Global Medicines Program

Pharmacy Assistant Training Program in Malawi Graduates First Cohort of Students

Read the latest from VillageReach about the Pharmacy Assistant Training Program here.

On June 19, 2015 in Lilongwe, Malawi, the first cohort of students graduated the program—the result of a collaboration between the Malawi Ministry of Health, the U.S. Government through the USAID | Deliver Project, the Malawi College of Health Sciences, University of Washington Global Medicines Program, and Seattle-based NGO VillageReach.

The program produces a dedicated cadre of individuals with enhanced training in medicines management and supply chain practices who will eventually support each of Malawi’s 650 rural health centers. Through this new program, students are trained to dispense life-saving medications and provide patients with essential advice, and also gain the skills to effectively manage inventory to ensure a well-functioning supply chain.


Credit: VillageReach

“The Pharmacy Assistants will go a long way to improve the quality of health service delivery in rural areas, as well as strengthening health systems in the country through improved medicines information management that the government can rely on and use to serve people better,” says Albert Khuwi, Health Technical Support Services Deputy Director for the Malawi Ministry of Health.

During the two-year program, students complete two five-month practicums in district hospitals and rural health centers, in addition to the classroom-based learning. The emphasis in practical experience allows students to make an almost immediate impact in rural pharmacies where overburdened and undertrained personnel struggle to meet the demands placed on them. Initial results showed an 80% reduction in clinician time spent on logistics in health facilities with Pharmacy Assistant students, allowing health workers to devote more time to patient care.

Additionally, when a Pharmacy Assistant is working in a health center, the following measures may improve:

•the quality of patient pharmaceutical care;

•adherence to proper dispensing practices and drug management standards; and

•the quality of data reported to higher levels in the supply chain.

“This visionary program addresses one of the most critical issues facing many countries—shortages of qualified pharmacy workers. This partnership allows us to create a program that benefits people’s daily lives and well-being,” commented Andy Stergachis, Professor and Associate Dean of the UW School of Pharmacy.

The program launched in 2011 with funding support from the Barr Foundation, the USAID | DELIVER PROJECT, and Vitol Foundation. The current program will graduate two more cohorts, placing an additional 148 Pharmacy Assistants at rural health centers by 2017. The Malawi Ministry of Health has expressed the desire to place as many as 650 Pharmacy Assistants to meet the needs of its rural communities.

“The U.S. Government is proud of this successful partnership with the Government of Malawi, VillageReach, The Malawi College of Health Sciences, and the University of Washington, and very proud of the 20 USAID-sponsored students who graduated today. We are confident that these new Pharmacy Assistants will contribute greatly to the improvement of Malawi’s health sector,” noted USAID/Malawi’s Deputy Health Office Director Lilly Banda.

After graduation, the students will become employees of the Malawi Ministry of Health, which will place them for work in rural health centers throughout the country.