* Purdue School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences
* Purdue School of Nursing
* Purdue Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture
* IU Kenya Partnership

December 23, 2008

Purdue students go global with service projects

Lisa Zagroba and patient
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From Kenya to South Africa to Ecuador, Purdue University students are using the skills they learn in the classroom to help others around the world.

In 2008 more than 3,700 students participated in service-learning projects, which were incorporated into the curricula of approximately 175 courses. Purdue plans to expand the number of service-learning courses, through which students will work on projects locally and internationally.

Four seniors from the Purdue School of Pharmacy will travel to Eldoret, Kenya, on Jan. 7 to work alongside students from the Indiana University School of Medicine, as well as pharmacy and medical personnel at Eldoret's Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital. They will undertake many of the duties that a pharmacist in the United States would perform, such as dispensing medicine and counseling patients.

Ellen M. Schellhase, assistant professor of pharmacy practice and program coordinator, said many of the patients students see are HIV-positive or are gravely ill. Other patients suffer from diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria and typhoid, which are less common in the United States.

"By the time we are seeing them, many of them are really sick and will usually die," she said. "To students, this is just shocking."

Schellhase, says the students not only gain practical experience from the trip, but they also make a lasting difference.

"They're helping to improve patient care by computerizing pharmacies and working on inventory management," Schellhase said. "Getting patients the right medications at the right time is critical."

Schellhase said students also work on extra projects, such as caring for and entertaining hospitalized children.

"They will work in a playroom where hospitalized children can go for crafts, songs and fun," Schellhase said.

Lisa Zagroba, a senior pharmacy student from Glen Ellyn, Ill., took part in the Kenya trip in the fall. She said she learned a lot from participating in clinical rounds at the hospital with a comprehensive medical team.

"On rounds we assessed the drug therapy of every person on our ward, which was typically more than 30 patients," Zagroba said. "We also worked in different settings, including in the pharmacy filling prescriptions and counseling patients on antiretroviral regimens and tuberculosis prescriptions."

Zagroba said she looked forward to the trip ever since she arrived at Purdue in 2003.

"I have been interested in going to Africa for a long time, probably since at least middle school," Zagroba said. "The idea of being in a totally different culture and reaching out to help people seemed very appealing, and still is."

Zagroba said students are thoroughly briefed on what they can expect before they take the trip.

"To prepare for this trip everyone had to take a semester-long course that helped us learn about the culture and different disease states that we would encounter in Kenya," Zagroba said. "I feel this course did a great job of preparing us for the experience."

Julie Novak, professor of nursing, will take five students to Cape Town, South Africa, on March 13. The students will conduct health screenings and mental health assessments; launch disease prevention awareness campaigns related to HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria; and organize a health fair.

"When traveling abroad with students in the past, they have expressed that the experience greatly broadened their world view and changed their lives forever," Novak said.

Kim Wilson, a professor of horticulture and landscape architecture, will travel with 12 students to Ecuador on May 19. She says they hope to complete some of the design projects previous classes worked on during the past four years.

"A new government was elected this year, and there is money to implement a few of the sustainable designs in the rainforest village of San Miguel, including a boat ramp and central open space," Wilson said. "Also, Bahia de Caraquez would like us to continue with their waterfront design along the Pacific Coast."

Like the nursing and pharmacy students, Wilson said her landscape architecture students have benefited from a renewed respect for people of different cultures.

"I have truly experienced what it means to have a reciprocal relationship with others in a developing country," Wilson said. "We have learned together from all of our trials, tribulations and successes about what it means to establish a ‘sustainable' program. "

Writer: Marydell Forbes, (765) 496-7704,

Sources: Ellen Schellhase (317) 613-2315 ext. 305,

Lisa Zagroba, (630) 707-9446,

Julie Novak, (765) 494-4005,

Kim Wilson, (765) 494-1308,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

Lisa Zagroba, a Purdue pharmacy student from Glen Ellyn, Ill., shows a pumpkin to a young patient at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital during a fall trip to Eldoret, Kenya. Zagroba worked with other pharmacy students enrolled in a service-learning class to dispense medications, assess drug therapies, visit young patients and do volunteer work. Four more pharmacy students will travel to Eldoret on Jan. 7. (Photo contributed)

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