University of Malta

Erasmus Reflections
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Malta Medical Journal

November 2011
Reflections from some fourth pharmacy students who are currently on an Erasmus Mobility


Charlene Galea, Vrije University Brussels, Belgium


I'm really glad I'm participating in the Erasmus mobility project. I'm working with experimental design to optimize a separation method for a mixture of beta blockers, by using HPLC. I have a lot of routine work, like the preparation of mobile phases, and sample solutions. But I'm happy that I'm working with HPLC - cause it's a basic technique in pharma research. I'll be finishing my experiments next week, then I'll be analysing the data. I'm also happy that I chose Brussels, cause EPSA's office is located here. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to meet representatives from EAHP, GIRP and PGEU.


Stephanie Portelli, Vrije University Brussels, Belgium


At the VUB, I am currently optimising a western blotting experiment with regards to conditions such as type of blocking agent, vehicle and temperature for incubation of primary antibody, etc. Also, I am helping in the use of animal models, being either wild types or knockouts of the xCT receptor - which is part of System Xc-, thought to be important in the manifestation of epilepsy, due to its outflux of glutamate. We have finished a series of corneal kindling experiments, and are currently preparing for amygdaloidal kindling experiments. On the whole, I really enjoy my placement here, and I have become more fluent in the techniques used and also able to apply the theories from the articles to what we're doing during the experiments.




Daniela Ghio, Ruth Bonnici and Leanne Cutajar, University of Bari, Italy


We are enjoying and learning a lot from our experience here in Bari. The pharmacists here have been very helpful, especially Dott. Faggiano who is always telling us that she wants to come with us back to Malta or keep us here. We have so far spent a few days in each department in the pharmacy namely TPN, chemotherapy preperation, ethics, medical devices, dangerous drugs and logistics. We have also worked at the Territorial Pharmaceutical Service for a week and visited the Peadiatric Hospital. Currently, we are in the Logistics Department where we have been observing and controlling prescriptions received from the wards. Each one of us was assigned a drug class to compile a report in which the appropriateness of the drug use is assesed by comparing drugs in the class and considering the economical aspect. We will now be presenting our work to the speciality pharmacists, the director of the pharmacy department and all the pharmacists in the department. We are also currently working on a patient case as regards to total parenteral nutrition and medications the patient has received during the hospital stay.



Sephora Galea, University of Padova, Italy


Regarding my placement here, I can say that it has been a very interesting and enjoyable experience. I have been over at the Nuclear Medicine section and it was very interesting. I was able to see the way that they prepare radioactive medicines for diagnosis. My work in the hospital pharmacy consists of preparing prescriptions that come in the pharmacy for the preparation of medicinal products in the galenic laboratory, i.e. capsules, solutions, syrups etc. I am also working on rearranging and organising the whole paperwork system which is needed when carrying out these preparations. All in all the working environment is a learning environment and I'm enjoying the all the new experiences that I have encountered. My tutors appreciate me and take care of me so I am enjoying the experience here thoroughly.


Martina Mifsud, University of Perugia, Italy


We've already reached the final three weeks of our stay in Perugia. Time flew by so fast here. The total experience so far was a very positive one and most probably, coming here was one of the best decisions I've ever taken. The people at the labs are always extremely helpful. I was given the opportunity to gain experience handling the different HPLC's. Also I assisted a preparative scale enantioseperation where I was given the opportunity to work with cation exchange resins, anionic exchange resins and dynamic TLC's as other methods of separation. I also spent a week at the molecular modelling lab. This made a very good change from the analysis lab. I worked with UV-VIS detector operating HPLC's, ELSD's, auto sampling HPLC and also a preparative scale HPLC in which physical separation of two enantiomers could take place.


Christina Pace Bardon, University of Perugia, Italy


My placement is research based. I am working on the synthesis of a particular anti-HIV drug along with another girl who studies at the University of Perugia. The synthesis is made up of about 12 steps and till now we have reached the 8th one! Hopefully we will complete the synthesis before I leave, however this is very difficult as the yields of every step are very low. I can now say that I am familiar with all the apparatus and techniques which are carried out on a daily basis and have no problem performing them alone. Martina and I have tried to make the most of this experience by travelling around Italy and also Europe. Till now it was been an amazing experience and we will do our best to make the most of the last 3 weeks here.


John Agius, University of La Sapienza, Rome, Italy
The Erasmus experience has been great so far. I've learnt so much about working in a Drug Design and Synthesis Laboratory (DDSL), and after a week of working there, I've learnt to do all laboratory procedures by myself, with the exception of the NMR which requires certified staff to be present during its use. This was only possible through the help of Dr Piscitelli and Prof Giuseppe, who guided me whenever I needed help, but allowed me to and in some cases insisted that I should take a more autonomous approach even though risks of making mistakes in this setting is costly (and this added responsibility perhaps is what makes us learn so quickly). Their teaching technique is to inspire confidence in students. They also make their feelings known about the students performance and allow students to have a break whenever they want as long as the work is done, and done properly (this is crucial because in a lab there is a lot of waiting time).



Jonathan Agius, University of La Sapienza, Rome, Italy


My experience in Rome has turned to be well so far. I am undertaking my placement at IFO in the hospital and hospital pharmacy dealing with pharmacovigilance, patients and controlling the medicines at the pharmacy with respect to their expiry dates.


Angela Cassar, Mariana Ellul, University of Granada, Spain


We have a very interesting placement. We shift through different departments in the hospital every three weeks. So far we have been in the:

- Storage Room : the uni-dosing section. Basically, we were responsible to prepare and package the daily medications for a number of patients staying in hospital for only 24hrs.

- Clinical Trials: We saw what clinical trials entail and all documentation involved. At the end of the 3 weeks we were asked to give a presentation to the pharmacy residents in the department.
- Oncology: We were responsible to help select the drugs for each patient (according to prescription), These were then given to nurses for reconstitution.

- Pharmacokinetics: Over here we learnt about the different types of equipment used for testing blood/urine samples of patients. Our task is to perform tests on blood samples to check whether the drugs given to patients (which are pharmacokinetically unstable e.g. phenytoin, valproic acid.) fall within the therapeutic range. If not, the dose is adjusted respectively. Overall we are having a great time in Granada. It is a beautiful city. Our biggest problem was that nobody speaks english here (not even in hospital!), so in the beginning it was quite difficult for us. But now, we have learnt a bit of spanish and its so much better.

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