By Dr Amira Guirguis
My entry into Science and Research was a long one as I initially trained and worked as an accountant. After becoming a mother, I decided that I wanted to help people from a healthcare perspective and I undertook the daunting task of training to be a Pharmacist in the UK. I say daunting because I was an Arabic/French speaker but I loved science. Becoming a Pharmacist – it was the best move I ever made!
Working within community and hospital pharmacies taught me that building a rapport with patients can be magical and can significantly enhance overall patient outcomes.
During my career, I encountered patients chewing Khat claiming that it provides them with alertness and enhance their libido. I encountered patients who self-medicated with cannabis for pain relief. I was formally asked by coroners to comment on why death of a patient who has taken novel psychoactive substances, the so called “legal highs”, could not be prevented.
This failure prompted me to think that despite being an expert in medicines, my knowledge of these new emerging drugs and herbal supplements sold over the internet was limited. So I undertook a PhD in Pharmacy and began my career in Academia at the University of Hertfordshire and now as MPharm Programme Director at the new Pharmacy degree in Swansea which is now being provisionally accredited.
Through my research, I have taken the initiative to a new concept, providing insight among pharmacists and other healthcare professionals in the dynamic area of substance misuse and Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS). My research focussed on how to identify these drugs to inform clinical decision-making and prevent pre-mature deaths.
I believe I represent the many women who try to balance the Research/Teaching careers as well as being a single mother. I do get a buzz from publishing my research from my group and international collaborations, even more so, when you can see your research shaping policy not only in the UK but other countries such as Australia!
I would like to feel that I can be a role model for many women in academia and one which many women can relate to, and in that perspective, I am also a mentor at Swansea University and RPS, mentoring 3 undergraduate students and 3 pre-registration pharmacists so that they can learn from my experiences in pharmacy.
As I write this blog, I am preparing for a visit to the Middle East where I will be talking to school children about pharmacy and the varied career opportunities for pharmacists – I am really excited to be given this opportunity as I feel many children would choose pharmacy if they had the opportunity to meet pharmacists earlier on in their educational journey.
I think my enthusiasm for pharmacy is infectious as my daughter has become a fully qualified pharmacist and works in hospital pharmacy – may be it is in our genes, but for me it took a little longer to express itself!