Thoughts from the Last Mile Welcome to the VillageReach Blog
12.20 2018

How Malawi’s pharmacy training program helped a young woman help others

A Success Story

Kelliter Chizinga conducting her pharmacy practicum training. Photo Credit: Hope Ngwira

Pharmaceutical management is something that Kelliter Chizinga had always wanted to study and pursue as a career.  In November 2016, Chizinga’s passion for being of service to the community motivated her to enroll at the Malawi College of Health Sciences in Lilongwe in a two-year pharmacy assistant certificate program that aimed to train and deploy 650 pharmacy assistants across Malawi by 2020.

Supported by the USAID Global Health Supply Chain-Procurement and Supply Management (GHSC-PSM) project and implemented by the Malawi Ministry of Health, Malawi College of Health Sciences (MCHS) and VillageReach, the pharmacy assistants training program is working to develop a new cadre of health workers for rural pharmacies in Malawi and to help bridge the shortage of health care workers in Malawi.

Chizinga is currently in the final days of finishing her training and says that things have not always been smooth for her in this previously male-dominated field of study.  She had attempted to get into the program twice before she was accepted. As a prerequisite, she took a business administration course for a year and a half to gain admittance to pursue her dream career.

“When I learned that I had finally been accepted in the program, I felt so relieved and comfortable to be back on track to follow my dream to become a pharmacy assistant and to make a difference in the lives of many people.”

Although Chizinga encountered many challenges along the way, she is proud to have stayed the course and looks forward with optimism and excitement to graduate and begin to practice and serve patients. Her excitement stems from her belief, “it’s all about the service to patients and it all begins with applying what you learnt and being ready to make a difference in the lives of others.”

Making a difference

After graduation, Chizinga says that her preference is to work at a community health center where everyone speaks Chichewa, her first language.  She believes that to effectively support the community, it is better to speak their native tongue.

Kelliter Chizinga and some of her classmates in the pharmacy training program. Photo Credit: Hope Ngwira

Chizinga also believes in ongoing training for all health workers so they continue learning best practices. She hopes to go further in her own education. “Professional development is important for all front-line health care professionals who want to achieve bigger opportunities in life,” says Chizinga.

Chizinga encourages women to pursue a career in pharmacy. “More resources should be allocated towards research to find out exactly what is happening and what needs to change to get more women to participate in pharmacy studies.”   Another word of advice she has is for women not to focus on barriers, but to do as she did by pursing their dream careers in pharmacy and other fields.

Chizinga underwent the practicum experience in 2017 as part of her training at Mangochi District Hospital in the southern part of Malawi and as part of the USAID-funded GHSC-PSM partnership to support the deployment of qualified personnel to manage medicines, improve the supply chain, and dispense medicines to patients at the health facility level. She is happy to be living her dream. “It is all about the service to patients and it all begins with applying what you learned and being ready to make a difference in the lives of others.”



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Malawi healthcare worker