For pharmacy graduates forcing doors open is essential.
Over 30 years ago I made the decision to study pharmacy at Nottingham University, with little understanding of what was involved. It was a passion for applied science, and my boyfriend of the time (he was in geology, next door to the pharmacy department), that sealed my fate. Hardly the calling to discover the next blockbuster, cure disease or change the pharmacy world, but studying pharmacy and becoming a pharmacist have been two of my best decisions.
I qualified as a pharmacist following a rewarding pre-registration year with Merck, Sharp and Dohme combined with Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge. Following a spell in community pharmacy, I joined GSK in the 1990s, enjoying 12 years in industry. I have since operated in most sectors of the profession and remain passionate about the opportunities for pharmacists in pharma and the contribution we can make to the medicines development pathway.
The young ones
Keen to understand how the younger generation feel about pharmacy as a career choice, particularly within industry, I asked current British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association (BPSA) President, Stephen Messham, why he chose pharmacy as a degree and what opportunities there will be for young pharmacists in the next five years. “I was attracted to pharmacy because of the opportunity to combine my passion for science with my skill for dealing with people. There wasn’t another career option which gave fundamental training in both those areas.”
“I believe opportunities for newly qualified pharmacists are increasingly diverse. There will still be traditional paths of community and hospital pharmacy, but there are also opportunities within general practice, as well as graduate schemes in industry, the NHS, and other organisations for which pharmacists are well-qualified.”
“We also really understand the patient and the science behind therapeutics and we are the unique ‘bridge’ between them.”
I agree, graduates in pharmacy are well placed to work in industry and with their specialist skills can be deployed in a variety of potential roles, from drug research and development, clinical trials, manufacturing, registration, medical information, through to sales and marketing.
Despite the attractions for individuals and industry, the majority of pharmacists choose to work in other sectors and, as a result, more must be done to attract pharmacists into the industry. Stephen believes earlier exposure to students about what pharmacists in industry are currently doing would be a great start.
He also suggests pharmacists working within the industry should be ambassadors, talking to students, especially those who have different entry routes into industry. Other initiatives could include more work experience and shadowing roles open to pharmacy graduates, reflecting the unique nature of the pharmacist pre-registration year. “I challenge all companies to offer shorter summer placements, experience days and other events which tap into the high-quality cohort of pharmacy students,” Stephen says.
Stephen is currently on the first rotation of GSK’s Pharmaceutical Science Graduate Scheme within the Manufacturing division and has two more rotations in the programme before he considers a permanent role.
There is certainly more choice than 30 years ago and arguably a greater need for pharmacists’ contribution when it comes to how medicines are discovered and ultimately used. Pharmacy continues to be an excellent career choice for individuals who want to have an exceptional scientific education, involvement with patients and a professional qualification.
Like me, individuals can experience an exciting and varied career working in different sectors, while helping people live longer, healthier lives.
Deborah Evans is Managing Director of Pharmacy Complete, a specialist consultancy and training company working with pharmacy. Go to pharmacycomplete.org or email email@example.com. Thanks to Stephen Messham for his contribution.