The people of modern society are mostly disillusioned with the empty grandeur of materialism and guidance of enlightened masters or spiritual gurus is inevitable for spiritual upliftment. Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, the guiding light of Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, explains Education in two ways. Education for a Living, which equips us with the necessary academic qualification, expertise, knowledge to compete and accomplish our chosen materialistic ambitions. The other is Education for Life, which provides adequate Human values and capacity to face fears of life, get relaxation from umpteen mental tensions, increase the mental, intellectual ability for improved efficiency and lead a controlled, contented life. Her concept of education, stress on research and commitment to instilling universal values, have come together to shape Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham into an institution where the latest advancements and discoveries combine with compassion and service-mindedness.
Amrita School of Pharmacy started in 1997 with a Diploma in Pharmacy (D.Pharm) and became an integral component of the Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham right at its inception in 2003. It is the first school started functioning under the Health Sciences campus of the University (campus of the super speciality hospital, Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, which started in the year 1998). "Pharmacy profession demands strict adherence to a set of ethical principles."
Considering research as an integral component of pharmacy education, Amrita School of Pharmacy has given a lot of emphasize for research right from the undergraduate level.
"The vision of Amrita School of Pharmacy is to be a centre of excellence, ensuring high quality value based education with an international focus and unwavering commitment to provide quality education and training to students from all sections of society, thus paving the way for the socioeconomic development of the nation,"says Dr. Sabitha M, Principal, Amrita School of Pharmacy.
A Journey of Excellence and Divine
The institute's first batch of Bachelor of Pharmacy (B. Pharm.) students commenced their academic program in 2005. The productivity of Amrita School of Pharmacy significantly improved with the introduction of Master of Pharmacy (M. Pharm.) programs in 2010 with Pharmacy Practice Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry disciplines. The Pharmacy Council of India (PCI) recognised and announced the launch of the Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm. D.) program in the year 2008 all over India. Taking full advantage of its in-house hospital and the associated healthcare services, Amrita School of Pharmacy started offering the six-year integrated Pharm. D. (Regular) and three-year Pharm. D. (Post Baccalaureate) programmes from 2010. Dr. Sabitha remembers, "The two programmes were the first of their kind in the state of Kerala and the School's enrolment expanded significantly due to this landmark initiative."
The institute's gradual yet steady thrust in research culminated in the registration of candidates for the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) programme in the year 2012. In 2015, the institute started M.Pharm Pharmacology, attracting more aspirants to its campus. "Since the School strongly believes in the teachings of its respected Chancellor, Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, it advocates the inculcation of cultural values in one's day -to - day activities. Hence, value-based education is mandatory for all students enrolling here. The students are encouraged and motivated to participate in the charitable outreach work of Mata Amritanandamayi Math as well as Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham," states Dr. Sabitha.
The Hub of Knowledge Creation
Considering research as an integral component of pharmacy education, Amrita School of Pharmacy has given a lot of emphasize for research right from the undergraduate level. As we are a research-focused university, the institute tries to hire faculty with research interests and they are expected to do active research and publications. "Our research programs are focused on a wide range of areas including drug discovery, novel drug delivery systems, toxicology/ pharmacology, analytical method development, preclinical and herbal research, research on therapeutics, optimization of dosage regimen in healthcare delivery, pharmacokinetic evaluation and many more," explains Dr. Sabitha.
The institute encourages its students to publish in indexed journals and both students and faculty are encouraged to participate in various conferences and seminars conducted at different Institutions and present their papers. The University provides financial support for faculty to present in external conferences and provisions for research fellowships and seed grants are initiated to promote research. "We have excellent research facility available in the campus. Accesses to all the cutting-edge facilities enable us to do advanced research. The research facility and environment available to our faculty and students are beyond the imagination of an independent pharmacy school," claims Dr. Sabitha.
The faculty members of Amrita School of Pharmacy are actively involved in research supported by various Government funding agencies like DST, Spices board, Ministry of Earth Sciences and many more. Currently, the institute has projects worth one crore fifty-seven lakhs (157.15 lakhs) in hand and have completed projects of around fifty (50.79) lakhs. "We have a total of 32 faculty members, out of which nine are PhD holders. Those who are without a PhD are supported to pursue Ph.D in our University," adds Dr. Sabitha. The research culture makes sure that the faculty members are dynamic in the field and they update on a regular basis than simply delivering lectures on bookish knowledge.
An active clinical pharmacy team is another speciality of Amrita School of Pharmacy. Our faculty and senior Pharm D students are actively involved in various activities like patient medication management, patient counselling, anticoagulation therapy management, antibiotic stewardship programme and so on, in the 1100-bedded super speciality hospital AIMS. The extensive training and exposure in more than 22 clinical specialties during Pharm D and the active involvement as clinical pharmacists during the internship has made our Pharm D programme the best in the country.
Preparing the Students for a Better Career
Amrita School of Pharmacy always strives to impart education of international standards as envisaged in the mission statement. In addition to the regular compliance to the Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham University approved syllabus, the School has taken several initiatives to foster the development of the students. "As part of our program, ASP also seeks the guidance of industry/hospital to deliver guest lecturers to our students. IIIPC (Industrial Institutional Interaction Placement) committee is constituted in the institution that takes initiatives and implementation of the placement activities, invited talks, workshops, field visit and so on," explains Dr. Sabitha. Experts from inside and outside country that include academicians from Monasch University, Australia, Roseman University of Health Sciences, Utah, USA, University of Utah, USA and professionals from pharmaceutical companies like Orchid Pharma, Astra Zeneca and Novartis have visited the campus and delivered lectures for the students of Amrita School of Pharmacy.
Soft skill training is also given to final year students, which are aimed to refine their communication and personal skills to attend interviews and deal with situations effectively. Sessions are handled for personality development, group discussions, preparation of the resume and even mock interviews are conducted. Communicative English is taught in the first year of the programme followed by value education in all the respective years in order to improve their communication skills and moral standards respectively. "Almost 80 percent of students opt for higher studies after B.Pharm. Most of them are well placed in different Pharmaceutical companies after M.Pharm," adds Dr. Sabitha.
Today, as an institution just completed 12 years after the start of UG programme, Amrita School of Pharmacy does not have high claims on alumni positions. However, the alumni are placed well in various fields like teaching, industry R&D as well as production and quality control, hospital and retail pharmacy outside India as well as, clinical pharmacists in various leading hospitals in Kerala. "We have a long way to go. In the coming years, apart from increasing the number of M.Pharm programs and PhD students in the campus, we would be initiating international collaborations with universities to facilitate student/faculty exchange program and facilitate clinical internship for students in other countries where the clinical pharmacy services are well established and accepted," concludes Dr. Sabitha.
Dr. Sabitha M., Principal
Dr. Sabitha joined Amrita School of Pharmacy in March 2000. She completed her Bachelor's Degree in Pharmacy from St. John's Pharmacy College, Bangalore University and her Master's Degree in Pharmaceutics from Dr. Harisingh Gour Vishwavidyalaya, Sagar, M.P. (1999). She completed her Ph.D in Pharmaceutical Sciences from Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham University in 2012. She has more than 17 years of teaching and research experience and has several publications in national and international journals.