Royal Pharmaceutical Society

Inclusion and Diversity: Tackling issues and inspiring the next generation of pharmacists

By Adanna Anthony-Okeke, pharmacy student

I’m a pharmacy student at the University of Nottingham fighting Inclusion and Diversity issues in and out of the classroom after witnessing a lack of diversity first-hand throughout my education – as well as hoping to inspire the next generation of black pharmacists.

My journey

I am the outgoing Vice President of my university’s PharmSoc, as well as the Eastern Area Coordinator of the BPSA. Through this work, I’ve become increasingly aware of the Inclusion and Diversity issues within the profession and I believe every issue has a solution, whether long or short term. I also feel strongly that identifying an issue without proactively doing something to tackle it – whether big or small - is futile.

Lack of diversity at university is a serious problem

In my second year at university, I noticed areas within the formal and hidden curriculum lacked racial inclusivity. For example, we were not being told how to identify signs of cyanosis on a black person, or about the racial disparities in maternal mortality. There was also a lack of diversity amongst the pharmacists themselves that students shadowed on placements.

Studies have shown that a lack of representation is a contributing factor to the academic performance of black students. I raised these issues and my solutions with the MPharm course director who was keen to support the project. I then formed a small team of students and together we collated our findings of gaps in the curriculum and suggestions, which were taken onboard by the members of staff; as well as publishing the project.

Inspiring the next generation

Now, I’m looking to explore these issues even further.

I’m working on a campaign across secondary schools in Nottingham to encourage black students to study pharmacy - something I would have appreciated at their age due to the lack of representation within the profession. I am also looking to organise teaching sessions for conditions not covered representatively, such as Sickle Cell Disease. I want to ensure pharmacists are being trained to cater to multi-ethnic societies.

When dealing with I&D issues, I’ve come to understand the importance of seeking to educate rather than solely criticise, as exhausting as that might be sometimes. It can and will take some time for everyone else to understand seemingly self-explanatory issues.

As a profession, support can be given through active listening, active learning, and making changes. We need to continue to take steps to ensure a sense of belonging in everyone, regardless of their background. I strongly believe we are heading in the right direction.

We want to encourage voices that express the diversity of lived experiences in the profession as part of our inclusion and diversity work. If you’d like to share your story, contact [email protected] or get involved through our ABCD group.

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