As founder and host of the Pharmacist Diaries podcast, Anisha Patel is inspiring trainee pharmacists with aspirational career stories from fellow pharmacists whose professional lives have taken interesting turns.
While the podcast — and now YouTube channel — where she interviews pharmacists about their careers has been hugely popular with more than 42,000 downloads in more than 100 countries, Patel’s own professional story is particularly notable.
After completing an undergraduate degree in biology and chemistry at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia in the United States, Patel wanted to work in healthcare and with children, deciding pharmacy was the best option as it gave her the flexibility to be independent and have an interesting career, she explains.
Having spent some of her childhood in both the UK and the United States, Patel decided to return to the UK after her undergraduate degree to start an MPharm degree at the University of Hertfordshire. This involved internships abroad in locations as far as Argentina, before moving to a three-year residency at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. There, she rotated though several specialties and provided ward cover for then emergency assessment unit, doing night shifts and gaining confidence and autonomy.
It was at this point she met her husband, who was from London but living in Dubai. They got married and, after her residency ended, she moved to Dubai to work in emergency services supporting medication requirements for all ambulance contracts in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as well as for events such as the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix. “It was a really unique and exciting role,” she says.
While at this point, Patel describes herself as essentially a newly qualified “baby pharmacist”, she led on a project to provide paramedics with drugs to administer on ambulances. Previously, paramedics in UAE were only able to transport patients so it was a big ask that involved changing the law, importing medicines and putting in place the detailed operating procedures required for transporting and storing medicines.
At the time, paramedics were being hired at an exponential rate from all over the world, all with different training and experience. “I’d stepped into a really kind of powerful position without expecting it or knowing that this is what I was going into,” she says.
It was an incredible experience but she missed patient care, so she stepped into her next job where she oversaw the development of pharmacy in a new hospital in the UAE, which was being set up by US provider The Cleveland Clinic. Once again, she was building a pharmacy from scratch as well as setting up electronic prescribing.
But in 2018, Patel says there came a point where she wanted her daughter to know her grandparents, so the family returned to the UK.
Patel split her time between providing maternity cover on a neonatal ward and providing education and training for preregistration pharmacists at Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust. Then, in 2019, Patel moved on to Evelina London Children’s Hospital with a role as both a specialist paediatric pharmacist and senior clinical lecturer at King’s College London.
It was while she was working with students that she quickly realised there was a real lack of awareness of the opportunities available to them as pharmacists. She had worked in such a wide variety of roles in the UK and overseas, but she was hearing a lot of negativity from those about to enter the profession.
Her professional journey was not the only story they should hear, she decided, and in her spare time she launched the Pharmacist Diaries podcast, where she interviews various pharmacists about the direction their career has taken. According to the analytics, Patel says that her podcast episodes have had more than 42,000 downloads from more than 100 countries.
“The podcast gives you a true insight into someone’s life in a relaxed format and it’s also stories about what people have been through, things they’ve found difficult and how they’ve overcome them.”
It is inspiring for young pharmacists to hear about how people have coped with failure or changes in career and reflect on these aspects in a very positive way, she explains. After more than 100 episodes, she does have people getting in touch saying the podcast prompted them to apply for a new job.
“It’s no longer just a podcast, it’s a platform and I feel really proud that I’ve been able to do this with two jobs and a pregnancy, building my own website when I had a new baby.” Patel is currently building an online course to help others start a podcast and she’ has also offered webinars on international working.
Patel’s next move is to Great Ormond Street Hospital to a more flexible role combining education and paediatrics, enabling her to get a better work-life balance. The Pharmacist Diaries is continuing to grow and develop.
“I’m hoping that what I’ve done has motivated people to think outside the box and not just the standard, traditional roles.”
“Very impressive output and Pharmacist Diaries has a huge impact.”
“Anisha’s dual roles as a clinical practitioner and university lecturer showcase her dedication to advancing the field… her impact as a role model extends to her peers and the next generation of pharmacy students, who look up to her as an inspiration in the field. Anisha’s multifaceted contributions underscore her exceptional commitment to the world of pharmacy.”
- Meet the rest of The Pharmaceutical Journal’s Women to Watch 2023 here