John Bell (AM BPharm FPS FRPharmS FACPP MSHP) says the most important thing students can grasp “is to never stop learning”.
Bell was recently awarded the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) Lifetime Achievement Award for his work as a Community Pharmacist. He has held positions as National President of the PSA from 1987-1988, a board member of the Australian Medic Alert Foundation and of Diabetes NSW/ACT, and even presented a weekly, state-wide talk-back radio program The Friendly Pharmacist for over 30 years.
Bell is also known for his active role in international pharmacy. Most recently he has been a member of delegations to Bangladesh, Botswana, Cambodia, Ghana, India, Jamaica, Namibia, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, Zimbabwe and Zambia to consider and make recommendations on matters relating to pharmacy practice and public health.
UTS Pharmacy students, meanwhile, are lucky enough to know him as a Clinical Educator in Primary Health Care in the Graduate School of Health (GSH). We caught up with him to learn more about what it takes to be a “pharmacy high achiever” and how the industry has evolved.
What does a "day in the life of teaching at UTS" look like for you?
Teaching days at UTS are always busy – preparing and presenting lectures, workshops and tutorials – but always made enjoyable by support from all the staff at GSH. It’s a real team effort amongst the technical, professional and academic staff.
What’s the best part about working with Master of Pharmacy students?
You get a real sense the students also enjoy the course. They’ve made a conscious decision to pursue a career in Pharmacy, they’re articulate and enjoy the innovative and interactive aspects of the course.
Are there any challenging aspects to this role?
Implementing change, whether that be behaviour change, practice change or changes in curriculum, is always challenging, but GSH provides great opportunities for students and staff; and success brings great rewards.
What do you think is the most important thing pharmacy students should learn?
The most important thing students can learn is to never stop learning. Whatever area of practice students choose – community, hospital, industry, academia – change is inevitable, but they (as we all) should embrace change; become proactive contributors to the profession to help shape its future.
How did you come to teach at UTS?
For many years, on behalf of the Pharmaceutical Society, I’ve been involved with the consumer information program known as Pharmacy Self Care, and in preparing and presenting pharmacist training programs. When the Graduate School of Health was established five or six years ago the Head of the GSH, Professor Charlie Benrimoj, asked me if I would like to help with the development and implementation of the Primary Health Care stream of the curriculum.
You’ve been on a lot of international trips thanks your work! What has been the best part or most striking memory of these delegations?
The international pharmacy work I’ve had the opportunity to experience, especially with the Commonwealth Pharmacists Association, has been extremely rewarding.
Many challenges facing the health care systems worldwide are similar in all countries – challenges such as availability of and accessibility to health products and services – but in developing countries there are specific problems, particularly with respect to the so-called neglected tropical diseases and the ‘big three’ – malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. The programs we’ve developed there have demonstrated how pharmacists have an important and very positive role to play in the area of public health.
How has pharmacy practise changed in your years in the industry?
Providing prescription and non-prescription medicines will always be a core activity of pharmacy practice, but optimising the use of those medicines has become a major focus for pharmacists.
Assessment of evidence for claims made for non-prescription, non-pharmacological therapies and complementary medicines, and making appropriate recommendations, is also an increasing role for pharmacists. As well, there is now greater emphasis on the role of the pharmacist in the provision of clinical services and disease-state management – management of conditions such as diabetes, respiratory conditions and cardiovascular disease.
There is now acknowledgement of pharmacists’ contribution to public health initiatives in areas such as immunisation. Our aim at UTS is to ensure our Master of Pharmacy graduates are career-ready whatever field of practice they choose.
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