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Humbling national honour for consultant pharmacist

SOUTH Wangaratta Medical GP pharmacist Deborah Hawthorne was overwhelmed with the support of the local pharmacist community as she was announced the winner of the national Consultant Pharmacist award.

Presented at the Consultant Pharmacy Conference on Friday in Adelaide, the annual award recognises Ms Hawthorne’s outstanding contribution as an accredited pharmacist to the practice of consultant pharmacy in Australia.

The honour adds to the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia’s Early Career Pharmacist of the Year award which Ms Hawthorne received last year.

She said it was a wonderful feeling to be nominated and recognised for her tireless work within the North East community.

“I do feel a bit humbled and chuffed that someone’s gone to the effort to actually nominate me, especially when everyone is so busy in their own practice so it’s lovely to be appreciated,” Ms Hawthorne said.

“I personally get so much out of it already, my clinical practice and my confidence as a pharmacist has improved by connecting with all of these amazing pharmacists all throughout Australia.”

A consultant pharmacist, or an accredited pharmacist, is a pharmacist who has undergone extra training to be able to perform medication reviews in people’s homes or essential aged care facilities.

Ms Hawthorne said there are about 3000 consultant pharmacists in Australia, and she has become well–known among the tight knit community for co–founding a community practice Facebook group for consultant pharmacists during the peak of COVID–19, which has more than 2500 members.

“It’s about connection, communication, supporting each other clinically in business practice,” she said.

“Everything was changing, we didn’t know if we could go and visit people in their homes, we didn’t know what the rules were, the government rules were changing day to day and because most of us work as independent workers, we didn’t have many people to talk to and find out information.

“It started as an information board, but developed into this sort of support network where people shared work.

“A lot of people have clinical case studies that they were finding really tricky so they just wanted another pharmacist’s insight with it who perhaps has dealt with something like that before or has a specialty in that area.

“The program itself comes under attack quite a bit, so having that peer support there is really valuable.”

Along with connecting with her peers virtually, Ms Hawthorne’s work takes her all over the North East visiting patients and pharmaceutical organisations in order to give patients the chance to extract the most out of their medication and care.

Ms Hawthorne said she is learning new skills to keep up with her profession, including studying to become a diabetes educator, which is going well.

“It frustrates me not knowing things, so I keep up with my education,” she said.

“I’m always doing courses, this weekend I’m doing one on upskilling on COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and asthma; I’m a lifelong learner.”

Ms Hawthorne said the award she received on Friday was a reflection of the “tightknit” local pharmacist community and their dealings together.

“You’ve got the pharmacists who work in GP clinics, the community pharmacists and the hospital pharmacists and I’m lucky enough to actually work with these guys in different forms on a regular basis,” she said.

“A lot of people don’t realise how much conversation goes on behind the scenes but the local pharmacists have been so supportive and definitely part of this award.”

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