Pharmacists prescribe a summer camp

26 September 2012

The mysteries of commonly used medicines, topical ointments and creams will be revealed to the students who attend the inaugural University of Sydney Pharmacy Indigenous Camp.

The four-day Pharmacy Indigenous Camp (SydPIC) planned for January 2013 is aimed at boosting the numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students currently employed in the pharmacy profession.

With fewer than 50 registered pharmacists in Australia who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, Dean of the Faculty of Pharmacy, Professor Iqbal Ramzan says it is imperative more Aboriginal pharmacists be trained, particularly where Aboriginal communities are lacking health professionals.

Professor Ramzan says the career options of pharmacists are diverse.

"Pharmacy graduates can decide to register to work in a local or hospital pharmacy, work for government agencies or contribute to research and teaching.

"Pharmacists are an integral part of the healthcare system and have the capacity to directly affect the lives and lifestyles of the people with whom they interact," he says.

Course coordinators Drs Nial Wheate and Rebekah Moles believe the shortage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pharmacists is a result of lack of engagement with high school students about career options in pharmacy.

"We developed the camp to bring 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.

"The camp will incorporate pharmacy workshops, laboratory sessions and field trips giving 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.

Dubbo pharmacist and University of Sydney graduate Lisa Benton says she loves her work as a pharmacist and has experienced high levels of job satisfaction as a regional pharmacist.

"As an integral part of the overall healthcare team in our community we enjoy good relationships with local doctors, nurses and other health professionals," Lisa said.

She says she and her colleagues are respected members of their communities but they would love to have an Aboriginal member on the team, particularly with the large community in Dubbo.

Applications for the summer camp close 26 October 2012.

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