum covers all the major disciplines in pharmacy, including analytical and medicinal chemistry, physiology, pharmacology, pharmaceutics, and pharmacognosy, with only modest emphasis on clinical pharmacy and pharmacy practice. In 2004, the Ministry of Health imposed a 3-year compulsory service in addition to 1-year preregistration training for new pharmacy graduates in an attempt to increase the number of pharmacists in the government sector primarily in hospitals and health clinics. Currently there are 2 universities in Malaysia offering 1-year, full-time master in clinical pharmacy programs. Keeping the current status and future direction of the pharmacy profession in mind, the Faculty of Pharmacy at the Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) has created a practice-based master in clinical pharmacy (MClinPharm).
UiTM is the biggest public university in Malaysia with 17 campuses.2 Established in 2001, the Faculty of Pharmacy offers the diploma in pharmacy, bachelor of pharmacy, and research degrees at the master and doctoral level. There are about 537 undergraduate and 105 postgraduate students. Together with lecturers from the discipline of clinical pharmacy, clinical academicians from the Faculty of Medicine, UiTM, and clinical pharmacists from the Ministry of Health, Malaysia, and lecturers from other pharmacy schools will be invited as well to enhance the teaching and learning process. Lecturer to student ratio is 1:2 to ensure optimum supervision.
The curriculum of MClinPharm has been developed keeping in view the growing local needs and changing global trends of pharmacy practice. The program spreads over 3 semesters (1.5 years full-time), with a strong emphasis on both practice and research. The program broadly consists of 3 pharmacotherapeutics modules, a module each on personalized medicines (clinical pharmacokinetics & pharmacogenomics) and research methodologies. Students have to complete 2 core clerkships, each lasting 3 months, and based on the student's desired area of specialization.
To ensure more hands-on training, classroom teaching is limited to 3 weeks per semester. Didactic teaching will be combined with problem-based learning (PBL) and case-based learning (CBL). Following the classroom teaching, for each pharmacotherapeutics module, students have to prepare structured reports on 5 clinical cases to be collected from hospitals. The case with the most significant drug-related problems will be presented during individual case presentations. Both reports and presentations contribute towards continuous assessment.
Clinical clerkships are directly supervised by a senior clinical pharmacist and a clinical pharmacy lecturer. Three hospitals have been identified for this purpose. The assessment will be based on case reports, case presentations (2 per month), portfolios, viva voce, and inward activities. The final examination will consist of multiple-choice and long-essay questions. For the pharmacotherapeutics modules, an objective structured clinical examination will also be conducted to assess clinical skills.
Each research project will be supervised by at least 2 lecturers (principal and co-supervisor) and graded by the principal supervisor and an external examiner. Ethics approval and registration with National Medical Research Register (NMRR), Malaysia, is a must for each project. Proposal submission and defense will be at the end of the second semester. Data collection and analysis and thesis submission will be completed in the third semester.
In summary, the MClinPharm is expected to equip graduates with the necessary knowledge and skills required to be a competent clinical pharmacist. Greater emphasis is paid in the curriculum to the acquisition of clinical skills. A variety of teaching and assessment methods are used to ensure better learning outcomes.