Pharm. (Mrs) Scholastica Mnena Lan is the newly elected national chairman, Association of Lady Pharmacists (ALPs). She had previously served the association in different capacities, including assistant national secretary ALPs (National); chairman, ALPs Lagos State; vice-chairman, ALPs, Lagos State; CPC member, ALPs Biennial Conferences, 2011, 2016, 2021, and 2022; member, ALPs National Research Committee; member, ALPs National Mentoring Committee; and member, ALPs Lagos Cancer Campaign Committee.
In this exclusive interview with Temitope Obayendo, she outlines the goals her administration has set out to achieve for the association.
Congratulations on your election as the new ALPs chairman. Can you tell us how you emerged the sole candidate for the position?
My interest in this position sprang from the desire to serve, as well as contribute my own ideas to the continuous advancement of all that ALPs stands for. That I have been a part of the growing years of the association is evident; and so, having someone who has walked the journey through the developmental years to continue with the legacies established overtime is most appropriate. That is why I offered myself to serve.
I find this to be one of the most honourable moments of my professional practice and I promise not to betray this trust and confidence. ALPs has a pool of very skilled and result-oriented members, from which anyone could have taken up the headship of the association. And, of course, many others are very qualified to be considered but for reasons best known to posterity, I was a sole candidate. I am grateful for the overwhelming support and confidence reposed in me by the various age strata across the association.
I would say that being a sole candidate was probably because my colleagues saw in me some qualities and attributes that gave them the confidence in my capacity and capability to steer the affairs at the highest level. There was an electoral committee that screened applications of those who expressed interest in position. Only those who met the criteria set out by the committee were listed. I cannot say if there were other contenders or not because I only saw the final list after the screening and noted that I was a sole candidate. This was a great encouragement to me.
What is your vision for the association within your tenure?
The association’s leadership positions run for a period of two years and one can be re-elected for a second term of another two years, based on performance and how much value addition ALPs has had in the course of the leadership. So, I am hopeful that NEC members and I will see these first two years as a time to sow all the best we can into the coordination and delivery of the association’s mandate, so that we will stand a good chance of being re-elected at the next Biennial Conference.
By the end of my tenure, I hope to see an ALPs that has coverage across the 36 states of the country. Currently, we are active in 27 states and the FCT. ALPs has the potential of winning international and development grants through well packaged proposals. ALPs can work with international NGOs and development partners to reach millions of persons in need because most of ALPs programmes have a humanitarian connotation.
We will explore this idea greatly and get our diverse experts to respond to some calls and do impactful interventions in our communities. I know our sisters in similar healthcare professions benefit greatly from such and are sought after by the partners. We must be on this path too because we have great potentials.
I hope to see an ALPs that her members will be proud of her achievements and be willing to advocate her cause to other relevant partners and networks because the association has to be recognised for excellence, service and professionalism. ALPs has come a long way, such that her global image, relevance and impact must be felt across board. We may have local presence but global endorsement and patronage will further strengthen our impact and gains.
The world is very connected with ICT. At the touch of a button, we can reach diverse partners and stakeholders that we can leverage through strategic partnerships. We just need to have appropriate and convincing advocacy tools that can have our mission, vision and deliverables explicitly expressed.
The evidence of our activities abounds and we need to have documents showcasing us in a more strategic way, revealing all that our great association has done over the years. I hope to see an ALPs that will be able to mentor young females to attain quality professional skills and characters that will make them stand out among their peers. It is important to note that there is content in character.
ALPs was created as an advocacy group of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria. We must take this task more seriously so that we will fill in any gaps. Our advocacy must be such that can influence programmes and policies in favour of Pharmacy and of course our primary target, women and girls.
What are the innovations you are bringing on board for the association?
The transition of leadership of the association from a team of very dedicated, hardworking and purpose-driven women and colleagues to another set of energetic lovers of the ALPs – led by my humble self, and driven by passion and desire to get ALPs and the practice of Pharmacy to greater heights – is quite outstanding.
We will not be reinventing the wheel but rather build on the solid, credible and prestigious works our past leaders and founding mothers have put in place. ALPs has become a household name in many states of the country because of the impactful societal, educational, medical, and humanitarian interventions carried out by previous leaderships and the state branches too. These have had positive life outcomes on persons reached.
I am eternally grateful to my immediate past national chairman, a woman of great ideas and foresight – Pharm. Victoria Ukwu, FPSN – who has made very giant strides that have set ALPs as a brand to be sought after. I will also not forget past national leaders, the immediate past NEC members, and state excos who, working together and individually, made great efforts to maintain the tempo of excellence and service.
In the professional sector, ALPs has her pride of place because of the networks and partnerships she has established over time. This can only get better with the support of members, young and old. Our parent body, the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria and her technical arms/interest groups have been very supportive of ALPs over the years.
This executive team will naturally align with the goodwill enjoyed over the years and make the bonds stronger and more endearing. Alone, we can do very little. We as executives need prayers, support in cash and kind, and the cooperation of all. We hope to preach the “I CAN” spirit into all members and partners so that together we will achieve much more.
Some of my aspirations for ALPs are as follows: Ensure that each state branch celebrates outstanding ALPians who have distinguished themselves; improve access of young lady pharmacists placement in internship slots through our dialogue with colleagues in places that offer such; work with young lady pharmacists to guide them through purposeful career processes and procedures so that they get to the zenith with integrity and professionalism; increase recognition of ALPS achievements by having them shared with strategic partners and attracting partnerships and collaboration.
We are working on new ideas and these will evolve in the course of our tenure.
It has been observed that most lady pharmacists are not into manufacturing, with the majority being in retail pharmacy. What can you say about this?
The various practice settings found in the profession can be adopted by anyone but it has to be a matter of interest first and attainment of the requisite skills and capacity. Having said that, I think the production sector demands some level of postgraduate training to fit into all that is desired. Also, I suspect that the working conditions probably do not align well with ladies as many of them start families immediately upon graduation and so need time to raise the home front.
Also, I have a feeling the production sector seems to discriminate against employment of females (my opinion please). Most of them require stringent qualifications and competencies and years of experience with very stringent work conditions too. The production sector also demands that there is continuous supervision of lines of production and so feel ladies may not be able to withstand the rigours. I can only request that this sector create an enabling environment to attract interest among the young ones while they are still in training.
The production sector does not also market itself to young graduates, so I guess many who should be interested do not have much information about what to expect, should they desire to go that line. Companies can organise company visits for students in pharmacy schools or the YPG or indeed any pharmacist interested, so their eyes and minds can be broadened to make informed decisions regarding that arm of professional practice.
Observation also shows most state branches have more of elderly members than younger and vibrant ladies. How do you hope to bridge this gap?
This observation is very correct but there is a tidal wave running through the association as was seen at the recently concluded Biennial Conference in Lagos State. I was quite impressed with the passion, zeal and level of involvement of the young ALPians and I really appreciate them. They gave so much fun to the activities of the conference and I have been requesting branches to ensure that this flame and passion does not die down.
In every profession or human endeavour, there is a mentoring/tutelage stage. I am an older member but I had to go through training and encouragement by the senior lady pharmacists who have been a part of the journey through the years. We must learn to take things through the right path. Of course only when one makes herself available that she can be mentored. I use this opportunity to request our young ones to embrace ALPs in each state they are resident in, they will not regret.
I know some young ones have expressed concerns about the senior colleagues not allowing them time off work to attend ALPs activities while those who have not bought into the ALPs dream do not support participation at all. We value the fact that time is important in the management of organisations and so would not encourage absenteeism or indolence. However, we need the support and presence of members at activities and meeting. We request understanding and support.
Some of the steps we have taken as an association through branches to breach this gap include: Ensuring participation at the induction ceremony of faculties of pharmacy, with special interest in the females. The Lagos State branch has done this excellently. Other branches will certainly key into this project. We have a mentoring committee and have developed a mentoring document, which highlights the expectations of the mentor and mentee and what benefits that accrue. We shall have this document shared among our branches.
We are establishing a relationship with the Young Pharmacists Group (YPG), which interestingly has a female as the national president. We celebrate her, in fact, she was invited to the handover ceremony we had recently and we will discuss how to engage her and the YPG better. States are encouraged to celebrate outstanding young female pharmacists. Overall best graduating female student was celebrated in the past and I hope to revive this.
Branches make advocacy visits to organisations and heads of departments to request their support and many of them have responded favourably. Some places have schedules that share out the staff across the activities of ALPs and other technical groups and each member who attends writes a report and shares with colleagues.
The older colleagues too are duly recognised and given their place of honour in ALPs; so this can serve as a motivation. These are just a few. We can explore other innovative ways to break through this challenge.
What is your special message to your members across the country?
A greater ALPs of our dreams and of which we can all be proud of is what we all aspire for. Alone we can do very little; we need all hands on deck. We are open to ideas and suggestions. We can be reached at all times, should any member have something that can make ALPs gain more grounds.
We must have it at the back of our minds that ALPs is a project for us all and we must keep the focus of a successful and impactful association that will stand the test of time. Thank you all for the confidence reposed in the executive and it is our promise and bond to maintain integrity and accountability.
God will grant us wisdom, grace, and enablement from above, and favour with men and women of goodwill.