Some years ago I was lucky enough to be invited to give the UCL School of Pharmacy New Year Lecture at the Royal Society. It was generally well received, but the most talked about slide was the last one. In it, I listed the dozen or so people who had influenced me throughout my career. Most of them were pharmacists, I am in contact with almost all of them today, some of them nearly 40 years after we first met. I call them my professional heroes.
Pharmacists are generally modest people. We don’t do enough to celebrate achievement, or individual excellence (and our Society is still struggling, if we are being honest, with finding the best way to tap into the pool of talent the Fellows represent, but that’s another story). I’ve been fortunate to meet great pharmacists throughout my career; I’ve worked with them, I’ve written about them, I’ve represented them. I might even have helped one or two along the way create their own inspiring story. So, when a vacancy arose on the Panel of Fellows I applied to join. To cut a long story short, I got the gig.
I’m just about the attend my fourth Panel meeting. A large box of papers arrived at home a couple of weeks ago. Full of detailed testimonials from pharmacists, work colleagues, employers and subordinates. About great, innovative, uber-professional pharmacists. Doing a great job for people and patients. Creating new services, developing talent, demonstrating excellence, showing leadership. I set aside a good couple of hours to read them all.
Everyone on the Panel does the same. We all know Fellowship is important.We’ve all experienced the thrill of receiving the letter from the Society, informing us that, without our knowledge, we’ve been noticed enough for someone (or more than someone) to put a submission together about us.To source our CV. To choose the words that convey what makes us stand out. How, in the words of the nomination form, a pharmacist goes “above and beyond” the day job.
I don’t believe anyone sets out to do less than a good job every day, but Fellowship is a recognition of those in the profession whose work is assessed by their peers as exceptional, inspirational, life-changing, or world-leading. Whose achievement defies logic, or organisation, or requires personal or professional courage. Of the innovators, or those with a lifetime of service to a community where the weight of evidence describes an individual whose work is genuinely extra-ordinary.
Some are easy to assess. If your immediate thought is: “I’m surprised they aren’t a Fellow already” you can quickly move on. Others are more difficult. In the submissions we will assess this week there will be one or two that don’t quite make it. Fellowship is not a long service medal.
But the vast majority of them will. Because those putting the nominations together, many of them Fellows themselves who know what it means, take the time and trouble to explain why an individual deserves special recognition from their professional body. That makes it easier for us, as we go around the table and vote to confer the “F” that means so much. And, if we see something in a submission that suggests a little additional information might make all the difference, we will ask the primary nominator to have another look.
So, I look forward twice a year, to reading about excellent professional colleagues, many of whom I don’t know and will never meet, but who mean something special to people who work with or for them, to colleagues in other health professions, to patients and the public. And the only person who probably would not thank me for suggesting that it would be great to see twice as many nominations in six months’ time, is the postman.
Rob Darracott, Panel of Fellows