Lieutenant Colonel Ellie Williams qualified as a Pharmacist over 25 years ago, and since then has used her MPharm in some extreme and exciting locations – here she takes us through her professional journey, guided by the skills she attained with her Pharmacy degree.
My pre-registration year started in 1989 and for the next seven years I worked in NHS hospitals in Wigan, Derby and Oxford and gained a Masters in Clinical Pharmacy. In 1997 I made a life-changing decision to resign from my job at the Radcliffe Infirmary and join the Royal Army Medical Corps as a commissioned officer.
In May 1998, following a short training course at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, I was posted to a medical logistics unit where I learned how the Armed Forces resupply medicines to troops on exercises and operations across the world. I was soon to put this into practice when I was deployed to Bosnia in September that year. That job and later operational deployments to Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan required me to draw on all my existing pharmacy knowledge and skills and to learn many new ones: storage in extreme temperatures; controlled drug legislation; pharmacology; pharmaceutics; extemporaneous dispensing; maritime law; dangerous air cargo regulations; and many more.
Of course, it’s not all operations. Most of my career has been spent in the UK working in medical logistics, primary healthcare; medical policy headquarters and non-pharmacy roles. Over the years I have been involved in setting up medicines management policies, assuring pharmacy services, delivering specialist pharmacy advice, establishing a Defence drugs and therapeutics team, co-ordinating pharmacy conferences for regular, reserve and civilian MOD personnel and conducting other fairly ‘standard’ pharmacist roles and responsibilities.
Pharmacy Highlights? A number of operational tours both in medical logistic and hospital settings; implementing distribution of antivirals to MOD personnel across the world during the pandemic influenza outbreak; liaising with the Medicines Health Regulatory Authority and Department of Health; and working with Iraq medical logistic experts to help re-establish distribution systems in Basra region.
Other highlights? Two year posting to Cyprus; diving expedition to Ascension Island; trekking in the Grand Canyon, Skydiving in California, four fast jet flights and last, but not least, working alongside other highly motivated Armed Forces personnel in supporting British troops across the world.
I am one of eighteen Regular Army pharmacists and there are twenty-five in the Army Reserve. Not one of us will have had the same career pathway or operational experiences. It is this variety and the endless exciting challenges that have made my career in the Army so worthwhile.
Lt. Col. Ellie Williams,
Staff Officer Grade 1,
Headquarters Force Troops Command.