Since the late 1980s, Laos has gradually opened up to the world and modernised. Nevertheless, its public health and education needs were still substantial when it sought the help in 2004 of Fondation Pierre Fabre: its human development index had it ranked 133rd out of 177 countries.
Impressed by the Foundation’s work in Cambodia, the Laotian government – and, more specifically, the Minister of Health, Dr Pomnek Dalaloy – asked it to support the country’s development by rehabilitating the Vientiane Faculty of Pharmacy. The school did indeed lack proper premises, scientific equipment and qualified teachers. Nothing was in place that would be conducive to a quality educational experience. An initial partnership agreement was signed on 10 May 2005 and the Foundation embarked on the project with a threefold challenge before it: to fully satisfy the request, but, more importantly, to rally local youth around this renaissance and give the institution wings to fly on its own.
It subsidised renovation of various buildings that officially opened in 2008: 900m² of offices, labs and lecture rooms, a library, and more. At the same time, aided by the expertise of Professor Jean Cros, the Foundation audited the educational content, establisehd dialogue with local teachers, and forged a partnership with French universities to improve the curriculum: laboratory exercises were developed and the syllabi of the major disciplines were revamped. Lastly, the Foundation financed and organised teachings assignments from France, mainly to train trainers and in close partnership with the French government (Coopération française).
Today, the Vientiane Faculty has demonstrated its great value. It has been, for example, an integral element of the Master Mekong Pharma since 2012 and, in 2014, it welcomed the students of the third Master’s programme. Fondation Pierre Fabre nonetheless continues to support its development by granting scholarships, funding initial training, as well as hosting a joint laboratory shared by the Paul Sabatier University (Toulouse III) and the IRD (Institut de recherche pour le développement). All this means excellent Laotian candidates can pursue the Master’s and more drug specialists can be trained to meet Laos’ public health needs.