Guest blog by Lydia Caroline Nalule, Linda Namara, Aida Kawuma, Joseph Walter Arinaitwe, Medi Ssekitya from the Infectious Diseases Institute elearning team.
19th May 2019 marked the start of Pharmacometrics Africa’s pilot 10-week Online Clinical Pharmacology and Pharmacometrics Course.
This pilot program was hosted by the Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI) at Makerere University in Uganda and was closely based on a similar course delivered by Karolinska Institutet, Sweden (2015) and by Hibernia College, Dublin (2014).
The course registered 70 enthusiastic delegates from 12 countries around the globe including; Switzerland, USA, Ghana, Egypt, Rwanda, India, Ethiopia, South Africa, Australia, Malawi, Uganda and Nigeria. Delegates were from diverse fields including; pharmacists, medical officers, biological scientists, regulatory scientists, pharmaceutics, pharmacokinetics, Pharmacogenetics, statisticians as well as mathematicians Over the 10-week course, students received access to video content, guided lectures, directed reading and tasks to allow monitoring progress with the course materials. Students and faculty met weekly on a Thursday afternoon for an online tutorial that was recorded for offline viewing for those who wanted to review the materials or could not attend in person. The first 5 weeks of the program course covered principles of clinical pharmacology (pharmacokinetics - PK, and pharmacodynamics - PD), and then progressed to coding clinical pharmacology models into the Berkeley Madonna software as well as exploring alternate drug inputs or PKPD parameters. Delegates then reviewed a small sub-set of biostatistics principles and concepts of fitting models to clinical pharmacology data. Throughout the course, delegates had access to a subject matter expert as a mentor who provided ad hoc tutoring or a nudge in case of low engagement with the online content.
The IDI Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) features participation and progress tracking tools which aided in generating useful reports for follow up purposes. 11 of the 70 registered participants logged in a few times at the start of the course and never returned. It was established that the participants realized they had conflicting work related activities which would not allow them to engage with the course as required and were therefore advised to apply during the next intake if they were still interested and willing to commit to the program.
Course content is reviewed on a weekly basis using feedback from the tutors and students, in order to improve the program for delivery to the next cohort.
With a course team comprising highly competent, experienced and committed faculty and online facilitators; up-to-date course content presented in multiple formats as well as a robust user friendly VLE and enthusiastic delegates, the course registered great success.
For us as the IDI elearning team, hosting a course of this size and with participants from across various continents has been a unique experience which has also helped us advance our online course delivery and facilitation capabilities. We are excited about the potential for wider application of pharmacometrics in healthcare in low and middle-income settings. At the IDI, our mission is to strengthen health systems in Africa, with a strong emphasis on infectious diseases, through research and capacity development. This program is well aligned with this mission and also with IDI’s efforts towards promoting the global health security agenda which includes antimicrobial stewardship. Consequently, we have strived to deliver a world-class online learning experience to the participants in this course and over the next weeks, our team will work with the subject matter experts to review feedback from the tutors and students in this pilot program, in order to improve the program for subsequent cohorts. The leadership of Pharmacometrics Africa are involved with nascent discussions to transfer the content to at least 2 other Universities in Africa and IDI will be involved with this technology-transfer process.
The next Online Clinical Pharmacology and Pharmacometrics Course is planned for later this year. To sign up, please visit https://www.pmxafrica.org/contact and fill in the contact form or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org