by Catherine Walker, RPS Museum Officer
Pharmacists, throughout history, have supported their communities. Not only by dispensing medicine, but through a range of services that increase their patients’ quality of life.
The role of a pharmacist as someone we go to for advice has been longstanding. In the days of the apothecary, patients would go for specialised advice on what remedy to take for their ailment. Later, when the profession of pharmacy became more established, pharmacists were encouraged to put the patient first. In the 1950s when the photograph above was taken, it was not enough to dispense medicine, it was also important to provide the correct advice on how to take it. Correctly educating patients on how best to take the medicines prescribed to them is still a vital part of the pharmacist’s role.
Encouraging a healthy lifestyle through education has also been a vital part of the role of the pharmacist. Nutrition was included as part of the curriculum at the Society’s School of Pharmacy. This picture below from the 1930s shows the Nutrition Department’s Food Preparation room, where students discovered the impact of diet on patients. The idea that the pharmacists should take a more holistic view of patient’s health, educating patients on choices around diet, sleep and exercise, is becoming more important as we understand the further connection between lifestyle and health.
While nicotine gum was made available to pharmacists to administer to patients in the 1990s, pharmacists in industry had been exploring ways to encourage healthy lifestyles for decades before.
These early anti-smoking tablets claimed to help ‘stop the tobacco habit’ and were available from 1950 until 1962. This show that even at a time when smoking was a widespread habit, pharmacists were exploring ways to help people to make healthy choices.
The role of the pharmacist continues to evolve, particularly in the face of new challenges. One thing that hasn’t changed is the way that pharmacists transform health through education, support and advice.