In Summer 2019, we — a group of black pharmacy students at the University of Manchester — noticed how few black pharmacy professionals were working across the community, hospital and industrial pharmacy sectors. And, when we looked at the composition of higher management across different healthcare organisations, this lack of black representation only became more evident.
Sadly, this picture is reflected in our own university: of the 609 students currently enrolled on the MPharm course, only 12.6% (77) identify as ‘black African’, ‘black Caribbean’ or ‘black other’.
And the black students who do make it into pharmacy education can struggle; in September 2019, The Pharmaceutical Journal highlighted the widening gap in preregistration assessment pass rates between black African and white British preregistration trainees.
So, we created the Black Pharmacists Collective (BPC). We want to close the attainment gap between black pharmacy students and their peers; improve access to studying pharmacy; enhance the soft skills developed on the MPharm; widen career prospects; and increase black representation in pharmacy. Black students who are supported during their undergraduate studies will realise their full potential in their pharmacy careers.
We need more black pharmacists
We will promote collaboration with secondary schools to increase the number of black students taking the MPharm course. And, we will ensure that every black pharmacy student at Manchester can share their feelings and seek advice from individuals with shared experiences. It is important that we listen to, and retain, our black pharmacy students. With an increasingly diverse patient population, the pharmacy profession must be representative of the people it serves.
Levelling up our members
Since its creation in September 2019, the BPC has registered 38 members — nearly half of the entire black pharmacy cohort. Our first event was a games night, which aimed to introduce the BPC’s aims and objectives. Over 20 participants joined us, including representatives from each year of the degree. Students at different stages of pharmacy training made new connections with each other — the basis for partnerships between mentors and mentees.
Source: Black Pharmacists Collective
At our ‘inFocus’ events, we have honest, impactful conversations with established professionals who expose us to their working environments. Our personal development workshops improve the soft skills we need to navigate the workplace. One-to-one mentoring builds authentic relationships and facilitates collaboration and continuous learning, while our focus groups give our students the chance to voice their opinions, which we communicate back to the university.
The first of our inFocus series focused on the pharmaceutical industry. Hosted by Kundai Gomwe and Marianna Aturia, the event highlighted the opportunities on offer in the industry. We enlisted a range of external speakers, from medical writers to final signatories, and Kundai and Unekwuojo Agada spoke about their summer internships at the Wellcome Trust and GSK respectively. Feedback from the event was extremely positive; members praised the diverse backgrounds of the speakers, the practicality of their advice, and their honesty in sharing their experiences.
We need to keep up engagement, and, fortunately, the School of Pharmacy has given us immense support. The school has been encouraging of our goals, facilitated our meetings with leaders on widening participation, provided funding and amenities for our events, and supported our attendance at a national conference on the outcomes of black, Asian and ethnic minority students.
We are really proud of what we have achieved so far, and we are so grateful for the support we’ve had. The young black generation has untapped potential — we must nurture it with mentorship and exposure to the pharmacy world. We are going to continue working with our School of Pharmacy, and pharmacy professionals across the UK, to effect change and boost the representation of black people in pharmacy.
Joel Boateng, community and GP pharmacy liaison;
Tsariye Doro, community and hospital pharmacy liaison;
Priscilla Dumenu, hospital pharmacy liaison;
Unekwuojo Agada, founder. Supervises day-to-day duties of BPC and oversees the mentorship programme;
Kundai Gomwe, pharmaceutical industry liaison;
Marianna Aturia, alternative careers liaison.