David John Woods, a consultant pharmacist, educator, and researcher with a background in medical informatics, rational drug use, evidence-based practice, pharmaceutical education, and paediatric clinical pharmacy paid a visit to the Faculty of Medicine of Vilnius University from the University of Otago in New Zealand. For two weeks, students in the Pharmacy Programme had the great opportunity to attend a short course in clinical pharmacy that he presented. This was the second time that the tutor had visited Lithuania and the first time he had worked at Vilnius University. He came here at the invitation of Prof Vaiva Hendrixson, the vice-dean for studies at the Faculty of Medicine. The main coordinator of his visit was Indrė Tračiokienė, lecturer in the Pharmacy Study Programme.
“First, I would like to express my gratitude for the invitation to be here at a most distinguished university in Europe”, the tutor from New Zealand said. “It is always an honour and a real pleasure to be invited to visit another country and to take part in the education of students in a different setting.” He stated that knows that the Pharmacy Programme at Vilnius University is very new and that he wishes all professors and students a lot of success. Mr Woods strongly believes that those studies will develop into an important basis for preparing pharmacists who will become a very active part of the health care system in Lithuania. He also expressed his sincere congratulations to the University on its 440th anniversary.
Woods is currently a clinical advisor to the Best Practice Advocacy Centre and a Professional Practice Fellow at the School of Pharmacy of the University of Otago in New Zealand. He is also an active researcher in medical data analysis and the application of clinical decision support. He has worked extensively in the field of evidence-based medicine and rational drug use and has contributed to related educational and resource development programmes both in New Zealand and internationally, particularly in developing countries. He has worked as a consultant for organisations such as the WHO, USAID, UNICEF, and GRIP (Global Research in Paediatrics).
Woods was invited to the Faculty of Medicine as a tutor for a 2-week programme for forty 4th-year pharmacy students. The specific area of the subject he presented was clinical pharmacy. It is a relatively new branch of pharmacy in which clinical pharmacists provide direct patient care that optimises the use of medication and promotes health, wellness, and disease prevention. Clinical pharmacists care for patients in all health settings, but the clinical pharmacy movement initially began inside hospitals and clinics. They often work in collaboration with physicians, nurse practitioners, and other health care professionals. Clinical pharmacists can enter into a formal collaborative practice agreement with other health care providers, generally one or more physicians, that allows the pharmacists to prescribe medications and order laboratory tests.
Woods stated that imparting drug information skills is essential to make sure that students develop sufficient abilities, associated knowledge, and appropriate attitudes to provide drug information services: “Students have to be trained systematically to improve their overall drug information skills, as well as their general competence. Appropriate scales for rating the level of the tasks they complete can also be used during training.” He stated that the complexity of the questions answered varies with the demands of the practice setting. The provision of constructive feedback to students on how to achieve learning objectives should be done. Irrespective of the location or setting, all pharmacists should be able to provide drug information to patients and health care professionals. Drug information skills help pharmacists provide evidence-based suggestions for better patient care and research.
According to Woods, clinical pharmacy is well established in many countries. The important role for pharmacists in a multidisciplinary approach to managing a person’s health, including their medicines, is internationally recognised: “Of course, a period of two weeks is a very short time to cover all aspects and to give an overview of clinical pharmacy and its practical applications. But the students will recognise the value of the discipline and the objectives.” In his understanding, there are some reviews going on in Lithuania to look at expanding the role of pharmacy from the predominant role which it plays in New Zealand and in many other countries in the dispensing or preparation of medicine.
“We know from many international studies how the inappropriate use of medicines can actually lead to many harmful effects in a population. So, pharmacists are a part of a team that can minimise those problems and make sure that people get the best use of medicines. That is why I give an overview and together with students try to develop those skills and practice,” Woods said.
The tutor from New Zealand has actually found the students at the Faculty of Medicine very knowledgeable, engaging, and willing to communicate and discuss. He emphasised that it is always a little bit of a challenge when you put yourself in a situation you have not been involved with before, when you do not know the level of knowledge students have or how open they are going to be. He can confirm that the level of knowledge of the students in the pharmacy programme seems to be very sound, that the programme is truly interesting, and that the students are willing to share their ideas. Communicating with the students was therefore quite enjoyable.
Woods has an engaging personality. He has two mottos in his life. The first is “just do it”. It always helps him achieve all his goals. Another of his mottos is “live each day as if it is your last day, because one day you will be right”. This means that he constantly tries to do his best each day. Those two ideas undoubtedly help him to overcome a lot of challenges not only in his professional life, but also with his main hobby: mountaineering all over the world. The tutor from New Zealand is optimistic and sincerely hopes to come back to Vilnius sooner or later and give more lectures at Vilnius University.