Fatima Suleman’s pharmacy career has taken her far. She’s served as a consultant for the World Health Organization; associate professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa; and head of the institution’s Discipline of Pharmaceutical Science. This fall, Suleman’s career took her in still a very different direction: northwest 9,280-odd miles to Drake University. Here she serves as the CPHS’ first global practitioner in residence for the Fall 2015 semester.
The collaboration wasn’t new; Suleman began working with the CPHS in 2007, when Drake and KwaZulu-Natal launched a partnership for study abroad and pharmacy rotation placements. Since then, Suleman has been instrumental in preparing rotation sites for Drake students and serving as a preceptor during student rotations.
This fall, Suleman brought her expertise to Drake’s campus for the semester. She teaches a course on health policy and supports pharmacy students traveling to South Africa for month-long rotations. Her guidance provides orientation and ensures that students get the most of their experience throughout their time in Durban, where resources are low and the burden of infectious disease is high.
“Students get an idea of the challenges of pharmacy in low- to middle-income countries,” says Suleman. “They also get to see the challenges of rolling out a huge anti-retroviral program. They get to experience a research setting as well, as the site hosts an HIV research Centre (CAPRISA) for prevention and treatment.”
The Global Practitioner in Residence program is offered through the Principal Financial Group Center for Global Citizenship. It brings top scholars from other countries to Drake so that students may engage with cutting-edge scholarship related to global issues. Suleman’s semester at Drake marks the first time a CPHS professor has participated in the program.
Suleman is a Fulbright Scholar who was educated in South Africa and earned a Ph.D. in the United States.
In addition to her work with Drake and the University of KwaZulu-Natal, she collaborates on the AIDS Online International course at Purdue University. She has vast research and consulting experience on public health policy for governments and international organizations.
She set out to study medicine early on, but Suleman learned that the practice of pharmacy held key advantages in the field.
“I come from a family of medical professionals,” she says. “However, I noticed that there was not much time for doctors to spend with patients in terms of medication use. I realized that I could do that as a pharmacist. That is what attracted me to the profession.”
It’s an aspect of pharmacy she enjoys sharing with students, particularly as they grow through meeting the unique challenges of her homeland.
Suleman recently delivered a keynote address to the Drake co-sponsored Heartland Global Health Consortium Conference in which she described the win-win nature of global rotations, which enable pharmacy students to provide sustainable benefit for partner organizations while attaining substantial learning outcomes.
It’s a synergistic relationship she’s passionate about.
“I think the energy and enthusiasm students bring to their rotation is very rewarding,” she says. “But it also provides impetus to the pharmacists at the placement sites to learn and engage more.”