Pharmacy Professor Goff Receives $45,000 Engagement Impact Grant to Assist with Project in South Africa

Daniel Helfand

The Ohio State University College of Pharmacy Associate Professor Debra Goff has received a $45,000 Engagement Impact Grant from Ohio State’s Office of Outreach and Engagement to assist with her project, “Ohio State and South Africa Collaborate to Combat Antibiotic Resistant ‘Superbugs.’”

Goff’s project was launched in 2013 with funding from the College of Pharmacy and South African hospital collaborators, connecting South African pharmacists with Ohio State mentors to develop the necessary skill set to contribute to antibiotic stewardship. Goff, who specializes in infectious diseases, realized the need to develop this program after learning pharmacists in South Africa lack access to advanced clinical pharmacy training programs that specialize in infectious diseases.

“Pharmaceutical companies have, for the most part, stopped producing new antibiotics because they are not profitable, which leaves the global health community running out of effective antibiotics to treat ‘superbugs,’” said Goff. “The lack of more effective antibiotics is not just a problem in countries like South Africa; it is a problem at places like Ohio State as well, so the development of pharmacists with skill sets to treat these ‘superbugs’ is essential to combat the global spread of these highly infectious organisms.”

After Goff and her OSU colleague Karri Bauer spent one week working in the South African private and public sector hospitals, two pharmacists from the Netcare private hospitals in South Africa spent two weeks at Ohio State, learning about antibiotic stewardship in the OSU-South Africa “train the trainer” program. Their new clinical pharmacy skills are being used to educate their peers. Currently, South African pharmacists mainly are responsible for dispensing medications to patients, and clinical pharmacy is in its infancy in South Africa. However, these pharmacists understand the important role they can play in clinical settings, which is why Goff believes her program can lead to progress for clinical pharmacists.

“South Africa is much like Ohio State was 30 years ago, when the PharmD program was just starting. Clinical pharmacists had to develop their role on the healthcare team and prove they made a difference in patient care,” said Goff. “The train the trainer program that we used to teach infectious diseases and antibiotic stewardship to these South African pharmacists could be applied to several other specialties to improve clinical pharmacy in South Africa.”

The two South African pharmacists were able to spend time with several other clinical pharmacy specialists during their time at OSU. They were able to see firsthand how clinical pharmacists are involved in patient care and make a difference in patients' lives. Many resources are taken for granted in the United States health care system but are unavailable in South Africa. The country does not have advanced clinical pharmacy training programs like the doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) programs the United States; even scholarly publications are difficult to access because they must pay for them.

After completing the OSU train the trainer program, the two pharmacists created a podcast describing their experience at OSU and had their first research abstracts accepted to 16th International Congress on Infectious Diseases. They also used nontraditional methods to build awareness of their efforts. The Ohio State-South African collaboration helped train the pharmacists to advocate for antimicrobial stewardship and clinical pharmacy by teaching the pharmacists how to use Twitter to build awareness. They also developed an educational infectious diseases comic book to be used to train additional pharmacists in South Africa.

“I know exactly what it is like to be in these pharmacists’ situation because very few physicians understood the value of clinical pharmacists when I came to Ohio with a PharmD degree,” said Goff. “It is incredibly difficult to work toward advancing the practice of clinical pharmacy in South Africa when they have never seen a clinical pharmacist on patient care rounds with a physician in a hospital.”

Despite the barriers that still exist for clinical pharmacists in South Africa, the program has been successful in helping establish proper use of antibiotics in clinical settings. The program’s initial success led to the $45,000 grant, which Goff says will be used to bring over South African pharmacists from public hospitals in the fall semester this year, something that would have been extremely difficult without additional funding.

“A key next step for our stewardship program is to educate pharmacists from public hospitals because they care for much larger populations than private hospitals in South Africa,” said Goff. “The challenge with bringing over pharmacists from public hospitals has been that these hospitals often do not have the resources to participate in a program like this, but this additional funding will make it possible.”

Goff regularly speaks with the original two pharmacists about obstacles they face in their hospitals and advises them on how to manage these situations. She has been excited about the progress that has been made in a short amount of time.

“Our goal is to be able to teach these pharmacists so they can go back to South Africa and teach future generations of pharmacists,” said Goff. “We are spreading the process of antimicrobial stewardship and are excited about how much bigger of an impact we believe this program can have. Importantly, we have built a network of collaboration between OSU and South African pharmacists.”