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“This pandemic has really allowed pharmacists to shine”

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Published on 15 June 2021

Mena Guirguis (top), Kam Mo Lam (left) and Dr Matthew Crum (right)
Mena Guirguis (top), Kam Mo Lam (left) and Dr Matthew Crum (right)

Since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak in December 2019, pharmacists have played a vital part in critical care; from donning full personal protective equipment (PPE) and working on the frontline, to helping speed up the vaccination rollout.

This Thursday (June 17th), Dr Matthew Crum, Mena Guirguis and Kam Mo Lam will talk about their Pharmacy careers in an online event, representing different aspects of the profession from around the world.

Dr Matthew Crum, based in Melbourne, Australia

Matthew, who graduated from the University of Sunderland in 2010, works at Pfizer as a Medical Science Liaison (MSL) in the Rare Disease portfolio.

“Pharmacists along with other frontline healthcare workers globally have provided excellent patient care during the pandemic, with many risking their own health and safety doing so,” he said.

“I’ve huge admiration to my fellow colleagues working in the different patient-facing sectors of pharmacy including community, hospital and other healthcare settings.”

After graduating, Matthew began a placement between AstraZeneca and the University Hospital of South Manchester before being inspired to move to Australia to pursue a career in pharmaceutical science.

Matthew, from Herefordshire, relocated to Melbourne to undertake a PhD in Drug Delivery, Pharmaceutics before progressing to his current role at Pfizer.

Mena Guirguis, based in Ontario, Canada

Mena and his wife Nardin, also a Sunderland graduate, are co-owners of three community pharmacies in Northern Ontario in Canada.

In 2018, just two years after he graduated, Mena decided to set up their pharmacies on the island of Manitoulin, an area that was underserved and where the need for pharmacists is great.

Mena said: “This pandemic has really allowed pharmacists to shine.

“Once the pandemic hit, we were definitely overwhelmed and taking on more than we would have liked, but I think all round, it has given us as pharmacists the opportunity to show how qualified we are to practice well outside of our currently defined scope of practice.

“I've taken on much more responsibility, my costs as a business owner have gone up with increased delivery, providing more than a 1,000 per cent increase in PPE to my staff, and staff having to say home to quarantine or self-isolate.

“On the other hand, the support from the communities I serve, the volunteers that have stepped forward and my staff that have stepped up to the plate have made it easy to continue to provide quality healthcare to my patients.”

Kam Mo Lam, based in Hong Kong

Kam graduated from Sunderland in 2006 and began his career as a community pharmacist at Boots in the UK.

He moved into hospital clinical pharmacy firstly at South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust then became an oncology senior pharmacist at The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust.

In 2011, missing his family, Kam returned to Hong Kong to continue his career at the Hong Kong Hospital Authority as a clinical oncology pharmacist.

Kam said the pandemic has proved challenging for pharmacists in his homeland.

“In Hong Kong, pharmacists are working hard and hopefully can continue to make more contributions to citizens,” he said.

“Resources for the healthcare system are limited here and it means pharmacists have to work more.”

“The workplace has changed”

So, what advice do the former Sunderland students have for those going into pharmacy?

“The workplace has changed over the last 18 months and will continue to evolve during your career,” Matthew said.

“Stay positive and focused, and the opportunities will come.”

Mena said: “It’s not what it used to be, so having an understanding of what you’d like to do is important.

“At the same time, pharmacy is one of the best degrees you can take on because graduates from this course end up very well rounded and with many opportunities in different practice areas.”

Kam added: “Pharmacy students should think why they want to be a pharmacist and what they can do for the profession.

“They need the passion to do something memorable in their lives.”

The free online talk is one of many events taking place throughout the year to celebrate 100 years of pharmacy education at the University of Sunderland.

Dr Adrian Moore, Head of School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University, said: “This is our centenary year and is providing an opportunity to celebrate our graduates, all of whom have shaped in some way the profession they have entered and benefitted the communities they serve.

“The career pathways of Kam, Matthew and Mena show the diversity of opportunity available on a truly global stage to positively impact the care of patients through an innovative and ever evolving professional workforce.”

To register for the Sunderland Global Pharmacists Network, visit: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/sunderland-global-pharmacists-network-tickets-154249702011

Centenary events still to come:

An Evening with Briony Hudson and Emeritus Professor Malcolm Hooper – September 30th

Pharmacy Exhibition at Beamish live tour – October 1st

Pharmacy Centenary Celebrations Weekend – October 15th / 16th

• Hospital Pharmacy in the Real World – November 4th

• An Evening with Sunderland Pharmaceutical Students' Association (SPSA) Committee Members (Past and Present) – December 2nd

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