Experts in retail pharmacy in Nigeria and abroad have come together to challenge young pharmacists on how to establish themselves and also become solution providers in their communities.
The first of its kind panel session which held during the 2nd edition of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria – Young Pharmacists Group, PSN-YPG, Lagos Chapter Week, at the Welcome Centre Hotel, Airport Road, last Thursday had top solution providers like Pharm. Deji Ogunye, MD, mPharma Nig. Ltd; Mr Andrew Garza, co-founder/COO, LifeStores; Pharm. Abimbola Adebakin, CEO Advantage Health Africa; Pharm. Suleiman Sule, director, Pharmaceutical Services, Field Intelligence; and Pharm. Uzoma Ezeoke, executive director, Emzor Pharmaceutical as panelists.
Speaking on the theme: “Leveraging Pharmacies as the First Port of Call,” they stressed the importance of community pharmacists’ roles in the provision of quality healthcare and how young pharmacists can leverage their knowledge of technology and innovation to deliver value to their communities.
Sharing parts of their founding stories and challenges, the speakers challenged participants to look within the box to find local solutions to problems in their communities.
They added that the pharmacy profession is full of opportunities and they should not be discouraged by the seemingly hard situation in the country.
The panelists focused on different areas in their discussion such as providing inventory solutions to pharmacies, increased access to funding, solving logistics and supply chain problems, and providing health information to members of the community.
Speaking on how high the barrier of entry could be in some of these areas, the panelists harped on the importance of volunteering and internships in gathering the needed experience to launch into the desired fields by young pharmacists.
The experts charged pharmacists to focus more on gaining relevant experience and playing the long game when chasing their dreams.
The panelists, who are top decision makers in their organisations, reiterated their commitment to PSN-YPG and assured the association of their continued support especially with providing opportunities for her members.
On her part, the Executive Director of Emzor Pharmaceutical, urged the youngsters to take volunteering jobs more seriously, saying it is time for young pharmacists to begin to see reasons why they should render service without expectation of compensation and without coercion, adding that volunteering is about freely giving your time to help an organisation, your community, or an individual.
According to her, pharmacists nowadays have more important roles to play in the advancement of public health in the country than those of the olden days and this is done by proper volunteering.
“When it comes to volunteering, vision is very important. You must not see it as just volunteering. When you downgrade volunteering as something of lower dignity of value than a high pay job, then it simply means you are beginning to miss it.
“Volunteering simply means paying a service back. If you do it properly, it is a wonderful opportunity to get free education. It is not enough to get a degree or set of training, that is just the beginning of education.
“When you go to school or you undertake former course of study, you learn skills and you learn a body of information and how to manage certain data but the true gift of that is wisdom. When you want to volunteer you have to be clear on your vision and you can’t be counting how much you are being paid.
“Emzor takes a lot of interns/volunteers who are still in the university and they are being paid a nominal amount but Emzor is doing a lot of investment in them. Yes, you are coming in but this is the era you can learn the culture of work, learn specific skills, you will be given assignments and projects where you will be forced to take deeper thoughts and then apply the skills you have in a functional working environment”, she emphasised.
Ezeoka said volunteering is a wonderful thing, noting that it is also another word for serving and the fact is that time will pass whether you use it wisely or not.” If you use it wisely you have gotten investment that can take you to a very long way,” she noted.
When asked what would be her advice to the young pharmacists, she said young pharmacists must ride the season. “This is the season where all over this country we are calling for empowerment. If people don’t call you, call yourself,” she added.
She further said opportunity comes from within even whilst you are still trying to find out your purpose, noting that if God deposits something in your heart, it is yours to uncover and discover.
Yimika Oguns, the coordinator of PSN – YPG Lagos State Chapter also explained what informed the choice of the theme of their week: “Leveraging Pharmacies as the First Port of Call”.
According to her, most times when patients are not feeling well and they need attention, they go to the pharmacist first before they even think of going to the hospital and that is because pharmacists are always the ones patients see even before the doctors.
“The problem is how we are leveraging on it. Most times there are chronic conditions that community pharmacists could have managed well but they are not doing it. Services like family planning services, vaccination services are basics and yet pharmacists are not doing it”, Oguns added.
The Lagos PSN-YPG Coordinator further noted that being first port of call, pharmacists should not lose the chance to provide the best opportunity they can and also to improve overall perception of the profession.
She further highlighted the advantages of volunteering saying volunteering helps improving one’s prospect, adding that it gives you the experience that you need.
“Most fields, when you go in search for jobs, they ask you for experiences. But, when you volunteer with some specific organisations, you are able to acquire certain skills that you need to advance yourself professionally and helps with your CV.
“Although the payment is less than power and it can be better. One of the ways pharmacists can make it better is by providing value and not just graduating as a pharmacist and being inducted as pharmacist,” she explained.
She also gave a word of encouragement to her colleagues by telling them not to stop. She added that they shouldn’t allow anyone to box them into a corner.
Oguns remarked that Pharmacy is one of the most versatile professions, nothing that they have heard about pharmacists who are working in brands and communications, data science and the rest. “These are not just the regular pharmacists that we know. Even if you are a community pharmacist, you can still provide more value in that space,” she further added.