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Career stages

Scaling new career heights in 2020

We asked some of this year’s contributors to The Pharmaceutical Journal’s Careers section to recap their biggest career highlights of 2019 and share their goals for the coming year.

Celebrating a year of career highlights

Source: Mclean/

olutayo arikawe

Source: Courtesy of Olutayo Arikawe

Olutayo Arikawe — superintendent pharmacist at the Priory Community Pharmacy, Dudley

Biggest career highlight of 2019

Winning the NHS Parliamentary Award for Excellence in Healthcare and the Powerhouse Global Woman of the Year 2019 award. I also had the honour of visiting my preregistration tutor, Farhan Moulana, with my preregistration trainee pharmacist. It was really special to be able to share my appreciation for my tutor with my trainee.

Goal for 2020

To support more pharmacists and businesses in achieving personal satisfaction and excellence.


Mosan Ashraf

Source: Courtesy of Mosan Ashraf


Mosan Ashraf — homecare medicines lead pharmacist at University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust

Biggest career highlight of 2019

Carrying out a trust-wide review of homecare services and implementing a quality improvement project. The project is ongoing with efficiency benefits being realised immediately.

Most important lesson learnt this year

Any change project requires input from all team members and stakeholders. There’s a proverb that says “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” I certainly understand this better now.

Goal for 2020

I want to continue to grow as a leader to support my team, service and patients. Nothing is more important than personal development.


Kweku Bimpong

Source: Courtesy of Kweku Bimpong

Kweku Bimpong — pharmacist preregistration trainee at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital and Southwark Clinical Commissioning Group

Biggest career highlight of 2019

Being awarded the David Kearney Award for outstanding contribution to the profession for my work on the British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association executive.

Most important lesson learnt this year

The importance of reflection — being able to do a ‘deep dive’ into past actions and events to extract learning from them to overcome future obstacles with ease.

Goal for 2020

To have my name on the General Pharmaceutical Council’s pharmacist register.


Carol Candlish 19

Source: Courtesy of Carol Candlish

Carol Candlish — pharmaceutical industry consultant, contract Qualified Person and Responsible Person

Biggest career highlight of 2019

Being able to develop and implement a renewed quality management system for a pharmaceutical company.

Most important lesson learnt this year

Sometimes commercial forces outside of our control prevent us from doing the ‘right thing’, forcing us to reflect and decide the next best course of action.

Goal for 2020

To be able to share with pharmacy students and graduates what it is like to work in the pharmaceutical industry and open their eyes to the interesting and varied careers available.


vicky chaplin

Source: Courtesy of Vicky Chaplin

Vicky Chaplin — assistant director for medicines optimisation at NHS London Procurement Partnership

Biggest career highlight of 2019

Completing the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer’s Cinical Fellowship scheme and getting a position as assistant director for medicines optimisation at NHS London Procurement Partnership. This role gives me the opportunity to use my range of experiences, and the additional skills and contacts that I have made. Being invited to 10 Downing Street for my work in diabetes was also a real highlight. 

Most important lesson learnt this year

Understanding that I really can’t do everything, as interesting as it all seems.

Goal for 2020

I would like to continue to contribute to the digital arena, both through direct projects and by supporting the wider healthcare professional community. For example, via the Early Career Special Interest Group at the UK’s Faculty of Clinical Informatics.


cathy cooke 17

Source: Courtesy of Cathy Cooke

Cathy Cooke — pharmacist with multisector practice experience within community pharmacy, social care, primary and secondary care, and secure environments

Biggest career highlight of 2019

The kind comments from several hospital colleagues over the past few months. On separate occasions, nurses, our lead anaesthetist and a surgeon have told me my advice and support has been helpful to them.

Most important lesson learnt this year

The importance of not cutting corners where safety is concerned. A couple of times I’ve clinically checked a prescription, signed it off, but a while later I’ve gone back to check again and found something clinically significant I’d missed. Always follow up if in doubt.

Goal for 2020

I’d love to finish my ‘to do’ list.


david gerrard

Source: Courtesy of David Gerrard

David Gerrard — advanced pharmacist practitioner at Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust

Biggest career highlight of 2019

Helping with the development of a third pharmacist to operate in a clinic similar to mine. Being able to widen the range of the pharmacist prescribing role is fantastic to see and personally rewarding to help someone develop into an independent practitioner.

Most important lesson learnt this year

Stopping over-medication of antipsychotics for people with a learning disability, autism or both (STOMP) is difficult, and good support from nurses and care teams is vital when supporting people having medication challenged.

Goal for 2020

Establishing good relationships with the new primary care networks to take pharmacy-led STOMP initiatives into primary care.


Elsy Gomez

Source: Courtesy of Elsy Gomez-Campos

Elsy Gomez-Campos — president of the UK Black Pharmacists Association 

Biggest career highlight of 2019

Founding the UK Black Pharmacists Association (UKBPA).

Biggest obstacle overcome this year

Reaching out and getting members to join virtually was challenging. However, having a group of black pharmacy professionals in a forum to share ideas and support each other was worth the effort.

The UKBPA is diverse and I have learnt that there is beauty in diversity. When we put our differences aside and come together for a greater cause there is no limit to what can be achieved.

Goal for 2020

For the UKBPA to grow in number and continue promoting a more inclusive and diverse profession.


khalid khan

Source: Courtesy of Khalid Khan

Khalid Khan — head of training and professional standards at Imaan Healthcare and preregistration training programme director at Health Education England

Biggest career highlight of 2019

Co-authoring articles about Oriel for The Pharmaceutical Journal. This wasn’t something I ever thought I’d do, and the positive feedback we got from students and lecturers was very rewarding. Also hearing my first ‘fitness-to-practise’ cases at the General Pharmaceutical Council. It’s been an incredible education and changed the way I think in my other roles.

Most important lesson learnt this year

I learnt to say no — I was extremely fortunate to be involved in numerous projects, but it’s vital for your mental wellbeing and work-life balance to hold your hands up and say “sorry, I can’t”.

Goal for 2020

Eliminate the misconceptions about preregistration training in community pharmacy, while supporting the sector to tackle some of the genuine issues which exist.


Bal Matharu

Source: Courtesy of Bal Matharu

Bal Matharu — pharmaceutical patent attorney at intellectual property firm HGF Ltd

Biggest career highlight of 2019

Successfully defending several drug delivery patents against challenges by generic companies. We represented a client in the United States to defend a patent related to a high-value multiple sclerosis product.

Goal for 2020

To continue to grow our practice, particularly in the area of artificial intelligence (e.g. machine learning) in the drug discovery and development process. Such technologies are being widely adopted across the healthcare industry and protecting intellectual property related to these approaches presents unique issues.


Somto Madueke 19

Source: Courtesy of Somto Madueke

Somto Madueke — final-year pharmacy student at the University of Reading

Biggest highlight of 2019

Securing a competitive pharmacy summer placement at AstraZeneca, a global pharmaceutical company, was most definitely the biggest highlight. I have worked towards achieving this goal since the start of my degree.

Most important lesson learnt this year

This year has been filled with successes and failures, and I have learnt to never doubt my abilities, to continuously invest in learning and to have a healthy dissatisfaction for complacency.

Goal for 2020

To achieve a first-class grade in my MPharm degree.


Robert Gordon PLE

Source: Robert Gordon University PLE

Pharmacy Law and Ethics Group — Robert Gordon University

Biggest highlight of 2019

Being given the opportunity to voice our opinions regarding professionalism on social media in Tomorrow’s Pharmacist. We felt privileged to be able to showcase the group outside of Robert Gordon University.

Most important lesson learnt this year

We understand the importance of pharmacy students having an up-to-date knowledge of current issues outside of the university curriculum. We’ve learnt that being able to address difficult ethical dilemmas is an invaluable skill to have as future pharmacists.

Goal for 2020

To promote student voices in discussions on current and controversial issues, by housing a student-led debate on compulsory childhood vaccinations and publicising on our social media pages.


graham parsons 17

Source: Courtesy of Graham Parsons

Graham Parsons — chief pharmacist at Turning Point

Biggest career highlight of 2019

Seeing the personal development and growth of my national pharmacy technician Katherine, as she settles into her role. Her work leading our training and competency meetings, as well as development of training and competencies packages for hepatitis B vaccination and for specific topics in our mental health and learning disability services, has been exceptional.

Biggest obstacle faced this year

The nearly 900% cost increase of buprenorphine 8mg tablets in 2018 has put immense stress on the already stretched finances of substance misuse services. We have had to think laterally around this problem, but changes in our prescribing, policies and procedures have meant we can continue to offer buprenorphine to our clients. The current buprenorphine price in the NHS Drug Tariff suggests the price of the generic product will remain stable, but my feeling is that challenges on the costs and supply of drugs, even in our limited formulary, will continue to be a problem as we move into 2020.

Goal for 2020

We are currently running a pilot looking at the prescribing of buprenorphine prolonged-release injection in two of our services. One of my main priorities for 2020 is to complete this trial and produce a final paper for publication on its potential role in substance misuse services.


aamer safdar new web 18

Source: Nic Bunce / The Pharmaceutical Journal

Aamer Safdar — principal pharmacist lead for education, training and development at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust

Biggest career highlight of 2019

Being appointed to the General Pharmaceutical Council.

Most important lesson learnt this year

The most important lesson for me is summarised in this quote: “The key to success is holding on to the belief that you’ll have more sunny days than cloudy ones and to just keep climbing, every day, no matter what. Great leaders not only keep climbing on both types of days, but also inspire their teams to climb with them.”

Goal for 2020

Successfully complete the Centre for Pharmacy Postgraduate Education top pharmacy leaders programme.


Source: Anuj Sunder

Anuj Sunder — pharmacist and major for the Royal Army Medical Corps

Biggest career highlight of 2019

Validating the medicines management element of the Army’s high readiness field hospital, which is capable of rapid strategic deployment by air or sea.

Most important lesson learnt this year

I have learnt the need to introduce vulnerability into my leadership style. This is still very much a work in progress, but it has allowed me to change how I work with others.

Goal for 2020

A further operational deployment where I can use the skills I have acquired. If not, then future validation and assessing of roles where I can teach and give back to those who are soon to deploy.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2019.20207326

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