Published on 16 July 2019
Growing up with her grandparents in the small community of Spanish town Jamaica, Abbiegaye Hendricks had big ambitions to become a pharmacist one day.
She was inspired by the help she gave to her grandfather to safely manage his Type 2 diabetic and hypertensive medications. From the age of 12 Abbiegaye would assist Egular Hendricks, 81, who was unable to read and had no formal education during his doctors’ and pharmacist visits. She would spend hours researching and monitoring his medications to ensure he was taking them safely and effectively.
“I really enjoyed helping him discover more about his medicines, I was researching as much as I could and just became fascinated with the subject, I knew then I wanted to become a pharmacist.”
That ambition led her to graduating this month with a First Class Honours Pharmacy degree from the University of Sunderland as well as receiving the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) Best Student Prize for demonstrating outstanding performance across the programme.
“Receiving a first class honours degree and being awarded the RPS prize means so much to me,” says Abbiegaye. “It is proof that you can achieve anything you put your heart and mind to. I want other young people from my community to see that and believe that.
“My grandparents were such an inspiration. Due to their own lack of schooling and growing up in a poor community, often high in violence,
They really wanted me to get an education and understand its importance. I wanted a better life for me and my family.
“Also, the importance of the pharmacist in Jamaica cannot be understated. There’s no NHS and you pay for most healthcare services. If you’re sick you probably would not have the money to go to a private doctor but would go to a pharmacist who could help. Their role and importance had such a huge impact on me, I thought ‘wow’ I would love to do this.”
Abbiegaye, 26, chose to study in England due to the international reputation of English higher education. She arrived in the North East in 2012, to live with her mum Shereen. She applied to several universities across the country, however, she failed to get accepted into pharmacy and so she began a pharmacology degree in Newcastle.
However, her true passion still lay with pharmacy and in 2015 she again applied to study pharmacy at Sunderland.
“It was the right decision for me, and I embraced every opportunity. I got Firsts during every academic year, I joined the basketball team, made life-long friends from across the world, became a Student ambassador, I even took a leadership course with the university, which helped develop my confidence and skills further.”
However, her third year proved a testing time when her beloved grandmother Barbara, who had develop Alzheimer’s, passed away.
“She was my motivation so this was so very hard for me. I decided to honour her memory by writing my final-year research project on Alzheimer’s disease,” explained Abbiegaye.
“That same year I received the Hope C M Winch scholarship for the most proficient third year pharmacy student. Although this was one of the hardest years of my life, I learnt that hard times can make you a better version of yourself.”
Abbiegaye has now begun her training as a pre-registration hospital pharmacist at Sunderland Royal Hospital, and cannot imagine ever leaving the region she has come to love and embrace as her home.
“I love this place, the people have been so welcoming and friendly, she said. “Although the weather and accents took a little getting used to at first, I didn’t want to study anywhere else.”
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society Awards programme celebrates and acknowledges the achievements of teams and individuals across pharmacy and pharmaceutical science.The Awards recognise and reward excellence and innovation in pharmacy and pharmaceutical science and those setting the highest standards.
Andrew Sturrock Principal Lecturer and MPharm Programme Leader at the University of Sunderland, said: “The Royal Pharmaceutical Society Best Student Prize is awarded to a student who demonstrates outstanding performance across the programme. Abbiegaye has performed exceptionally well across all four years of the programme and is our top ranking student.
“She should be rightly proud of this achievement, both I and the other academic staff feel she is a very fitting winner of the award this year.”
Abbiegaye received her Pharmacy (MPharm) degree at the Stadium of Light, during the summer graduation ceremonies, where thousands of students received their degrees.