Pharmacy students show they care 

Wits fourth-year students administered free healthcare assessments to the public on campus. 

Pharmacy students put the adage ‘prevention is better than cure’ to the test on May 18. 2023, when various tests were made available to staff and students at Solomon Mahlangu House at Wits University.  

Fourth-year pharmacy student Caitlynn Pillay checking the blood pressure measurements of her patient, mechanical engineering student, Xolani Radebe. Photo: Georgia Cartwright

The Screening and Testing Programme by Pharmacy Students (STEPPS) puts students in the driving seat for the first time. A battery of tests were on offer, including but not limited to blood pressure, blood glucose, HIV and Body Mass Index (BMI).  

Dr. Ane Orchard who organized the event and observed the students’ said the aim of the program was to show people that pharmacists can also conduct healthcare assessments. Orchard said screening helps in “identifying risk factors” so patients can be proactive with their health.  

Orchard went on to explain how, like working professionals in healthcare, each pharmacy student had to sign a confidentiality agreement which serves to protect patients’ personal information. The pharmacy students also ensure that tests such as HIV tests are kept hidden from public view when they are being conducted and that only the patient receives the results. 

If a patient tests positive for HIV after two confirmed tests, they are referred to the Wits Campus Health & Wellness Centre or the Counselling and Careers Development Unit (CCDU). “A further test is then conducted, and the patient may choose which recommended treatment plan they would like to follow,” said Orchard. 

Master of pharmacy in clinical pharmacy student, Ebenezer Maimele, told Wits Vuvuzela that, “It is nice to put [the] clinical skills we have learnt over the years into practice and to interact with people who need our help.” 

Although some pharmacy students were nervous at first, this changed as the day progressed. Makhosazana Zindela, described the experience as “fulfilling,” as she finally put her training to the test.  

One patient, Xolani Radebe, said: “I trust the students because I understand that the only way to truly learn a skill is to practice it and these students are simply practicing being good pharmacists.” 

 Maimele explained that it is important to get regular checkups as a simple blood pressure test could reveal and prevent a future heart attack while other tests could prevent some serious health conditions later in life. 

There will be further free healthcare assessments as part of the STEPPS programme on July 6 at the Health Science campus, July 20 at the Education Campus, and August 3, 2023, on main campus for those interested.  

FEATURED IMAGE: Pharmacy student Thabiso Mdhlovu receiving a blood pressure measurement from classmate Sydney Mamogobo on May 18 in Solomon Mahlangu House at Wits University. Photo: Georgia Cartwright.