Described as an “absolute powerhouse” by our judges, community pharmacist Ifesinachi Anyamene was consistently commended by her multiple nominators for her ability to inspire others in the profession.
Having qualified as a pharmacist in Nigeria, Anyamene returned to the UK in 2001 with her husband where she took on a role as a dispenser that solidified her drive to work in community pharmacy.
Since then, her biggest investment has always been in people, from the many work experience students who she inspired to go into pharmacy, to her valued staff. “Most people who come to work for me have no clue what they want to do, and they all end up loving pharmacy,” she says.
In a deprived area like New Addington, South London — where Anyamene built her pharmacy business from scratch 12 years ago — she says it is vital that patients see people like themselves working in a job they love. “It really excites me when I see this,” she adds. “A Somalian lady came in just a few months ago and said my daughter did work experience with you and now she’s a pre-reg [foundation] pharmacist.”
While Anyamene did receive opposition from other pharmacies when she first opened because they did not want to additional business competition, she had done her research on the need for more pharmacy provision. There was sheltered housing nearby and patients had to travel to get prescriptions, so she connected with local practices and spoke to patient groups. She got her 40-hour NHS pharmacy contract and now knows most of the people who come into the pharmacy by name. Fieldway Pharmacy, which once had no patient nominations, now has 3,500.
Anyamene credits her experience working for years as a locum at every possible type of pharmacy in the area — around 100 different premises she estimates — for enabling her to make a success of opening a new pharmacy in a deprived area.
Facing significant challenges with vaccine hesitancy and misinformation among the Black, Asian and minority ethnic community in the area, Anyamene worked hard to promote the COVID-19 vaccine using social media. Her pharmacy remains the only one in New Addington to offer it for patients aged 12 years and above. Ultimately, her patients trusted her and the pharmacy has now administered more than 17,000 vaccinations. When she started her flu vaccination service, no one knew about it, but she visited nearby offices to spread the word.
Anyamene has also worked hand-in-hand with local GPs to get the pharmacy’s hypertension case-finding service off the ground. She says the relationship she had built over the years with nearby surgeries was instrumental.
“I get doctors from up to seven miles away sending people in. A fairly young guy came in and said he had a family history and I ended up having to send him to A&E. Another young man we offered the service to said ‘it doesn’t affect Africans’ but we convinced him to have the check and now he comes to me whenever he needs advice,” she explains.
Getting to know patients and following them on their healthcare journey is everything, she says. “We are a big family.”
Anyamene’s own children say she has put them off pharmacy but her niece Nonyelum Anigbo, who is studying at Keele University, is the first black president of the British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association, of which she is incredibly proud.
As one of her nominators said, she has “empowered and uplifted” young women in pharmacy, closing the gender gap and promoting diversity.
“Ifesi is always ahead of the curve, looking for ways to develop her staff and advance her pharmacy services, to meet her community’s growing needs,” another said.
Three months ago, Anyamene, who is also treasurer of Croydon Local Pharmaceutical Committee and community lead for a local primary care network, opened her second pharmacy about 20 minutes away from her first and is looking forward to using her independent prescribing qualification. She says she will always be first in the queue to develop any new services.
“It’s all about relationships,” concludes Anyamene, “Always.”
“A true community leader who has built a successful business and is a mentor for young women of colour. Her work to raise awareness of COVID-19 vaccination among ethnic minority patients is particularly impressive.”
“Ifesinachi has established herself as a pharmacy leader, successful entrepreneur and invaluable health care provider to her local community… overall a very formidable and inspiring woman to watch!”
- Meet the rest of The Pharmaceutical Journal’s Women to Watch 2023 here