Fulbright Reflections: Together Shaping the Future (#FulbrightFinland75)

Written By: Nicole Brandt, PharmD, MBA, BCGP, FASCP, executive director of the Peter Lamy Center for Drug Therapy and Aging and professor of practice, sciences, and health outcomes research

This is the final post in a three-part weekly series focused on Dr. Brandt’s work in Finland. Read part one on “Expanding Collaborations in Finland to Improve Medication Use and Safety for Older Adults” and part two on “Oppia ikä kaikki – The Finnish Version of ‘Live and Learn.'”

For those who know me, I am all about creating an agenda, a plan, and a timeline to meet objectives. In my first blog, I outlined objectives to help chart my journey during my time in Finland. The second blog indexed learnings and lessons focusing on health care policies and opportunities for collaboration. This third blog installment allows me to verbalize my takeaways and appreciation.

I really appreciated Minna Lindgren meeting me for coffee to talk about her advocacy work focusing on caregivers for persons with dementia. She was awarded an honorary doctorate at the University of Helsinki in May 2023 as an author and journalist, among other amazing dignitaries such as C. Alan Lyles, ScD, MPH, BSP ’80, professor in the School of Public and International Affairs and School of Health and Human Services at the University of Baltimore. Minna’s books get at important age-related topics in a creative and thought-provoking way.

Nicole Brandt sharing coffee with Minna Lindgren.

During the last week of my fellowship, the weather in Helsinki was quite treacherous with fluctuating temperatures leading to very icy conditions. Fortunately, by Wednesday, we were provided hiking spikes for our shoes during the outdoor excursions. These conditions did not affect our productivity or ability to meet, whether in person or via Zoom. The worst day was Monday, but it afforded time to collaborate on the recommendations and next steps for our work.

  • Nicole Brandt with a group in front of a Helsinki sign.
  • Nicole Brandt working in a cafe with Marja Airaksinen

On Tuesday and Wednesday, I met with other Fulbright awardees to learn more about the program’s 75-year history, as well as receive my Fulbright pin from Terhi Mölsä, chief executive officer at the Fulbright Finland Foundation.

Nicole Brandt receiving her Fulbright pin from Terhi Mölsä.

On Thursday and Friday, we held two virtual seminars to discuss community pharmacies as part of primary care in the United States, challenges in community pharmacists’ work duties, availability of workforce, potential solutions to challenges, aging in place, and how to improve medication safety and outcomes for older Finns.

  • Nicole Brandt on virtual calls to discuss community pharmacy.
  • Virtual seminars from Nicole Brandt's Fulbright Finland trip.

Reflections from a 3-week Fulbright Specialist Visit in Finland

As I return from my 21 days in Finland working with and learning from fellow professionals, community members, and trainees, I am very grateful for this occasion to reflect and focus. This experience has “reenergized my battery” but more importantly it reinforced the importance of taking time to connect with others to “shape the future together.”

There are many to thank, but I want to give a special thanks to Profs. Marja Airaksinen and Alan Lyles for their mentorship and friendship, which made this journey possible, and to the Fulbright Finland team for their support. I am looking forward to the continued work and collaboration that will ensue after this effort to make Finland a more “age friendly” country, leveraging the role of pharmacists as part of the interprofessional team, and increasing the participation of older adults and those that care for them.

  • Nicole Brandt and Marja Airaksinen
  • Materials from Nicole Brandt's time in Finland.

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