Christine Heading: career breaks, freelancing and following your gut

A minute in the company of the pharmacist and academic.

Christine Heading montage

Who has been your biggest inspiration?

One teacher stands out. She never needed motivational language to encourage us, but conveyed a subliminal message that men and women could succeed equally in any walk of life.

What single innovation in pharmacy has made the most difference in your field?

The product licensing frameworks implemented as a result of the 1968 Medicines Act and thalidomide tragedy.

What has been your best career move?

Becoming a freelancer/consultant and capitalising on the trend for outsourcing work. After the birth of my children, it was unrealistic for me to return to my former roles.

Why did you decide to do the work you are doing now?

Since taking a five-year career break, my work has been home based and not routinely full-time, providing flexibility for family life and other activities.

What has been your worst career mistake?

Not exploring the potential benefits of setting up a limited company once I had started doing significant freelance/consultative work.

What skill would you most like to master?

Project management — specifically for projects which involve managing people.

Outside of your job, when people come to you for help, what do they usually want help with?

Anything they haven’t the time, availability or background to do themselves.

Who has impressed you most with what they’ve accomplished?

The actress Dame Eileen Atkins. She is still acting with astonishing fitness well into her 80s. She has been a long-term and formidable campaigner for women of all ages to have a more meaningful presence in stage and screen roles.

What’s the best thing that happened to you last week?

A family barbecue hosted by a cousin. Great family time and great to have someone else organising the event.

If you had the chance to do it all again, what would you change?

Spend less time sitting down. A serious point — the self-employed often ignore the physical consequences of their work.

What risks are worth taking?

If there’s no good reason not to, do things that your ‘gut feeling’ tells you to do.

What’s worth spending more on to get the best?

Education. This applies to time, effort and money, and to providers as well as users.

What personal ambition do you still have?

To be around for the centenary performance of ‘The Mousetrap’. 

What do you take for granted?

Too much, but mostly good health.

What would you do with £2m to impact the most amount of people?

Fund a campaign to improve UK maternity/paternity benefits, by moving towards fairer and more rational arrangements, as found in Scandinavia.

What annoys you the most?

People who patronise others and people who refuse to think.

What’s something you’ve been meaning to try but just haven’t gotten around to?

Learning how to declutter.

What are some things you’ve had to unlearn?

The myth that commercial interests are more biased than others. Bias is everywhere: professional, reputational, money-saving, political etc.

As you get older, what are you becoming more and more afraid of?

Being treated as a stereotypical ‘old person’, not a ‘person’.

If you were a drug, what drug would you be and why?

Fluoxetine. It doesn’t fix things immediately, but helps many people feel better in the end.

Know an interesting pharmacist?

Let us know if there is anyone you think The Pharmaceutical Journal should feature. Email with their name and contact details.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, June 2018, Vol 300, No 7914;300(7914):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2018.20204870

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