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Changing the world
one student initiative at a time

Changing the World

The ultimate challenge of a University of Texas at Austin student is to embark on a journey to fulfill the university's own powerful declaration that  what starts here changes the world. – Karla Cruz and Misbah Moten Each day, pharmacy students work in the classroom and laboratories to prepare themselves for the challenges their generation will face.  In addition, many are members of professional student organizations that attempt to address global health-related initiatives while they are still students.  Still, it is easy to think it will be some time in the distant future when former students will have an opportunity to impact the world.

Recently, three pharmacy students launched efforts to make a difference on a global scale.  The two Pharm.D. students and one graduate student participated in a spring gathering known as the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) to help define and focus their initiatives. 

Clinton Global Initiative University

PhotoWorking through the William J. Clinton Foundation, the former U.S. president established the Clinton Global Initiative in 2005 to turn ideas into action and to help the world move beyond the current state of globalization to a more integrated global community of shared benefits, values, and responsibilities. 

In 2007, President Clinton launched the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) to engage the next generation of leaders on college campuses around the world in discussions about pressing global issues.  The second CGI U meeting was held in February 2009 on the UT Austin campus. Approximately 1,000 students gathered to make a difference in CGI U's five focus areas including education, energy/climate change, global health, peace/human rights, and poverty alleviation. 

All of the approximate 1,000 CGI U attendees made a Commitment to Action, a comprehensive formal plan of action to address a specific problem including establishing measureable goals and results.

The Fall 2009 gathering of the CGI is planned for September in New York City.  The next gathering of CGI U has not been announced.

Global antibiotic challenge

By Karla Cruz and Misbah Moten, Pharm.D. students

As future pharmacists, we have the opportunity to serve others and improve the lives of our patients. Empowering patients around the globe to take action in their own health allows us to not only change the lives of our immediate communities but also improve the world.

We received a university-wide e-mail regarding the Clinton Global Initiative University 2009 (CGI U) and we knew this was the perfect opportunity to be a part of a greater and noble cause. We would first submit a proposal that, if accepted, would grant us an invitation to attend the CGI U 2009.

In our pharmacy training, we learn from our professors about the concerns of increasing antibiotic resistance and the effects of antibiotic pressures.  We recognized this topic as a possibility for improvement in antimicrobial education of physicians, pharmacists and the general population. Together we wrote a proposal for a program designed to achieve a universal awareness of the proper use of antibiotics. Our proposal was geared to preserve the efficacy of our existing drugs and slow the development of resistant pathogens. To achieve local and national awareness, we propose collaborating with other universities' chapters of the American Pharmacists Association – Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA-ASP) and Student Society of Health-System Pharmacists (SSHP).  We would also work with students in the College of Pharmacy's international exchange program, Pharmobility, to carry the Antibiotic Global Challenge to their respective international cities.

Photo Our proposal was accepted and we soon received an invitation to attend this summit of motivated student and philanthropist leaders and activists. The meeting consisted of a series of workshops and round-table discussions on the value of collaboration with other established organizations, project sustainability, and ways to better put our commitments to action. This venue provided the perfect environment to network with other enthusiastic students from various locations around the world. We met leaders within our society who had excelled in their humanitarian work and learned about the obstacles that they overcame. Meeting former President Clinton, Matthew McConaughey, Blake Mycoskie, and Marie Tillman was exciting and motivational to initiate our plans to make a difference. However, it was even more inspirational to see what others, people like us, had done for the benefit of society. Some had gone above and beyond their expectations to define themselves through their benevolent actions. It was humbling to be in the presence of such generous and compassionate individuals who had made the sorrows of humankind their own.

Pharmacy school entails a demanding and fast-paced lifestyle. As a student, it is easy to lose oneself in the daily stresses of the challenging curriculum. It is vital that we take a moment to see the bigger picture and see the magnificent effects a few people can have on the world. We do know that the goals of this proposal will not be met next year or even within the next five years. But, action needs to be taken today. We can only hope that one day, what we start here will change the world.

HIV/AIDS research center

In February 2009, Milli Reddy's project regarding the establishment of an HIV/AIDS Drug Safety Research Center was announced at the Global Health Section of the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) Conference.

The proposed research center will be situated in Reddy's home country of South Africa, specifically in Kwa-Zulu Natal, a community with one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS and multi-drug resistant tuberculosis in the world. While working as a pharmacist back home, Reddy said she recognized first hand the need for health, educational and supportive services in this community. It was then that she decided to make contributing to these needs her life long goal.

Her proposal includes creating a center with a registry of patients who are currently receiving antiretroviral medication treatment paid for by the South African government. The center will assist staff at antiretroviral sites in improving documentation of disease management. The registry will be used to track adverse drug reactions and to report these incidents to local clinics, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies.

"In time, I hope that the research facility can be expanded, through collaboration with the Department of Health in South Africa, to provide services such as drug information to local clinics and hospitals," she said. Other partnerships are planned, she added, with retired teachers in the area to promote education in this community.

"At a young age, I learned the value and impact of education from my parents, who are both teachers," she continued.  "I hope to bring this understanding to regions where educational services are limited."

The CGI U conference provided Reddy with an opportunity to talk with leaders in global health as well as other students who are working on similar projects related to health, environmental and economic issues. One group called Common Vocabulary is proposing a global education initiative, supported by Jeffery Sachs, special advisor to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.  Common Vocabulary is committed to providing information to communities on pressing global issues in a simple and understandable format. 

To see her initiative realized, Reddy has made contact with two organizations in KZN, South Africa, namely Afrimesh Research Center trading as Prevention of HIV and AIDS (PHIVA) and the 1000 Hills Community Helpers. Afrimesh is part of a larger global research group involved in clinical trial research. The 1000 Hills Community Helpers are conducting several community-based health and educational programs in the same area.

Photo In May 2009, Reddy received word that the Clinton Global Initiative and Pat Tilman Foundation both have elected to fund her program. The funding is being used to set up a library for patients at the 1000 Hills Community Center. Additionally, an educational speaker series for patients and health care professionals is currently underway.

"I am very grateful to everyone at The University of Texas at Austin for their support," she said.  "Completing my graduate training at the UT College of Pharmacy has offered me an opportunity to build on my professional skills and continue working toward achieving my life long goal."

Reddy appears as guest on NBC's Today Show

Graduate student Milli Reddy represented the College of Pharmacy on the February 13 edition of NBC's Today Show when she discussed her proposal to improve quality of life to AIDS and HIV patients in South Africa.

She was one of three UT pharmacy students who participated in the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) hosted by UT Austin on February 13-14, 2009.

Reddy appeared on the Today Show with several other student participants attending the CGI U.  They were invited to fly to New York City where the program is broadcast.  Reddy flew to New York on the day prior to the taping, appeared on the morning broadcast, and was flown back to Austin in time to attend the CGI U opening session when it began that afternoon.

The conference was a product of the William J. Clinton Foundation, established by former U.S. President Bill Clinton with the stated mission to "strengthen the capacity of people throughout the world to meet the challenges of global interdependence."

Last Reviewed: July 13, 2009

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