“It always breaks my heart when I see somebody suffering,” Nirali Sisodia says. “I have to be able to do something about it.” And that she has.
Her charity work, both in the UK and abroad, has enabled her to make a difference to the lives of hundreds of thousands of people; from offering reading glasses to local homeless people, to triaging patients in Sierra Leone who have walked for hours to be seen by a healthcare professional.
She wasn’t always so sure of her calling. When Sisodia failed her first preregistration exam in 2013, she took some time to seriously reflect on the type of pharmacist she wanted to be.
Calling it “a turning point”, she says it made her realise that things happen for a reason. “It made me think to myself, OK this is not a reflection of who I am as a pharmacist.”
A few months later she had passed and began working at Kettering General Hospital in Northamptonshire after convincing them to give her another chance. She soon started specialising in cardiorespiratory medicine and became involved in teaching, which she views as “instilling values”. This demonstrates her determination to succeed.
After initially being discouraged from applying for a new teaching position, the deputy chief pharmacist said they had made a mistake and really wanted her to apply. Not only did Sisodia get the job, she convinced them to make it a 50:50 split with a clinical role.
“That worked really well because I was able to grow as a pharmacist, use my prescribing skills to better patient care and run my own heart failure clinics. It really felt like team working.”
This led her to her current role as a primary care network (PCN) pharmacist for Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, and she has taken a lead locally during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sisodia was the pharmacy lead on the development and delivery of the COVID-19 vaccination service across two PCNs, serving more than 140,000 patients in Northamptonshire.
Alongside her busy day job, Sisodia has volunteered with a homeless charity called The Bridge, her nominator says that this may be inspired by her parents who were homeless themselves at one point. The charity has been holding health awareness days since 2015, for which Sisodia persuades pharmacists, dentists, GPs and psychiatrists to help out.
Her nominator wrote: “The last clinic we ran, under Nirali’s guidance, helped in excess of 100 people. Some 44 people were given a dental check up and 19 were given emergency dental treatment at a local surgery. One person, after being examined by a GP, was rushed to hospital by ambulance, which probably saved his life. This wouldn’t have happened if Nirali hadn’t arranged the event.”
The charity recently did an optometry session where they gave out 22 free pairs of glasses: “There was one lady who chose these bright red glasses and had this whole stack of books that she wanted to read and was just so happy,” Sisodia recalls.
Her voluntary work also extends to Sierra Leone, where she first went in 2013 with the Better Lives Foundation. At the moment, the team is trying to create a pharmacy education programme, as well as building a pharmacy with an inpatient and outpatient service. They are building contacts to provide dispensing software for free and conduct remote teaching.
“There are patients who would walk for four to eight hours a day to come to our free clinic. We will triage over 1,000 people per day.
“You really have to think on your feet, you have to be able to use the knowledge that you have to make the medications work for the situation you are in.”
Sisodia is also a musician. The founder of Find Your Soul — a band that has performed internationally and in 2019 was featured in London’s Trafalgar Square at one of the largest celebrations: Diwali. A most fitting festival, as the triumph of light over dark is also the standout theme behind the work of this woman to watch.
“Nirali has obviously made a huge direct impact on the lives of those around her and she has inspired others to support her in providing much needed services to a neglected part of our population.”
“She has done a huge amount of work outside pharmacy and has helped thousands of people.”
“As women we sit in the back and don’t shout but she is not afraid to shout and be clear — her passion shines through.”
Meet the rest of The Pharmaceutical Journal’s Women to Watch 2021 here