‘Pioneer of pharmacy’: Graham Calder (1933–2018)

Described as a ‘pioneer of pharmacy’, former chief pharmacist of Scotland Graham Calder has been an inspiration for many pharmacy professionals during, and since, his varied career.

Graham Calder

Graham Calder, former chief pharmacist of Scotland and a Fellow of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), has died aged 85 years. Calder has been described as a pioneer of pharmacy in the UK, recognised for his work in the promotion of clinical pharmacy and in the development of pharmacy education and training.

Born in Glasgow in 1933, Calder graduated from Glasgow University in 1956 with a BSc in pharmacy and became a member of the Pharmaceutical Society in 1957. Following his graduation, he spent nine years gaining experience in a range of hospital pharmacy roles. Between 1965 and 1971 he held the post of group chief pharmacist at Aberdeen General and Orkney and Shetland hospitals. During this time, he was part of a team of pharmacists, doctors and nurses who instigated what became known as the Aberdeen Kardex system, designed to increase the safety and efficiency of hospital prescribing. This stage of Calder’s career also saw him introduce the concept of ‘ward pharmacy’, which brought the pharmacist into the hospital ward team for the first time. Writing in The Pharmaceutical Journal in 1967, Calder and his co-author, JW Barnett, a research pharmacist colleague, said that ward pharmacists offered “a very real saving in nursing time”.

In 1967, Calder received the Merck, Sharp & Dohme Award for distinction in hospital pharmacy practice. He was the first ever recipient of this award.

In 1971, Calder became the UK’s first regional pharmacist, in a career move that took him to Birmingham. In 1974, he was promoted to regional pharmaceutical officer and a year later he took up his first governmental role as deputy chief pharmacist in the Department of Health and Social Security. He held this position until 1982, during which time he studied for a law degree — completing much of the required study on his two-hour commute from his home in Solihull to his office in central London.

In 1977, he was conferred Fellowship of the Pharmaceutical Society for distinction in the practice of pharmacy.

Between 1982 and 1992, Calder held the dual roles of chief pharmacist and assistant secretary in the Scottish Office. During this time he established and chaired the Post Qualification Education (PQE) Board for pharmacists in Scotland; one of three bodies that in 2002 merged to form NHS Education for Scotland (NES).

“It was in his role as the chair of the PQE board that I learnt more about the determination, leadership and expertise of the man himself,” Rose Marie Parr, Scotland’s chief pharmaceutical officer, recalled. “So much was achieved by the PQE Board that it later became one of the founding bodies for NES, leading the way in multi-professional education and training for the NHS in Scotland, and the blueprint for many other countries to follow.”

In 1988, Calder became the second recipient of the College of Pharmacy Practice’s Schering Award for outstanding contributions to the practice of pharmacy.

Outside of work, Calder was a keen footballer. He was born a few streets away from Hampden Park, the home of Glasgow’s Queen’s Park Football Club, and after leaving school he played for Queen’s Park Strollers, the club’s second team. In the 1950s, he also played a few games for the club’s first team.

Calder retired in 1992. Speaking to The Pharmaceutical Journal upon his retirement, Calder declared that “none of us is too old to learn”: a worldview exemplified by the fact that in 1999 he was awarded an MPhil from Robert Gordon University (RGU) for research into the renumeration of community pharmacy in Scotland. He went on to undertake visiting professor posts at RGU and Strathclyde University.

Bill Scott, who succeeded Calder as chief pharmaceutical officer for Scotland, remembers him as “a true visionary leader who improved patient care by changing the practice of pharmacy to have a greater clinical focus, and he also created a robust system for post qualification education in Scotland”.

Parr described Calder as “a dynamic force for the profession: intelligent, quick-witted and carried his huge knowledge and experience lightly and always with a wry smile”.

“Those of us who were privileged to know Graham can testify to his sense of fun and humour. He was always the life and soul of any occasion, which ensured his company was always sought out and always remembered. There have been few pharmacists of his influence and determination in the pharmacy profession and Graham will be sadly missed,” Parr added.

“Our sincere condolences and thoughts are with Graham’s family at this time.”

Calder was married to Christina (Ena) Calder for 56 years, until she passed away in 2016. He is survived by two children, Alan and Christine, and five grandchildren: Rob, Alyssa, Lily, Hannah and Rosie.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, October 2018, Vol 301, No 7918;301(7918)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2018.20205593

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