An award-winning pharmacy student’s motivation to keep striving to improve pharmacy

Fatimah Khan, winner of the 2021 Northern Ireland Pharmacy Student Leadership Award, has demonstrated a commitment to ensuring that the student voice of her peers is heard. From helping with the mentorship of other students to being part of many different groups, Fatimah has had an inspirational pharmacy journey so far.

Wed 29th December 2021 The PDA

Fatimah has been class representative for the last three years and her training as a NICE Student Champion equipped her with the understanding of the importance of evidence-based medicine, and the skills to best use this resource.

The PDA recently caught up with Fatimah to find out her experience of studying pharmacy and her advice for first-year pharmacy students. Fatimah also describes what it meant for her to win the NI 2021 Pharmacy Student Leadership Award.

My pharmacy journey

I began working as a pharmacy assistant in 2011, shortly after the start of my undergraduate degree and have stayed in this role ever since. Working as a pharmacy assistant gave me first-hand insight into how pharmacists play a key role in supporting the health and wellbeing of their patients. I really enjoyed seeing how the pharmacist was able to build close-knit relationships with their patients and assist in a patients’ treatment journey.

Furthermore, I was able to see the changes in pharmacy over my nine years as a pharmacy assistant. In 2018, I started working as a pharmaceutical copywriter, which gave me another insight into the profession and the multitude of paths you can take as a pharmacist. This experience truly demonstrated the dynamic nature of the profession as there are so many avenues to pursue within pharmacy. These combined experiences are what motivated me to pursue a career in pharmacy and ultimately apply to pharmacy school.

As previously mentioned, I love the relationship I can foster with patients through working in a community setting. You get to know the patients on a personal level, and vice versa, which makes helping them with their medicines and overall health even more rewarding. It is such a privilege to be able to support patients. In addition to this, as one of the most accessible healthcare professions, I know that I will be able to support the communities I serve in a meaningful way when needed most. The continuous learning makes being in this profession so exciting since there is always something new to learn and discover.

Being a pharmacy student

I am currently in my final year, and I can confidently say that I have thoroughly enjoyed the past three years of my course. My small course group has been ideal for getting to know everyone in my class and build close relationships with lecturers. I have really enjoyed constantly learning about new disease states and how the medications used to treat them work. I have been able to understand how these medications work at the micro-level while simultaneously developing skills to put this knowledge into practice.

My favourite parts of the course are the practical aspects such as working in the labs, the model pharmacy and extemporaneous dispensing. We also have an opportunity to apply our practical skills through placements within community, hospital, and industry settings. Working alongside practicing pharmacists really helps you get a feel for what your future career will look like.

Advice for first-year pharmacy students

“My top three tips for students beginning their pharmacy course are to get involved, reach out early whenever you need help and enjoy the process.”

It is vital to get involved in student life whether it’s participating in an extracurricular activity such as being a course rep or a PDA student rep or joining a sports team. Not only do these activities provide an outlet to engage in something outside your course, but it enables you to gain valuable skills and experiences as well as build your CV. It enriches the university experience and allows you to meet new people.

Recognising when to reach out when you need help is an important skill to ensure positive outcomes for your patients and to best manage your stress levels. Whether you’re finding a piece of coursework difficult or feeling overwhelmed, recognising when to reach out is so important and will reduce any stress or anxiety you may be experiencing. This is imperative especially within a rigorous course like pharmacy. Lastly, enjoy the process! Being a pharmacy student is such an exciting and rewarding time and a time that passes by very quickly. Taking time to enjoy all aspects of the course will ensure you get the most out of the programme and will be something you can look back on fondly.

The NI Pharmacy Student Leadership Award

I was honoured and privileged to receive the Pharmacy Student Leadership Award. The recognition for the work I have done over the past year and throughout my degree serves as motivation to keep striving to improve and enhance pharmacy, pharmacy education and to support my fellow students. It also inspires me to continue leading, collaborating and contributing meaningfully to the pharmacy profession now and in my future career.

Fatimah Khan, Pharmacy Student Leadership Award winner and Ulster University pharmacy student. (Pictured with the PDA’s Alima Batchelor and Cathy Harrison, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for Northern Ireland)

The Northern Ireland Healthcare Awards took place on 23 September 2021. Categories ranged from Student Leadership, and Hospital Pharmacy Team of the Year, to Asthma / COPD Project of the Year and Managing Substance Dependency in the Community Award.

Each year, the PDA sponsor the Student Leadership Award category in the Northern Irish, Scottish and Welsh Pharmacy Awards.

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