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My journey and transition into academia

In our latest member voice article Shurti Patel Aina, a Senior Lecturer in Pharmacy Practice, clinical pharmacist, and PDA South East Regional Committee member discusses her transition to academia and how she balances her roles.

Sat 1st June 2024 The PDA

My pharmacy journey and the move to academia

My enthusiasm for education and training began with my first job tutoring English, Maths, and Science to students from primary to GCSE level. I enjoyed setting and marking homework, helping with mathematical problems, and developing effective revision techniques. While studying pharmacy at the University of Reading, I was inspired by lecturers who were also practising pharmacists and their real-life impact on patient care. This experience sparked my desire to become a lecturer, though I thought it would come much later in my career.

Throughout my pharmacy career in both community and GP practice settings, I have actively pursued opportunities in education and training. I have trained dispensers, been involved in induction of new PCN pharmacists, and organised educational sessions at my GP practice. When a lecturer position in clinical pharmacy practice at the University of Hertfordshire became available, I applied despite feeling underqualified. I successfully showcased my knowledge and skills, particularly as a current prescriber, and demonstrated my potential to educate the next generation of pharmacists.

My transition into academia has been both rewarding and challenging. I am truly enjoying my portfolio career in pharmacy, which allows me to pursue multiple passions and enhance my personal growth. I am proud to have recently been promoted to Senior Lecturer after just over a year in academia.

Beyond my day-to-day responsibilities, I have actively supported students by securing GP placements, conducting community pharmacy site validation visits, and helping create the GP placement workbook.

My roles

I currently work as a clinical pharmacist in a GP practice, a role I thoroughly enjoy for its patient-facing responsibilities and daily use of my clinical skills. I spend the first half of my week conducting long-term condition review clinics for diabetes, hypertension, and atrial fibrillation. My duties include optimising medications, deprescribing, reviewing blood test results, and performing clinical interventions. I also conduct audits, help the practice meet annual targets, and carry out the role of prescribing lead. In the second half of the week, I work as a lecturer, sharing practical insights from my clinical experience with pharmacy students.

Balancing both roles has honed my time-management and organisational skills. Despite the challenges, my passion for both roles keep me motivated, and the skills I develop in each are mutually beneficial. I prioritise self-care on my days off and weekends to maintain balance and well-being.

A typical day in academia

A typical day in academia involves designing and delivering lectures, workshops, and simulations. I teach clinical pharmacy practice, covering community pharmacy topics like ‘responding to symptoms’ and pharmacy services, managing long-term conditions, clinical examination skills, prescribing for special groups and much more.

As a module leader for a fourth-year module, I handle administrative and management tasks, including coordinating teaching by various staff and setting and marking coursework and exams. I also supervise student research projects, serve as a personal tutor, and support students. While I primarily teach on the MPharm programme, I also contribute to other programmes such as the Overseas Pharmacists Assessment Programme (OSPAP).

The role varies throughout the academic year, with more teaching during term time and more marking and exam preparation during exam periods.

Working in academia is incredibly rewarding. I get to discuss a subject I love and see future pharmacists’ passion and performance grow. As a university lecturer, I have significant autonomy over my teaching and modules, for example, I recently organised a simulation session for fourth-year pharmacy students to practice examination skills like blood pressure measurement, urine dipstick tests, and temperature checks. This practical session was valuable for preparing them as foundation trainee pharmacists.

I have also enhanced my skills by pursuing a Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education at the University of Hertfordshire. I have achieved Associate Fellowship with Advance HE and am working towards Fellowship status.

The work of the PDA in my university

The PDA recently delivered highly beneficial talks at the university, which provided valuable insights to the students. I organised a session with the PDA for fourth-year pharmacy students focusing on the GPhC assessment and foundation year support. During the talk, the PDA shared essential tips for foundation year success and navigating the GPhC registration assessment. The students found this talk incredibly useful as they prepare for their foundation year, gaining new and important information they were previously unaware of.

I highly encourage all pharmacy students to join the PDA. The free student and trainee insurance covers all university-organised work placements, part-time jobs, summer placements, and the foundation year. Additionally, PDA Union membership offers valuable support and advice on academic misconduct, employment issues, professional or ethical concerns, and legal matters. This comprehensive coverage and support are invaluable for students and trainees navigating their educational and professional journeys.

By Shurti Patel Aina, a Senior Lecturer in Pharmacy Practice, clinical pharmacist, and PDA South East Regional Committee member

Pharmacy students or lecturers who would like the PDA to deliver a talk at their university should email

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