Pharmacy attracts students from far far away

25 January 2013

(L-R) Carrissa James and Alana Purcell were among the 22 students who attended the camp.
(L-R) Carrissa James and Alana Purcell were among the 22 students who attended the camp.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from as far as away as Humpty Doo in the Northern Territory attended the inaugural University of Sydney Pharmacy Indigenous Camp held this week.

Carissa James from Lismore in northern NSW, and Alana Purcell from Cairns in Queensland, were among 22 high school students who attended the four-day Pharmacy Indigenous Camp (SydPIC). SydPic was aimed at boosting the numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders currently employed in the pharmacy profession.

With fewer than 50 registered pharmacists in Australia who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, course coordinators Drs Nial Wheate and Rebekah Moles believe it is imperative more Aboriginal pharmacists be trained, particularly in regions where Aboriginal communities are lacking health professionals.

Dr Nial Wheate believes the shortage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pharmacists has been a result of lack of engagement with high school students about career options in pharmacy.

"We developed the camp to bring together interested students from all around Australia to get a taste of what it's like to be a pharmacist and experience university life first-hand.

"During the camp the students took part in pharmacy workshops and laboratory sessions. They produced their own aspirin, a standard tablet and hand creams."

They also visited metropolitan pharmacies of varying sizes and speciality, a site that produces Webster packs and a pharmacy based within a a major hospital.

"We aimed to give our potential students a clearer idea of what to expect when studying at university and more particularly a career in pharmacy," Dr Wheate said.

Dr Rebekah Moles says recent reports show that while Aboriginal people often consider pharmacists as more accessible and less intimidating than other health professionals, to date pharmacists have had little or no training in Aboriginal health or cultural issues and consequently may fail to convey the correct messages about medication usage in terms understood by their clients.

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