A new program is helping to fill a gap in pharmacy teaching and assist new pharmacists to give better advice to customers.
The innovative program at the University of Newcastle is equipping pharmacists with the skills to accurately diagnose and treat patients' minor illnesses, relieving the pressure on our health system.
Dr David Newby said the program was focused on the concept of evidence based medicine.
"When presented with a script at a pharmacy, the pharmacist fills it. When someone does not have a script but needs help to treat a minor condition, the pharmacist needs to apply evidence based medicine to recommend appropriate treatments based on safety, effectiveness and customer preferences.
"My program teaches students the skills to do this. We practice these skills through developing scenarios in class and also the students' clinical placements.
"While pharmacists will never replace the medical care provided by doctors, they can help take the pressure off our health system by assisting customers with minor illnesses such as reflux, coughs and colds, headaches, minor sprains and skin irritations."
In recognition of the program, Dr Newby has been awarded a Citation from the prestigious Australian Learning and Teaching Council.
Dr Newby's Citation for outstanding contributions to student learning is one of five for the University of Newcastle.
Also receiving national recognition are Ruth Gresham and Jeannette Walsh for helping Muslim students settle into University life, and educating all students about religious and cultural difference.
Associate Professor Marj Kibby received a Citation for her work with students of film, media and cultural studies - integrating social media into her teachings to connect students' in-class learning with their out-of-class lives.
Thayaparan Gajendran and Debbie Booth have been recognised for their online learning tool that helps students understand academic integrity and how it relates to their studies. Leanne Brown's Citation recognises her development of professional practice placements and support programs for nutrition and dietetics students.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic and Global Relations), Professor Kevin McConkey said each Citation reflected the recipients' contributions to excellent teaching.
"These Citations are among the most competitive higher education awards in Australia.
"They are awarded to staff whose passion and commitment have made a significant contribution to the quality of student learning over time."
Recipients will be presented with their citations at a ceremony at the NSW Art Gallery in Sydney on Tuesday 11 August 2009.