Community pharmacy runs through Atika Tailor’s blood. Although she grew up watching her parents run their pharmacy in Gillingham, Kent, she was initially adamant that she did not want to follow in their footsteps.
“Then I spent a summer working in the pharmacy and I realised that I really enjoyed it,” she says.
Now she is breaking new ground. Over an eight-year period as the sole pharmacist at her family-run pharmacy in Gillingham, Kent, she increased item numbers from 8,000 to 15,000 dispensed per month and has expanded service provision for the benefit of her patients.
Her interest in travel medicine led to the pharmacy introducing a travel medicine clinic in 2015. Initially, Tailor’s only role was to administer the vaccines, with the assessment being completed over the phone by a nurse. However, she realised “the more I had the conversations the more I enjoyed learning about the topic and started questioning certain things; I wanted to be the one doing the consultations”.
Following this realisation, Tailor completed an independent prescribing qualification and diploma in travel medicine and, in 2018, set up The Sturdee Clinic in Gillingham. She is now an expert in the field, with the clinic receiving specialist cases from other pharmacists and GP practices.
The clinic is a yellow fever centre and also offers occupational health services. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, police officers and other key workers were among its clients. It runs a service for Medway Council employees who need hepatitis B/tetanus vaccinations because their job puts them at risk of blood-borne infections.
During the pandemic, Tailor’s experience in vaccinations became invaluable. As well as the pharmacy being selected as a COVID-19 vaccination site, early on when Kent and Medway clinical commissioning group was faced with a potential delay to the start of the mass vaccination campaign, Tailor was among a group of community pharmacists who stepped up at short notice to write patient group directions that enabled the jabs to be carried out.
Tailor’s role at the pharmacy has evolved into a strategic one, developing an ever-growing portfolio of services. “I had some extra training to offer different services using my prescribing qualification, for example treating UTIs in women, ear infections and skin infections,” she says. The private service has been running for a few months and is becoming increasingly popular.
Tailor is dedicated to the promotion of community pharmacy; she recently filmed a video with Health Education England careers to promote the work of community pharmacy and is working with Kent local pharmaceutical committee (LPC) to roll out the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service. She has shared her experience in travel medicine with her peers, having given a lecture on the topic for Kent LPC, allowing them to gain foundational knowledge in travel consultations.
As for the future, Tailor believes there are many opportunities for pharmacists willing to take a chance and try new things. She certainly will continue to learn and grow.
“I do want to expand the family business even more, but I would also like to have my own pharmacy one day and implement what I’m doing here somewhere else.”
Showing no signs of slowing down, Tailor says: “I want to see how far I can go. I don’t know what my end goal is, though as every time I finish something, I want to do something else.”
Along the way, she has learnt that some of the hurdles she faced as a young female pharmacist were self-inflicted. “I was holding myself back because I was scared of what I could accomplish. I had some mentorship training from a leadership coach that was organised by the LPC and one thing she said to me what that I kept saying ‘hopefully’ this would happen. Now I’m conscious of that and realise that if I doubt myself how can I expect anyone else to believe in me.”
Others do believe in her. Indeed, Tailor is described by her nominator as “one of the few young pharmacists who has a unique and optimistic vision for the future of pharmacy and is actively working towards bringing that vision to life”. The future of the profession is safe in her hands.
“Went from being sole pharmacist in an independent pharmacy to being able to employ another pharmacist. Also started a travel clinic including innovative methods.”
“Clearly very driven to succeed and to promote community pharmacy.”
Meet the rest of The Pharmaceutical Journal’s Women to Watch 2021 here