What is Creative Waves 2007 - Visualising Issues in Pharmacy (VIP) Project?

The VIP project was an international fully online education initiative designed to link students and their teachers from pharmacy and design departments globally. Hosted by The Omnium Research Group and written in collaboration with the School of Pharmacy (University of Auckland, NZ) and the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales (Australia), the project aimed to challenge a diverse, international body of students and educators in addressing important global health issues that are of critical concern in Kenya, namely malaria, tuberculosis, sexually transmitted diseases, immunisation, chronic disease and adherence to medicines.

Through the production of detailed reports on the various issues, the VIP project aimed to emphasise the important role played by pharmacists in the health and welfare of social communities in the developing world and promote increased social awareness and proactive involvement worldwide amongst students, pharmacists, health organisations, professional bodies and education institutions.  

View the project website or enter as a visitor to the site.

Why did you choose to collaborate in this way?

The prospect of producing, coordinating and facilitating such a project not only allowed for pharmacy students from around the world to find resourceful ways to assist communities in need, but also aimed to develop an association between Health Sciences and Design disciplines. To our knowledge such an initiative had not taken place over distance previously and added to the complexity and great interest of this venture.

These opportunities created could not have been achieved operating independently, or through traditional alliances, and added to the philosophical aims for collaboration between education institutions.

What was achieved?

Following completion of the pharmacy phase of the project, seven ‘super-teams' produced detailed research reports covering all six assigned health issues. These reports were subsequently used by the design students culminating in three main design ideas, which included football shirts and shorts with a ‘Stop HIV' message; a collection of educational malaria cards in the form of a board game; and various stickers with health messages for use in health centres, hospitals and public places. These resources are currently being used in the village to raise health awareness.

Many saw the VIP project as an opportunity to meet like-minded individuals and having contact with mentors and special guests with great set of skills and expertise to draw from, helped keep them motivated.

A strong theme emerging amongst students was the significance of teamwork and several pharmacy students viewed VIP as a springboard for future collaborations. The project "opened the eyes" of many participants to the health and social situation in a place where few might physically travel to. Pharmacy students enjoyed the chance to think more visually and creatively about problems using pictograms and visual concept mapping as examples on how to tackle low health literacy issues.

Take a look at some of the designs students came up with:

What were the challenges?

The voluntary nature of the project posed some challenges with respect to inconsistent contribution from team members, and in most cases the remaining students were under pressure to keep discussions going. This became increasingly difficult when individual discussion threads became large and unmanageable. Time coordination was especially challenging with almost half of all pharmacy students experiencing difficulty and certain technical difficulties, including power failures and inconsistent Internet access in certain developing countries, impacted on their motivation to participate. The project did not reach all of its objectives and some students felt that information overload might have affected their involvement.

Despite these challenges, only one pharmacy student claimed to be dissatisfied with their overall experiences of the project and felt it did not meet their expectations.

What were the lessons learned or suggestions for others?

The significance of teamwork and collaboration within and across disciplines was apparent in the VIP project and encouraged multi-directional dialogue among participants and mentors to promote sharing of ideas. 

In health, the VIP project could be used as an online learning platform to:

  • create social awareness of health issues in other countries
  • learn about different cultural perspectives and potential barriers to health aid
  • explore health professions around the world
  • consider different scientific and creative perspectives to healthcare
  • access international healthcare experts around the globe
  • provide an efficient and effective way of providing health resources

The limitations and difficulties of online learning environments such as lack of consistent contribution should be considered in future projects to increase participation and limit project fatigue.

Who was involved?

VIP involved over 200 participants from around the world including 68 pharmacy students representing 24 countries and 36 mentors from 13 countries. From these, 20 students and 5 mentors were from African nations. Graphic design participants also came from around the globe.

Six Auckland students were involved as part of a compulsory fourth year elective project. Five Auckland faculty staff also took part as project coordinators.

If you would like to find out more about this item, contact

Nataly Martini

Some of the feedback from students

A wonderful international exposure to global health issues and like-minded individuals.

The past few weeks have been intense and a truely rewarding experience. It's great to know that there are other Pharmacy students taking the step outside the ordinary curriculum and look at experiencing something different! Omnium was such an innovative way of focussing our energy - and you can imagine all of our 6 minds beavering away to a really solid piece of teamwork.

I learnt a lot about Kenya and its peoples' lives, pharmacy and health care system in different parts of the globe, I learnt a lot about adherence itself, which had rather been only a term for me before. (Conveniently, on the first two weekends I was reading many of the materials on "How to improve adherence/and the role of a pharmacist" being on duty in a pharmacy, so I could at the very time try some techniques and at least think of my responsibilities and passing the messages to the individual patients in the right way...:))

The greatest benefit that I fetched was the realization of the significance of teamwork. Surely the best way to overcome obstacles is the team spirit. There are many challenges in the world that can only be surmounted when people work together.

The VIP project has been great in the sense that I did not just learn about the problems STI has in kenya but I also learnt about how people do day to day things. How things affect people, I never really realised how badly this illness has affected people. But knowing this really motivated me to do soemthing to stop it. One of the things that I took away from this project is to not look at how much you have but to realise that you in such a good position to help others and make a real difference. Its given me a way of better understanding the needs of people in Africa and what really needs to be done. I also learnt that there are people who are doing great jobs out there and they need support to strenghten areas.