MyDispense honoured in AFR higher education awards

Keith Sewell, Marian Costelloe, Keenan Beaumont

The MyDispense team (L-R): Keith Sewell, Senior Project Manager of Learning Technologies; Marian Costelloe, Faculty General Manager; Keenan Beaumont, Lead Software Developer.

A virtual pharmacy platform designed by the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at Monash University, and embraced by more than 220 schools of pharmacy globally, has been named a winner in The Australian Financial Review Higher Education Awards.

My Dispense, a free online simulation that helps provide a safe environment for students to hone their medication skills, took out the Teaching and Learning Excellence category in the high-profile awards announced on November 4.

The AFR awards span eight categories and are judged by a panel of higher education experts. They aim to highlight the tremendous contribution the sector makes to Australia’s prosperity and quality of life.

MyDispense was first developed in 2010 to help students put their theoretical knowledge into practice, without the serious consequences of a real-world error.

Unsafe medication practices and errors are a leading cause of injury and avoidable harm in healthcare systems around the world.

Prior to MyDispense, Monash pharmacy students used a “mock pharmacy”, in which they could undertake professional role play with medications. However there were some drawbacks to this model, such as high resourcing costs and difficulty in providing equal access across large groups of students.

Meanwhile, the MyDispense simulation tool gives students full dispensing experience – from initial communication with the patient and prescriber, through to providing professional advice when handing medicine over to patients.

From the very beginning, even though it’s still run by just two hardworking staff members, MyDispense was designed to have international reach.

“While pharmacy schools worldwide began to show interest early in the piece, particularly in the United States, the real surge in uptake began when the global pandemic arrived,” said Keith Sewell, Senior Project Manager of Learning Technologies.

In 2020, as COVID-19 hit and many universities rapidly switched to online teaching, demand for the tool skyrocketed.

MyDispense is now used in 41 countries, with more than 41,000 students logging in a total of 560,000 times.

Mr Sewell said it was an honour to receive the AFR award, which recognised the simulation tool as a force for good.

One of the foundation principles of MyDispense is that it will always be free for educational use.

“This really does make it unique, because it ensures equity of access for everyone,” Mr Sewell said.

“Students of resource-poor Pharmacy Schools in the developing world can use the same high-quality product that students of Ivy League, Russell Group and Go8 institutions have access to.

“We firmly believe that Monash’s ‘pay-it-forward’ ethos is having a huge positive impact on the pharmacy education world as the MyDispense family continues to grow.”

Faculty Dean, Professor Arthur Christopoulos BPharm, PhD, FAA FAHMS, congratulated the MyDispense team on the award, noting the tool had been an incredible success story.

“So far, more than 1.5 million exercises have been completed on MyDispense,” said Professor Arthur Christopoulos.

“That represents an enormous number of pharmacy students who we are helping to further their skills, and ensure their future patients are well looked after no matter where in the world they find themselves.”

Throughout the years, MyDispense has been customised and translated to create regional versions that reflect local pharmacy practice in countries including Australia, the US, UK, Hong Kong, Germany, Turkey, New Zealand, Ireland, South Africa, Sweden and Malaysia.

Want to help support MyDispense into the future? Consider donating here.