Pharmacy students expand their horizons in France

March 29, 2024
Ohio State College of Pharmacy Students at Carcassonne

Thirteen BSPS and PharmD students from The Ohio State University College of Pharmacy said au revoir to Columbus and flew to France for the International Pharmacy Experience during spring break, March 9-17. 

Accompanied by Jessica Mercerhill, PhD, director of academic programs and student services, and Polly Carlson, manager of education abroad and special events, the students engaged with French student and community pharmacists, visited health care sites in Montpellier and had some memorable meals in Paris. 

Students landing in France
Students travelling to France

“Our International Pharmacy Experience is a unique way to see aspects of pharmacy and health care in practice that you wouldn’t typically see by traveling to that country on your own,” Carlson said. “Traveling in a group of fellow students creates fun dynamics and special memories. It enables our students to connect with students across the college’s programs and class years.” 

The students are all participants in the International Health Care Experience in Pharmacy course (PHR 5798), which introduces students to the topics of international health care that will appear in that year’s trip.  

The interior of Pharmacie de la Miséricorde
The interior of Pharmacie de la Miséricorde.

The globetrotting Pharmacy Buckeyes began their week in Montpellier, in the south of France. The city has strong ties to the field of pharmacy; it is home to the oldest school of medicine in Europe, the University of Montpellier Medical School, which opened in the mid-12th century.  

Students at the University of Montpellier with a student of pharmacy
Students visiting the University of Montpellier.

Amid the historical architecture in the coastal city, students stopped at another medical landmark, the Pharmacie de la Miséricorde. This charitable pharmacy was run by nuns in the 19th century and has been restored to resemble its original appearance. 

Students then toured the University of Montpellier Museum and Conservatory of Anatomy and met with a current pharmacy student. 

“I was surprised to learn that pharmacy students in France must write and defend a dissertation at the end of their program,” said second-year PharmD candidate Dana Roby. “Based on our conversation with the student, it seems that his dissertation is equivalent to our NAPLEX exam in the U.S.” 

To explore differences in pharmacy outside of education, the entourage stopped at a community pharmacy, Pharmacie de l’Ecusson, in the neighboring town of Lodeve. By observing pharmacists at work, students could note the differences in patient-pharmacist interactions and industry regulations. 

“The U.S. medical system is more complicated than most,” Roby said. “It’s important to see how other health systems approach care. By looking at the policies of others, we can see if there are any that we can adopt to make care better for patients.”  

It’s important for students to explore how health care is delivered in different cultures to further develop their approach to the profession and identify how they can make an impact.

Polly Carlson
Manager of education abroad and special events

The students toured the facilities of MedinCell, a biopharmaceutical company developing long-acting injectables through their patented BEPO technology. The company is working to expand Montpellier’s significant medical history by developing the city as a biopharma hub. During the tour, students were offered a first-hand look at drug development and manufacturing.  

“I most enjoyed the visit to MedinCell,” said second-year BSPS student Maddy Fehr. “We were able to hear from the head of research and development, who presented the current technological advancements that they’re working on.” 

Pharmacie de l’Ecusson
Pharmacie de l’Ecusson in Lodeve

To round off the experience, the group stopped at the medieval walled city of Carcassonne and spent the remainder of their time in Paris. 

“It’s important for students to explore how health care is delivered in different cultures to further develop their approach to the profession and identify how they can make an impact,” Carlson said. “With our health care system being distinctly different from a country like France that provides universal health care, our students can draw valuable insights from their journey abroad.” 

For those interested in future trips, keep up-to-date through the college’s International Engagement page.