COMING HOME: Reflections from a Jamaican Pharmacist Intern

Shanique PowellShanique Powell remembers playing marbles, shooting a slingshot, and splashing in a backyard river in the rural Jamaican community where she grew up. She also recalls less idyllic times. All these thoughts and more flooded the University of Iowa pharmacy intern’s mind as she revisited rural Jamaica for the first time in more than 5 years.

“There are a lot of Jamaicans that leave here and never come back,” Shanique says. “They never figure out a way to help their community or reach out to everyone who is here because they go abroad for a better life. It’s very understandable.”

Shanique, however, has always dreamed of coming back to help. “I feel that every opportunity that you’ve been given is an opportunity to help someone else in need,” she says. Although returning to Jamaica full-time will likely be unsustainable for Shanique who needs to pay off tuition bills, she is determined to remain involved in medical missions as much as her career will allow.

“In Jamaica, only 60 people get through pharmacy school a year, and a lot leave for lack of pay. That means there are few pharmacists here, leaving that responsibility as an additional burden to the doctors and nurses. We need to find a way to alleviate that issue.”

During clinic days, Shanique counseled numerous families, enjoying the opportunity to talk directly with the patients. Among the more common issues addressed were skin problems, nutrition issues and respiratory problems that are exasperated by common open burning of garbage and smoking. “We never have enough inhalers,” Shanique says.

Still, at the end of each clinic day, Shanique felt really good that the team could make a tangible difference and provide both health and hope.

“Coming back has reminded me of where I’m from,” Shanique adds. “For me to go into a rural area now and to see that healthcare is lacking and that poverty is still there makes me realize I can’t forget about them.”