This article was drawn from the address that should have been presented at an event by the Young Pharmacists Group (PSN-YPG). I had been invited by the Group’s Lagos coordinator, Funmbi Okoya, whom I have known since his days as PANS president at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), and I can say, without any reservation, that he is like the proverbial smart kid who knows how to wash his hands clean and therefore deserves to dine with the elders.
I am also excited about the new leadership that is coming from PSN-YPG and from close quarters, I can say the future of Pharmacy is safe in your hands. They had chosen a contemporary and apt topic which really indicates their desire to move the profession forward. I want to assure the YPG that many of the older colleagues, myself inclusive, are one with you in this laudable endeavour and will be willing to render support as may be desired.
Strength and unity
Strength, in the common parlance, is described as “the quality or state of being physically strong”. For the purpose of this discussion, however, we will look at strengths as tasks or activities that you can do well. These encompass areas of knowledge, proficiencies, skills and talents. You can complete work or relate with others using these traits and abilities. However, nothing beats a team player, the ability to work well with others is an indicator of success.
The evidence of unity or togetherness is all around us: animals cannot produce their offspring without the male and female coming together. The tree cannot bear fruits without some ingredients from the sun, the land, the atmosphere and efforts of the vineyard dresser.
Let us look at the broom which we use for cleaning purposes in homes and offices. It is a symbol of strength in unity. It is when the broom sticks are bonded together that they become a broom. As a separate items, each of the broom sticks is weak and almost useless. Unity yields a positive result as the result of the union is better than that of the individuals.
Closer home, in Pharmacology, we talk of addition, potentiation or synergy when two substances are used together. According to Haile Selassie, “History teaches us that unity is strength, and cautions us to submerge and overcome our differences in the quest for common goals, to strive, with all our combined strength, for the path to true African brotherhood and unity.”
To date, Africa remains largely underdeveloped because the clarion calls like that of Selassie and those after him are not heeded. There is no time that can be more crucial than now when the household of pharmacy in Nigeria needs to find strength in unity.
We can do much more if we are united in pursuing a common goal. We are pharmacists of different backgrounds, orientations, cultures, pedigrees, aspirations, languages, ideas and knowledge, who should be joined together in the pursuit of rendering the best pharmaceutical services to the teaming population of Nigerians in need.
It should also be our common goal to pursue ethical pharmacy practice and equitable share of the wealth associated with the profession. It is in unity that we will find the strength to fight for professional recognition and empowerment for our colleagues in the hospitals and administrative institutions.
In diversity, there is beauty and there is strength, says Maya Angelou; but Pharmacy in Nigeria is yet to harvest the beauty and strength embedded in our diversity. It may be a consolation to say that this is generally true for the Nigerian economy and nationhood, but we must not accept the status quo as a desired destination.
It is heartwarming, however, to know that young pharmacists are already thinking and talking about this subject. We need to harness the strength inherent in our diversity to confront all the ills currently ravaging the pharmacy profession in Nigeria.
I am a firm believer in the group process and the principle that the group can do much more than what an individual alone can achieve. It is for this reason that I have devoted my time and energy in mobilising pharmacists for action and we have succeeded in many ways. These include: Setting up an academy to update knowledge and develop skills and competencies; Pharmacy Estate, to provide accommodation; and Ultra Logistics Company Limited, designed to be a special purpose vehicle for commercial engagements for all pharmacists.
The ball is now in our court to move these concepts forward. Together, we can get pharmacists off the streets searching for internship placement or jobs, assist those with special needs (career renewal, new jobs, etc) and get the young graduates ready to take on the challenges of the practice environment.
There is every need to mobilise everyone, both young and old, in the profession in a manner that guarantees greater cohesion for task accomplishment. I will urge you to stand in unity and unleash the adrenaline of innovation and progress into the life- blood of our profession.
Building the 8-star young pharmacist
The social relevance we seek in survival and growth of the pharmacy profession will be determined to a large extent by the training we receive from school and the relentless efforts we make on fulfilling the responsibility of self-education. Apart from the curriculum review conference of the PCN many years ago that suggested decongestion of the curriculum and allotment of more time to clinical training, veterinary pharmacy, behavioural science, communication skills, information technology and practical internship, lots more are still needed to meet up with the challenges of the 21st century pharmacy practice.
The best definition for education is “the training of mind and character” and the first degree (or any level of education which trains the mind and character) prepares the holder for any future engagement and responsibilities. For this reason, you will find engineers excelling in a banking career and you have doctors, pharmacists, lawyers and others going into and succeeding in endeavours different from their primary course of study.
The success stories are all dependent on the readiness of the concerned individuals to learn on the job through honesty, hard work and sincerity of purpose. In building the 8-star young pharmacist, the above skills acquisition should be synergised and brought together with focus on the public health and supply chain management systems of the healthcare delivery system in our country. While doing this, we must always remember that our greatest asset is ethical professional practice. This is how we can empower ourselves professionally, in addition to seeking mentors that will guide us through our journeys, to avoid costly mistakes.
It is necessary for all of us to appreciate that professional empowerment is the greatest weapon at the disposal of any professional group. This comes through no other way but through excellence and ethics. Ethics, as mentioned earlier, is the clearest indicator that differentiates professional practice from quackery, irrespective of educational background. A professor of pharmacy who throws off ethics from practice is no different from a school- leaver attempting to give and counsel on drug matters. You have a date with destiny; don’t ever betray it, because you are the future.
Pharmacy has a rich heritage to bequeath to the present and future generation of pharmacists. Let us resolve to preserve such rich heritage and culture of excellence as exemplified by many outstanding colleagues who are renowned locally and internationally. They achieve all those feats of being stars and beacon of excellence in the pharmacy profession because of the long years of preparation and determination to succeed.
With the population of Nigeria in excess of 200 million, meeting the pharmaceutical needs of the people is by no means an easy task. Posterity is beckoning on us to accept this special responsibility. On this note, distinguished colleagues, I leave you with a humble prayer that, our search for excellence in Pharmacy shall not be in vain.
God bless Pharmacy.