Never a dull moment in academia
As an undergraduate I was told an academic career meant being expert in one field, but it has fulfilled my need for variety, says Brian Lockwood
During the initial years of my training, I collected a BPharm from Bradford and a PhD from Cardiff in pharmacognosy, and I also gained experience in hospital and industrial pharmacy.
I then embarked on a four-year tour of schools of pharmacy in Africa, followed by a year at the “Square”, and finally moved to the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at Manchester.
In Manchester I was appointed to teach pharmacognosy, little realising that meant “everyone should be able to teach anything”. I found myself teaching in a number of unexpected areas, including dispensing, chemistry, cell biology and biochemistry. I had no “O”-level in biology, let alone an “A”-level.
During my early years in Manchester I taught pharmacology to chiropody students from Salford Technical College on Wednesday afternoons but later was seconded to teach at a number of universities, including the Northern Consortium of the UK (NCUK) in Malaysia, Ege in Turkey and Rangsit in Thailand. NCUK provides pre-university courses for international students as preparation for study outside their home countries.
October 2006–08 Director of PIAT, School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Manchester
December 1980–2008 Lecturer/senior lecturer in pharmacy, School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Manchester
1979–1980 Teaching fellow, The School of Pharmacy, University of London
1977–78 Lecturer in pharmacy, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Al Fateh, Tripoli, Libya
1975–77 Lecturer in Pharmacy, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Ife, Ile-Ife, Nigeria
One of the most interesting tasks I was asked to perform was to establish the first and only school of pharmacy in Malawi in 2005–06, on the basis of my experience in curriculum design and experience in African schools of pharmacy.
A long-standing interest in complementary medicines led to my appointment to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency committee dealing with licence applications for homoeopathic medicines.
I encountered the pleasures of pharmacy at an early age, having been raised above a pharmacy, although I had no interest in becoming a community pharmacist. Neverthe-less, from 1979–89 I acted as locum in a wide range of establishments.
Extemporaneous dispensing was my main interest but, as this declined and computerisation of labelling developed, I found alternative ways of spending Saturdays, never to return.
I was asked to give talks to local branches of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society on a number of occasions when the speaker had pulled out at the last moment. I decided to get on the official speakers’ list and, over a 15-year period, I visited branches across the UK, talking mainly about complementary medicines and plant drugs of abuse.
Apart from the usual venues, I was once taken to a ski slope and challenged to talk without any electrical (not to mention electronic) aids at a venue crowded with unrelated people enjoying the slope, but taking a refreshing interest in my talk. After I found I was being asked to revisit branches, I decided to call it a day.
As a pharmacognosist I used to carry out forensic analysis of plant drugs of abuse. I enjoyed the excitement of competing with other scientists for a number of years, mainly in cannabis cases, including a number involving cannabis farms, or heroin, LSD, magic mushrooms and volatile nitrites. This work took me to all the forensic laboratories in England and to several law courts.
I also accepted consultancies in formulation and analysis of herbal cosmetics, and compensation cases involving medicines.
Since 1999 I have been involved in accreditation by the Quality Assurance Agency and Royal Pharmaceutical Society, and have been chairman of the curriculum committee. There is a vast amount of administration and bureaucracy and over the years we have seen a rapid growth in student problems, mainly related to that progression or impediments to it.
Academic staff are expected to supervise research degree students, either on MSc or PhD courses. I have supervised over 20 in the area of plant biotechnology. Most were overseas students and pharmacy graduates.
A number are now heads of schools of pharmacy or departments of pharmacognosy throughout the world — mainly in places warm enough to support vigorous plant growth. I am in contact with most of them.
The role of researcher and supervisor includes production and submission of articles to journals, but also books, book chapters, grant applications, report writing and preparation of numerous other documents.
In 2006 I was asked to take on the role of director of PIAT (Pharmaceutical Industrial Advanced Training), which is a programme of distance-learning modules for employees in the pharmaceutical industry. I was pleased to be involved, because I had originally been trained in pharmaceutical sciences in the time before pharmacy practice existed.
The original role had been to manage the day-to-day running but, suddenly, there was dramatic expansion with four additional programmes to set up, accredit and run.
The role now involves detailed discussions with module authors and tutors who are international experts in their fields, working as far away as Japan and Thailand, organising meetings with five external examiners, supervision of MSc dissertations, and occasional site visits to accredit companies.
Apart from the diverse activities I have outlined, there are unlimited further opportunities in administration in a school of pharmacy, including admissions, teaching research, teaching techniques, officiating in learned societies, delivering lectures at conferences, and giving interviews to the media
As an undergraduate I was advised that an academic career meant becoming an expert in one field and pursuing this to the end, but I revel in variety.
Life-long learning is the key activity in academic pharmacy, allowing some duties to be carried out with the knowledge of a BPharm degree, and others with PhD training, and the rest on life-long experience.
I enjoy my role and look forward to every day as I know it will be interesting. Each day may bring fresh opportunities to perform in different situations.
Thinking of changing your career? This series profiles different careers in pharmacy. It is designed to provide a taster of work in different specialties.
Any pharmacist who would like to contribute to the series should contact the editorial office on 020 7572 2429 or e-mail email@example.com in the first instance.
Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 10039277
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