2020 Virtual Conference Summary and Communique

The 14th Annual Scientific Conference and Exposition of the Nigerian Association of Pharmacists and Pharmaceutical Scientists in the Americas (NAPPSA) was held Virtually on September 25-26, 2020. The conference theme was “COVID-19 Pandemic: Evolution of Science, Practice and Training”.

 The virtual conference drew participants from North America, Europe and Africa and included pharmacists, pharmaceutical scientists, physicians and nurses from academia, industry and retail pharmacy in the US and Nigeria. Also present were representatives from our institutional partners, including the Nigerian Center for Disease Control (NCDC), Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas (ANPA), and National Association of Nigerian Nurses in North America (NANNNA).

The virtual exhibitors included DeliverSTAT, Auburn, Flash returns and Panaasa Legacy Group LLC. As is customary with NAPPSA conferences and participants earned 12 pharmacy continuing education (CE) credit hours. The continuing pharmacy education was sponsored by the Nova Southeastern University College of Pharmacy in partnership with NAPPSA

This was the first Virtual conference to be hosted by NAPPSA and included 17 scheduled presentations and roundtable discussions. In his conference opening remarks, the NAPPSA President, Dr. Anthony Ikeme, pointed out that the thematic focus of 2020 conference is a continuation of the role NAPPSA has played in thought leadership over the cause of the pandemic.   According to him, NAPPSA took a front row seat in everything COVID, through out the year. We participated in the discussion and dissemination of scientific clarity about COVID-19. From educating the public about the disease, emerging therapeutics, to the socio-economic implications of COVID-19, NAPPSA provided thought leadership through press statements, letters to congress, government agencies, and via collaborative inter-organizational initiatives. He thanked the Program Committee for their creativity and innovativeness in making the virtual conference a reality.

This was followed by a session on Academic learning Challenges and Adaptations during a Pandemic that was moderated by Drs Okezie I Aruoma and Teresa Pounds. The presentation included the appraisal of the Learning challenges during a Global Pandemic and How to Cope: The preceptor and Student Perspectives by Victoria Oshunkentan and Dr Ucheoma Nwizu. Their presentation highlighted examples of the adaptations being made by pharmacy experiential educators to their teaching and instructional design to ensure competency in pharmacy professional activities. The presentation benchmarked the timeline of the COVID – 19 pandemic and how it impacted Pharmacy Education in the US and Nigeria. This thread was continued by Dr Adebayo Adejare, who presented on COVID-19: Consequences for Higher Education and Training. Among the aspects discussed was the adaptation of traditional face-to-face to remote instructions and positioning laboratory classes so that desired skills are acquired by the students remotely. The presentation highlighted the importance of academicians to maintain the research and scholarly activities agenda during the pandemic and beyond. Dr Aloysius Ibe discussed the Optimization of e-Healthcare Technologies for Mitigation of COVID-19 Pandemic in Africa. He reviewed the use of digital health technologies in Africa at various stages of COVID-19 outbreak, including data-driven disease surveillance, screening, triage, diagnosis, and monitoring to control the spread of the disease.

Dr Anthony Ikeme introduced the keynote speaker Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, the Director General and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Center for Disease Control (NCDC). The keynote lecture entitled, Nigeria’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic: Lessons and Future Plans. Dr Ihekweazu provided a detailed outline of Nigeria’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He also outlined the future plans to enhance Nigeria’s preparedness for medical emergencies including improvements in surveillance for COVID-19, enhancement of the Nigeria’s diagnostic capacity, and strengthening of research capacity and output to inform better decisions going into the future. In closing, Dr Ihekwazu noted that: “Covid-19 has taught us that global health is no longer defined by Western nations and must also be guided by Africa and Asia, and that international solidarity is an essential response and a superior approach to isolationism”.

The second Session of the virtual conference focused on COVID-19 on Patient Care and Therapeutics and was moderated by Dr Patrick Nwakama. The session presentations were from Drs Uche Anadu Ndefoe, Jessica Njoku Kesene, Itoro Ibia and Leo Egbujiobi. Dr Ndefo addressed

Clinical and Therapeutic Considerations for Anticoagulation in Patients with COVID-19. Dr Njoku-Kesene discussed Treatment of Coronavirus Disease 2019: Investigational Drugs and Other Therapies and describe drug treatment options that could have efficacy in treating COVID-19 based on knowledge of SARS-CoV-2 viral structure and pathogenesis. The presentation by Dr Egbujiobi focused on the Medical impact of COVID-19 on Healthcare Workers and Health Systems and reviewed consequences of the disease which included pneumonia/respiratory failure, constitutional symptoms, gastro-intestinal symptoms – diarrhea, thrombo-embolism, acute kidney failure, cardiovascular injuries, and cerebrovascular accident. Hematologic and immune system-related manifestations of COVID-19 were reviewed and centered on laboratory markers, arterial thrombotic complications, catheter-related thrombosis, and cytokine-release syndrome. Finally, Dr Ibia’s presentation titled Community Mental Health during COVID-19, focused on the worsening incidence of mental health issues associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Of note was the fact that young adults and individuals who identified as Black and/or Hispanic, reported disproportionately worse mental health outcomes compared to other groups.

The second day of the virtual conference was as enlightening and began with a well-received session and panel discussion on COVID-19: Economic Impact and Opportunities, moderated by Dr Chinyere Anyanwu. The first presentation by Mr Emmanuel Ezirim, President of the Central Point Pharmacy, Columbus Ohio, titled “Economic Impact of Coronavirus and How Pharmacy Business Owners can Weather the Healthcare Crisis’ focused on entrepreneurship in pharmacy business and how business owners can leverage the business opportunities being made available in the current environment.  This was followed by a session focused on Navigating the Job Market during Downsizing, Restructuring and Layoffs jointly presented by Mr Andrew Barrett, Ms Nneka Ejere of Genoa Health, Dallas Texas and Dr Nnamdi M Ezenyi of Wal-Mart Office Home Office, Midlands, Texas. The presentation was followed with a roundtable, Economic Survival During a Pandemic, that highlighted the need for those currently navigating the challenging job market to ensure their experiences, skills and other relevant background are appropriately showcased on all application materials including their curricula vitae, cover letters and LinkedIn profiles. The discussants included Mr Ezirim, Mr Barret, Mr Iheme, Ms Ejere as well as Drs Tometi and Ezenyi.

The NAPPSA conference also explored implications of the ongoing pandemic on pharmaceutical R&D, manufacturing, and regulatory science.  This eminent session was chaired by Dr Chinyere Onyebuchi and featured presentations from Drs Simon Agwale, Eddy Agbo, Olu Aloba and Chinyere Anyaogu. Presentations and deliberations focused on the vitally important development of COVID-19 vaccine candidates and the likelihood of access to approved vaccines for African states; understanding COVID-19 diagnostic testing; drug repurposing for COVID-19 treatment; and the COVID-19 surge experience in New York City.  These discussions made clear the criticality of diagnostics, vaccines and therapies as essential components of the suite of solution needed to overcome COVID-19.  While Dr. Agwale presentation, Vaccine Development for COVID-19, highlighted the power of vaccines for reversing the COVID-19 transmission rate and trend, Dr Agbo’s presentation, titled,  COVID-19: Diagnostic Testing Now & Beyond, focused on the key considerations for designing a diagnostic test that can potentially enable COVID-19 diagnostics and biomarker selection.

Following that, Dr Aloba’s presentation, titled Drug repurposing for COVID-19: Pharmaceutical Development Perspective, discussed the potential role drug repurposing can play in the discovery of new therapeutic indications. In particular, he discussed the processes of redirecting, repositioning, and reprofiling as ways of accelerating the discovery of old drugs that could potentially treat new indications. Finally, Dr Chinyere Anyaogu’s presentation entitled, Surviving the COVID-19 Surge: Lessons from ground zero, NYC describe the timeline of COVID-19 evolution in NYC, and the implication for the city healthcare infrastructure as the cases rose in New York. The session concluded by recognizing the importance of collaboration amongst all stakeholders (Physicians, Pharmacists, Nurses, and Scientists) to bring about a return to normalcy and a post-pandemic world.