From Quality Operations Pfizer to Quality Consultant PharmAccess, Tanzania
Greetings from Tanzania! Selected as part of this year’s class of Fellows, I have just arrived in Dar es Salaam to work with PharmAccess Foundation for a 6 month assignment, working with two other Fellows Mario Villa (from Pfizer Italy) and Henry Okoth (from Sanford, North Carolina). As a team, we are working on quality monitoring and evaluation systems and financing models for pharmacies. This is work for the SafeCare and Medical Credit Fund which are part of the PharmAccess group.
Before arriving to Tanzania, Mario, Henry and I completed a week-long orientation to the Dutch-based organization. This was an opportunity to learn more of the structure of the organization and to see what parts of the program touched our project. Initially, the biggest struggle was the adjustment to the time difference as they are 6 hours ahead of the Eastern Time Zone. However, once in the office, we were greeted by a roomful of smiles and a very gracious staff; it was apparent that they wanted us to feel right at home. Our hostess, Hanneke Peters (pronounced Hannukah); Senior Quality Manager, PharmAccess did a great job at making sure we were comfortable. We also were invited to join in some of the traditional office events (a going-away party for a colleague and a new traditional lunch program where everyone went to lunch together in the cafeteria with a pre-purchased program for food), and we realized very quickly that this is very different from working in the corporate world; budgets, family atmosphere, and the occasional acceptance of project work by someone’s willingness to help and not a feeling of obligation. While the assignment is our primary focus and most important thing to complete, the key is to make sure objectives are realistic and not burn-out by taking on too much. It’s a wonderful attitude to have when a large goal is in front of you. We arrived in Dar es Salaam at approximately 10pm and a PharmAccess driver met us as we made it through immigration with no hiccups (thanks to the hard work of the local team at PharmAccess – thank you!). On the first day of assignment, the local office manager Dianah Mwikalo, Office Manager Tanzania, took us to our apartments and spent the day helping us get settled in. The first week in the office was great. I learned more about my assignment to support quality initiatives better. With a focus on drug quality assurance and drug counterfeiting, my main objective will be to look at the drug supply chain throughout the SafeCare initiatives program (quality program) throughout Tanzania and more specifically, SafeCare partners. The further I complete fact finding, the scope of my project becomes more focused, and I will elaborate in future blogs as my work develops. We are very lucky to have a knowledgeable group on the ground in Dar, and I am able to pull on valuable resources as I weave my way through the construction of the Tanzanian pharmaceutical systems. Tanzania is a welcoming society, but the healthcare infrastructure, specifically pharmaceuticals, is vastly different from the United States. The majority of the pharmaceuticals are brought in from India and China and there is a system of the supply chain that is interesting to learn the mechanics of. We were hosted by the Tanzanian Food & Drug Administration and they were very helpful in helping us understand the controls that are in place. They have agreed to meet with us on a regular basis, as needed, to be a source of information. How wonderful is that? It seems that PharmAccess has a strong reputation with the TFDA and it is interesting to be on the other side of the regulations. They truly care about their people and only want to make things stronger. Now that I am in the third week of my assignment, the initial phase of the assignment is in full research mode and am doing great at aligning timelines with realistic expectations. There is a lot to learn and I feel like we have made a lot more progress as a team of three than if I were here on fellowship by myself.