Global Perspectives in Pharmacy

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Taiwanese Student Expands Horizons at UMD

UMD student Ya-Feng Wen  
When he isn't studying, Ya-Feng Wen enjoys outdoor activities such as cycling.  

Ya-Feng Wen is not your typical college student. Originally from Taiwan, Wen has already completed a degree in Pharmacy. Influenced by his professors, Shawn Hsiang-Yin Chen and Wei-Chiao Chang, Wen decided to enroll for another pharmacy degree, this time in the United States. “They told me that it is good to study abroad. It lets you experience a different lifestyle and meet different people,” Wen said. “It also teaches you different systems and research methods that you may not have encountered in your own culture.”

After earning his undergraduate degree in Taiwan, Wen served a year in the military. His position, 2nd lieutenant, provided him with skills in leadership and decision making. “While serving, I had to make decisions for myself and my unit. It prepared me for the transition to a life in the United States,” he said.

Bringing a global perspective
Even though he is already licensed to practice in Taiwan, Wen has learned some techniques through the UMD pharmacy program that he can apply back home. One of these lessons involves being more accepting to the patient’s wishes. “Pharmacy isn’t just a science. It’s important to be personable,” he said. “We have to convince people that they can trust us to do what is best for their health.”

A burgeoning science in America also provides Wen an opportunity to help patients before his knowledge of medication is required. New testing methods allow medical professionals to weigh patients’ risks for certain medical conditions with just a genetic sample from a blood test or swab of the cheek. It is not a catch-all, however; new technology sometimes comes with superstitions to address. “As a healthcare professional, when a test reads ‘positive’, I need to interpret what ‘positive’ means,” Wen said. “In the case of prostate cancer, for example, a positive Prostate-Specific Antigen test only indicates around 20% probability that someone has the disease.”

Becoming a personable pharmacist
Delivering such news and informing the patient about risks is a balancing act which requires knowledge of medicine and personal interaction, two things that UMD emphasizes in training students. “We’ve studied how to interact with patients in some classes,” he said. “In one, we read ‘How We Age,’ and learned more about how to treat elderly patients. We went over this a lot here at UMD, but didn’t cover it at all in Taiwan.”

One of Wen’s favorite parts of his time in America are the holidays. “Last Thanksgiving, I had dinner once with colleagues from the Pharmacy department and once with my landlord’s family. They were so fun, and there was so much food. It helped me feel welcome,” he said.

When done with his studies at UMD, Ya-Feng hopes to work in pharmaceutical research, particularly regarding genetics. Ideally, somewhere that conducts genetic testing.

UMD Those who can Duluth

Written by Zach Lunderberg. December, 2014.

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