A Lesson For Young Pharmacists In Nigeria


By Pharm. (Barr.) Steve Okoronkwo, MBA, FPCpharm, FPSN

Pharm (Barr.) Steve Okoronkwo, MBA, FPCpharm, FPSN needs little or no introduction in pharmacy circle. His growing fame in the last 10 years may not be unconnected with his passion for mentorship and value-added service to pharmacy practice in general. A pharmacist by profession and a barrister by choice, the managing director of Altinez Group was among the conference planning committee that saw to the success of the last two PSN annual conventions.

In his fervid speech themed ‘The Day After’ delivered at the induction/oath-taking ceremony of Faculty of Pharmacy, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State On November 3, 2016, Okoronkwo, a Fellow of the PSN highlights why most average graduates usually turn out better than their brilliant contemporary; a myth that has continually puzzled so many business owners and human resource managers across the globe.

Pharm. (Barr.) Steve Okoronkwo, MBA, FPCpharm, FPSN



When I got a text message from Professor Esimone, the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academics) of this great University, asking of me to be the Guest Speaker for today’s event, my mind immediately wondered on what topic I may be asked to speak. The worry was heightened when Dr.  Ugwu informed me that the committee in-charge of today’s event has given me a blank cheque to speak on any topic of my choice.

Not that it made it too easy either. It is always a herculean task choosing a topic for an audience of this quality. Should I talk to the new graduates about professionalism in practice or pharmaceutical care? These are familiar areas which these young brains should be very conversant with and may even know more than the speaker. Moreover, I find myself very incompetent to speak on academic topics in the presences of professors and Ph.D holders.

Be that as it may, having confirmed my availability for today’s event, I know I owe a duty to the faculty, to the parents who are here today, to the new graduates, to the pharmacy profession and to myself to speak on a topic of interest. After much introspection, I came up with the topic which I have titled “The Day After”.  By this I mean the day after your induction/oath-taking. I may not necessarily be talking about tomorrow literally, but certainly I am referring to the days, weeks, months and even years after today’ s ceremony. I will be referring to the events and life as pharmacist.

I will be talking about a new school which your induction/oath-taking today is the matriculation ceremony in that school. This school is different from Nnamdi Azikiwe University (the Great UNIZIK). UNIZIK is a learning field. The new school is a practice/demonstration field. Here you are expected to put to practice the knowledge you have acquired in the last five or so years.  Although you are not likely to have your lecturers set exams for you again, you should bear in mind always that your colleagues, patients and society at large are your examiners. Also remember that your status in this new school is not that of students but ambassador of this great faculty and UNIZIK in general. Indeed, you are also an ambassador for the entire Pharmacy profession. Therefore, I implore you to always spare a thought for this faculty, your alma mater and your profession.

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Today precedes tomorrow. Today has come and is here with us. Tomorrow is the day after and we can never be sure of.  Therefore, we should rejoice and be glad for today is indeed the day the Lord has made. Today is a great day. Today is a day both you and your parents, even your teachers have expected and waited for. You must therefore enjoy today before we can talk of the day after. Today is one of the days you will sleep the soundest. Today will remain an epoch, one of the rare occasions in life when parents, relatives and friends proudly gather to rejoice and celebrate with you. Today is indeed a happy day because the journey you all began some 5/6 years ago has finally come to an end. Burning the midnight candle has come to an end, albeit for a moment. Today is also a day of double joy for your parents- they have been relieved from the burden of payment of your school fees and they are also proud and confirmed parents of pharmacists. Today is indeed a great day because right in this room, after your induction you will automatically become colleagues to your lecturers. I therefore say welcome to “Today”. Enjoy yourself and make the loudest noise. Walk tall and occupy space for it is your day. You are not just graduates. You are pharmacists. It is your moment in the sun.

But do not get lost in the euphoria of today. The road you travelled the last 5/6 years to get to today was straight, smooth and predictable; the journey you will embark on after today is the journey of life. I do not plan to scare you. But the road on this journey may not be smooth. It may indeed be rough, sometimes very rough. The journey of life is not predictable. It is sometimes marked with uncertainties. This is reality; this is how life happens. Welcome to the real world! Unlike the 5 year sojourn in UNIZIK, life, like Bill Gates said, is not divided into semesters.

But do not despair; indeed, you do not be afraid. Even the Holy Bible admonishes us in this regard. You have been equipped for tomorrow’s journey. Having gotten this far, there is no doubt that each of you being inducted today has what it takes to confront the future. You have been trained by some of the best pharmacy teachers in the country.  You have been confirmed to be hard working and have been found worthy both in character and in learning, otherwise you will not be here today. You have all it takes to succeed as pharmacists and you will be great, I dare say. Always remember that the only thing you need to succeed is to ‘do exactly what successful people did’ (Farouk Radwan).


A Different Strategy Is Needed

Today is here. Tomorrow is the day after and it marks the beginning of another phase in your life. Tomorrow will present new opportunities and challenges. Thus, according to Thompson (1997), the strategy that brought you to where you are today may not necessarily bring you to where you want to be tomorrow. Therefore, you must modify your strategy in response to the challenges of the new environment you will be stepping into after today.

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As students, you may have memorized the mechanisms of actions and side effects of all drugs. Ability to memorize is one of the success strategies in school. In practice, you are not going to be judged by the number of drugs you know. The society is not interested in your grades. The patient does not care whether you graduated with a Distinction or a Pass. You are now a pharmacist, not a pharmacy student. As pharmacists, your ability to memorize may not necessarily be a factor in practice.  What matters is your ability to find answers to the various drugs and health issues that you will encounter in course of practice as well as the ability to apply your knowledge for the benefit of the patient.  One reason why sometimes average students do better in practice than the very brilliant students is the inability of the students who graduated with top grades to understand that the practice terrain is different from the classroom. You need not fall victim to this trap.

Strategy, according to Chandler (1962), is to look at where you are now- and to the future and where you want to be and how you will get there. Thus, as young pharmacists, you must make distinctive choices about the area of practice you want to purse as a career. Do not choose a career option because your friends chose same. Discover a career area that you are passionate about; one that will also give you the kind of lifestyle you want. Go into that area as early as possible. Do not go on a roller-coaster, moving from community practice to academics, from academics to hospital before eventually settling for a particular area of practice. Your career is more or less your life, and life is too short for trial and error. Bear in mind that everyone has a different question paper in life. Do not hijack the question paper that is meant for another person because you may not have enough time to attend to your own question paper by the time you realize your mistake. Be wary of being a rolling stone which gathers no moss.

The practice of pharmacy has changed significantly in recent years and the society’s expectation of pharmacists has increased. Today’s pharmacists’ roles have expanded from that of compounding and dispensing to “drug therapy managers”. As young pharmacists, you need to adopt courses of action that will enable you cope with the demands of this new responsibility. One course of action which is sacrosanct for success in today’s practice of pharmacy is the requirement of life-long learning. The principle of life-long learning as a component of the “Seven-star Pharmacist” concept by WHO/FIP (2014) requires pharmacists to regularly update their knowledge and skills in order to keep up with the current trends in issues related to drug therapy management. A drug is said to expire after its shelf life so also is a pharmacist who fails to update his/her knowledge in response to the new dynamics of practice and changes in the health care landscape. As newly inducted pharmacists, your learning as young professionals starts immediately.

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Code Of Ethics As A Guide

The contemporary practice of pharmacy has shifted focus to the patient. The transformation to a patient-care oriented profession has resulted in pharmacists’ expanded role in the area of disease prevention, prevention of medication-related problem, reduction in drug-related morbidities, health promotion etc. This role expansion has raised a lot of moral, ethical and legal issues which hitherto were unknown in pharmacy practice.

As young pharmacists setting out to traverse these hitherto less traveled areas of practice, you need the code of ethics as a guide especially in resolving the ethical-legal dilemmas which inevitably will occur in the course of practice. Ensure that your best companion as far as pharmacy practice is concerned remains the “Code of Ethics for Pharmacists in Nigeria.”

Professionalism is anchored on ethical conduct. As young pharmacists, you must understand that the Code of ethics for Pharmacists in Nigeria places high premium on the patients. In fact, everything on professional pharmacy practice is summed up in one sentence namely: “A pharmacist must act in the best interest of the patient.”


Enthusiasm, Your Daily Supplement

Enthusiasm is one singular most important ingredient for achievement. Unfortunately, it is one attribute no person, not even your lecturers, can teach you. As the saying goes, your attitude determines your altitude. You have all spent the last 5-6 years as pharmacy students and classmates. Some of you graduated with distinctions. The next five years of your lives may or may not be a factor of the grade you graduated with. Rather, on the long run, your level of accomplishment in your chosen career will depend on the level of enthusiasm you bring into the practice. As young pharmacists, my recommendation to you today is Pablo’s prescription of daily vitamins.  According to Pablo, “Always Remember to take your Vitamins: Take your Vitamin A for Action, Vitamin B for Belief, Vitamin C for Confidence, Vitamin D for Discipline, Vitamin E for Enthusiasm!!”.  As pharmacists, I know our training condemns self-medication. However, may I encourage you to indulge yourself in the self-medication of the Pablo’s Vitamin E. This is because you cannot achieve anything great without enthusiasm (Ralph Waldo Emerson); enthusiasm is the electricity of life (Gordon Parks).

Finally, I want to congratulate you all today on your oath-taking/induction.  My prayer is that may the peace of God which transcends all understanding be with all of you today and the day after. Welcome to the new world, the world of pharmacy profession.


Pharm (Barr.) Steve Okoronkwo, MBA, FPCpharm, FPSN

Managing Director, The AL-TINEZ Group



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