Harlem Word: Dr. Rabia Tahir’s influence at Touro College of Pharmacy

Editor June 4th, 2010

Rabia Tahir, Pharm.D is a pharmacist and professor at Touro College of Pharmacy located on 125th Street in the heart of Harlem. She comes from a family of doctors and pharmacists, and loves teaching. As a young adult she was a tutor and began her teaching career during her residency at Long Island University Arnold & Marie Schwartz College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences. After that, she became a faculty member at St. John's University College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions in Queens. She also served as an adjunct faculty at College of Mount Saint Vincent Nursing School. Two years later, she joined the faculty at Touro College of Pharmacy. Here she talks about how Touro is different from other graduate pharmacy programs-and how Touro is trying to change the way that pharmacists serve patients.

Q: How have you been involved in the graduate professional pharmacy program at the Touro College of Pharmacy here in Harlem?

A: I am a founding faculty member at Touro College of Pharmacy. I think it's important to include the mission of "serving the underserved" into a pharmacy program and this attitude influenced my role in the development of the school. Before Touro, when I was an assistant professor at St. John's University, I taught students and supervised them at my practice site at Queens Hospital. Once a week, I would take my students to St. John's Bread and Life program-a soup kitchen and homeless shelter in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Through that experience, the students could help people there and work directly with clients by feeding them at the soup kitchen. I would have loved to set up a clinic there with a full-time pharmacist so clients could talk to someone about their medications, but it never worked out.

When I heard that Touro had the mission of serving the Harlem community, I wanted to be a part of it. The college really seeks to improve the health of people in the community. By doing this, society improves as a whole. Touro wants Harlem to be a part of its mission.

The school tries to include the Harlem community in its educational programming. One way in doing this is by having a large number of students do their internships right here in Harlem. As part of the Touro curriculum, the students take part in "Practice Experience," which is experiential learning or internships. Touro students provide pharmaceutical services to community members to improve their health. They advocate for the health and wellness of community members by educating them about Harlem pharmaceutical resources that they can use as well as about different diseases and medicines. They also advocate about the pharmacy profession and how it can be used as a healthcare resource for patient education and counseling. The students inform the community about wellbeing and pharmacy in various settings, such as hospitals, retail pharmacies, and public health sites. Some public health sites include Harlem Health Promotion Center, WEACT, Ralph Lauren Cancer Center, American Heart Association, and some domestic violence shelters. Touro's commitment to Harlem is what really got me interested in the program.

Q: Touro's College of Pharmacy literature says that it takes a "public health" approach-what does this mean and how does Touro do this?

A: It's a whole different approach to pharmacy. When we teach about diseases, we don't just talk about the medication to treat them. We talk about prevention, lifestyle changes, and what people should do when given a medicine. We want students to look at the whole picture rather than one particular problem, disease, or medicine. We educate students about the issues of public health in Harlem and all over the world. It's a unique approach to pharmacy education and practice work.

Read more from Dr. Tahir by clicking the links below:

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