Adverse circumstances can produce new and incredible opportunities if traditional approaches and paradigms are questioned and challenged. The pandemic is proving to be one for the education system across the world. Many higher education institutions in India, despite being ardent advocates of conventional teaching methodologies, have moved swiftly to the virtual teaching and learning mode. Most of them are now contemplating on creating a blended learning model once the campus operations get back to normal. GITAM School of Pharmacy, a premier institute in Telangana, is already on its way to make a shift. Dr Shiva Kumar, Principal, GITAM School of Pharmacy says, “We will be preparing our students by giving them proper training on usage of online resources and virtual classes to enhance their knowledge and skills along with the completion of curricular requirements. Proper online training will be given to students related to prevention and cure at the time of such pandemics. We will teach them how to achieve it without affecting their regular works.”
Gandhi Institute of Technology and Management, popularly known as GITAM, was founded in 1980 by an inspired group of eminent intellectuals and industrialists of Andhra Pradesh led by Dr M. V. V. S. Murthi, former Member of Parliament and a famous philanthropist. GITAM School of Pharmacy was established in 2017 to impart quality education and training in the domains of pharmaceutical sciences to develop students into competent personnel of the healthcare system. Despite the campus closure, the faculty members and management of the institute have been proactive. “We have been conducting online classes w for the students. Proper training regarding the conduction of online classes using virtual apps like Zoom, Teams and so on were imparted to the faculty members and students. Time schedule for the online classes was developed for completion of remaining syllabus, revision classes, doubt clearing sessions and mid-semester theory and practical examinations,” explains Dr Shiva Kumar.
On the other side, GITAM School of Pharmacy taken several necessary measures to help the community to fight the pandemic. Dr Shiva Kumar shares, “We displayed informative posters regarding the signs and symptoms, modes of transmission and preventive measures for COVID -19 throughout the university campus. Useful information regarding the same was also given to the attendees of the institute.” For combating the unavailability of proper sanitizers, the institute also developed an in-house hand sanitizer which was maintained at various places of the University the personnel to use. “Since the outbreak of the virus, we have been actively guiding students, parents and other staff of the university regarding through telephonic communications,” adds Dr Shiva Kumar.
Striving for Excellence
Intending to become the centre of excellence in education and research, GITAM School of Pharmacy has been working on a mission to establish itself as an institute of global standards that can develop professionals with high moral and professional commitment to meet the healthcare needs of the society. “Our vision is to impart global quality education to the future pharmacy professionals by empowering them with knowledge and skills and to facilitate their professional, intellectual and moral development to meet the challenges of the competitive world,” opines Dr Shiva Kumar. GITAM School of Pharmacy intents to develop trained and skilled professionals through quality education and establish MoU through Academic-Industry interactions and consultancy works. “We are now working on to achieve the highest standards of intellectual, educational and research productivity through continuous improvement of the infrastructure and industrial relationships,” pinpoints Dr Shiva Kumar.
To achieve its goals, GITAM School of Pharmacy has initiated communication with all the leading pharmaceutical industries in Hyderabad and other places for active collaborations. “Industrial collaborations are of utmost requirement in pharmacy institutes to educate and train students in the knowledge and practice of pharmaceutical sciences and to contribute to the improvement of the health of the society, through education and research programs,” explains Dr Shiva Kumar. In fact, the industry-academia collaboration will help the students to get an actual exposure of the current happenings and technical know-how in the pharmaceutical industries to develop the required competency to get placed in suitable pharmaceutical companies. Dr Shiva Kumar adds, “Major developments in the health care sector like formulations of new vaccines, development of new drug delivery systems can be well understood by such collaborations.”
As per the curriculum GITAM School of Pharmacy, students will be going to various pharmaceutical industries for industrial training equivalent to internship programs. “Our students will be doing project works in collaboration with pharmaceutical industries. Various workshops will be conducted in which industry personnel will be training the students regarding the handling of equipment and formulation aspects,” claims Dr Shiva Kumar. GITAM School of Pharmacy motivates its students to work harder and focus on their careers and pursuits by arranging interaction sessions with industry and academic personnel from reputed pharmaceutical industries and institutes in India and abroad as well. Till date, the institute has organized thirty guest lectures.
Fine-Tuning the Future Pharma Professionals
Now, GITAM School of Pharmacy is in the third year of its existence, and the students are attending various training sessions organized by the University Training and Placement Cell to develop competency and become eligible for the pharmaceutical industries. “Students are being imparted knowledge about their roles and responsibilities towards the healthcare system along with their curriculum subjects,” says Dr Shiva Kumar. GITAM School of Pharmacy students have actively organized and participated in various programmes like science exhibitions, blood donation camps, diabetes screening camps, street cause programmes, universal brotherhood days and several health camps in rural areas and government schools to educate the public about general health and hygiene and provide other healthcare-related information. Students are active members in NSS activities Haritha Aaram program and Swatcha. The institute also encourages students to participate in various sports and cultural activities held within the University and outside.
“We continuously encourage our students for innovations and develop creativity among them by giving examples of the recent developments in the field of pharmaceutical sciences. During regular theory and practical classes, we teach them the industrial applications of the topics and clearly explain the experiments performed to the students,” says Dr Shiva Kumar. The faculty members of GITAM School of Pharmacy also discuss significant achievements in the healthcare sector, including the development of new drugs and delivery systems with the students. Further, the institute has made plans to develop Pharmacy Skill Development Centre to engage students in research areas.
“We have also entered into Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia, to promote joint research projects and courses of study, with particular emphasis on internationally funded projects. This will help us provide students with study abroad opportunities at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, participation in seminars, workshops, symposia, and academic meetings. We will also have collaborative academic programs, international study tours and special short-term academic programs,” explains Dr Shiva Kumar. Besides, students opting GITAM School of Pharmacy have the edge over students of other pharmacy institutions across the country, as it is in Hyderabad, which is the hub of all major pharmaceutical industries.
GITAM School of Pharmacy has also managed to make a team of faculty members having doctoral degrees and a vast experience in teaching, research, and administration to impart latest developments in the field along with the regular curriculum. The institute has 14 faculty members, and 13 out of them are PhD holders. “Students graduating from our institute will definitely have better exposure to the health care sector and their roles and responsibilities in strengthening it. They will gain expertise in the latest technical know-how by the workshops, guest lectures and seminar/webinar from global universities, which will develop them into more competent and responsible pharmaceutical professionals in whatever career they undertake,” pinpoints Dr Shiva Kumar. GITAM School of Pharmacy, in its pursuit to achieve excellence, is planning to postgraduate (M.Pharm.) programmes and constitute the Student Research Committee in the coming years. Undoubtedly, GITAM School of Pharmacy is a name to watch out for in the future.