Royal Pharmaceutical Society

My unique journey to becoming a pharmacist

by Israel Marfo, pre-registration pharmacist

I was a London bus driver for years before I got my pharmacy degree.  I think I’m the only person in the UK who can say that!

When I moved here from Ghana in 2006 I had no formal qualifications, only a real desire to work in science and make a difference to people’s lives.

Needing an income, I trained as a bus driver in London, but spent all my time studying. I got my English and Maths GCSE, passed my Applied Science qualification at Level 2 and studied for a Biomedical Science qualification, before finally taking a three-year Access to Higher Education course, so I could go to university and fulfil my dream of becoming a pharmacist.

After gaining admission to Wolverhampton University, I had to work nights as warehouse operative and later as a security guard to support myself financially. Unfortunately, bus companies rarely offer part-time positions so I couldn’t drive a bus here in the West Midlands!

Being a mature student

University really opened my eyes to opportunities. I became the President of the university Pharmacy Society, which taught me a great deal. Being older was daunting for sure: I was teased for being a mature student; it’s not the best feeling, but it didn’t bother me. As President of the Society I organised events such as the end of year Pharmacy Ball which inspired me to help others.

Dyslexia discovery

Initially, I struggled with my studies. Despite spending hours and hours trying to keep up, I felt that I wasn’t getting anywhere. It was disheartening when I discovered lecturers could refuse to mark examination papers due to illegible handwriting. I’m very grateful to Dr Mark Hewitt and Dr Rebecca Butler, who took me to the student enabling centre which led to my diagnosis of dyslexia. From then on, I was granted extra time and allowed to use a computer in exams. Without this help, I’m not sure if I would have been able to pass my degree, it was a real blessing. Graduating with a 2:1 in Pharmacy is a great achievement and I am grateful to God and the staff at Wolverhampton School of Pharmacy.

My Pre-Reg experience

Pre-registration year during a global pandemic means I’ve been learning the pharmacy trade during the most hectic period, but to me it seems normal. I’m learning during the most difficult of times, but if I’m honest, I actually prefer it this way! Obviously, there are some downsides, wearing a mask all of the time and constantly washing and sanitizing has been a struggle. But so far, I am thoroughly enjoying being a Pre-Registration pharmacist. My wife has been very supportive and am blessed to be working with a wonderful team. My Pre-Reg tutor Sharonjit Malhi has been brilliant and I couldn’t have asked for a better team!

What does my future hold?

I am very ambitious about what I can achieve as a pharmacist. One of my life aspirations has been to be involved in drug manufacturing and life science. I particularly want to be involved in breakthrough work developing new antibiotics, something which has been the holy grail of science discovery for decades.

For now, I am incredibly excited to work in a community pharmacy, and maybe going forward, in a hospital setting. I see no boundaries on what I can do or where I could go in the future.

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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