Pharmacy and Mental Health in Malta

As I climbed down from the plane, my first impression of Malta was that it was hot. It was September 18th, and it was at least 80 degrees outside. I headed to pick up my luggage, and then met my NSTS ambassadors and was driven to my residence.  As we drove, I couldn’t take my eyes off the view out the window.  The sun shone brightly on limestone block buildings and homes set on a picturesque, terraced landscape, and this country only became more beautiful when we reached the waterfront. When I arrived at my new home, I was too excited to unpack, I couldn’t wait to explore. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of this country, the friendliness of these people, and the uniqueness of this cultural identity, a true amalgamation of so many European and Arabic influences.

Two and a half months later, I’ve only come to admire this country and its people even more. I have learned and experienced so much, and my admiration of and love for Malta has only grown. I am currently completing a co-op at Mount Carmel Hospital, the government mental health hospital in Malta. My schedule is set up so that I rotate between different community mental health clinics and day centers around Malta, as well as many different departments within Mount Carmel. In my time here, I have learned a ton about the national healthcare system, especially as it pertains to mental health patients. I have learned that there are currently trends towards treating patients in a community setting and towards healthcare professionals working in multidisciplinary teams. Of special significance to me, as a pharmacy major, was the opportunity to study the national formulary and to learn about which medications were most frequently taken by patients. Additionally, many of my co-workers have helped me to learn to speak some Maltese, an amazing language that is part Arabic and part Italian.

When I wasn’t at work, I loved to explore, sometimes on my own, and sometimes with other Northeastern students co-oping here. I’ve been able to visit the Blue Grotto- gorgeous caves along the coast, where the water is clear turquoise blue, the Hagar Qim and Mnajdra temples, some of the oldest freestanding buildings in the world, the stunning present and past capitals of Malta- Valletta, Birgu, and Mdina, an open-air market in the fishing village of Marsaxlokk, and the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen.

Another amazing part of my abroad experience is the international traveling which is facilitated by Malta’s location in the Mediterranean. So far, I have visited Sicily, Italy; Marseille, France; Stockholm, Sweden; Barcelona, Spain;  Athens, Greece; London, England; and Dublin, Ireland. Most of the time however, I’m in Malta, but even this is an opportunity to learn about more new cultures. I have been lucky enough to make new friends from Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Russia, and Argentina. One of my favorite parts of this trip has been the opportunity to get to know these new people, to see these new places, and to try so many new activities. Because of this, my new professional experience is not all that I will be taking away from my time in Malta. I will also be lucky enough to come away from this co-op abroad with a new perspective, new values, and new friendships.

Jennifer Cardone, Pharmacy