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The COVID-19 pandemic has completed shifted the world of pharmacy education, including global learning opportunities. With pandemic-related restrictions limiting international travel, the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy (UKCOP) adapted to provide students with virtual cross-cultural education experiences for everything from clinical case studies to a six-week Advanced Pharmacy Practice Education (APPE) rotation.

This year, UKCOP students Kellen Greenwell, Jordan Harra, Gretchen Ingling, and Tate Drees virtually connected with students from across the globe. Greenwell and Ingling met with students from Kitasato University in Tokyo, Japan to collaborate on a one-week patient case study. Meanwhile, Drees collaborated with clinicians from Centro de Salud Hombro a Hombro in Santo Domingo, Ecuador for their APPE rotation. Harra was able to complete both virtual experiences and connect with individuals from both Ecuador and Japan.

“The biggest difference between being virtual versus in-person was the inability to spend more time with peers and learn more about the various cultures represented. Being in a virtual environment also required more intentional efforts to break the ice and connect on a personal level,” said Harra.

Despite the difficulties that come with being unable to work together in person, Harra and her peers found themselves connecting in new and unique ways.

“I believe I connected with my group in a way I would not have otherwise. Being virtual enabled us to work through language barriers as a group rather than ignore them and work separately,” Harra said.

Through all the cultural differences the students were all able to find one central commonality between all of them: the importance of patient-centered care.

“I was very surprised by how similar our ideas were when discussing the care of our patient. The practice of patient-centered care is universal and is at the forefront of all future health professionals' minds,” said Harra. “This experience also reminded me of the importance of considering cultural differences when choosing a care plan. Luckily, I now have a group of colleagues across the world to consult when I need guidance.”

Even though the COVID-19 pandemic limited the world’s ability to travel, it didn’t stop people from connecting and engaging. These virtual global learning opportunities fostered intercultural understanding and lifelong connections, both of which are the prescription for student success.

We wish to remember and honor those who inhabited this Commonwealth before the arrival of the Europeans. Briefly occupying these lands were the Osage, Wyndott tribe, and Miami peoples. The Adena and Hopewell peoples, who are recognized by the naming of the time period in which they resided here, were here more permanently. Some of their mounds remain in the Lexington area, including at UK’s Adena Park.

In more recent years, the Cherokee occupied southeast Kentucky, the Yuchi southwest Kentucky, the Chickasaw extreme western Kentucky and the Shawnee central Kentucky including what is now the city of Lexington. The Shawnee left when colonization pushed through the Appalachian Mountains. Lower Shawnee Town ceremonial grounds are still visible in Greenup County.

We honor the first inhabitants who were here, respect their culture, and acknowledge the presence of their descendants who are here today in all walks of life including fellow pharmacists and healthcare professionals.