Creating a pharmacy her community deserves is what drives PSA’s 2023 Pharmacist of the Year Elise Apolloni MPS – even if it means never quite getting enough sleep.
At Capital Chemist Wanniassa in Canberra, patients have access to more than 40 professional services provided by a devoted team, led by Elise Apolloni and her business partner Honor Penprase.
The pair see their pharmacy as a health hub for the community, and Ms Apolloni has completed education in diabetes, asthma, mental health first aid and dermatology – and plans to start lactation consultant studies next year.
‘Our leadership team is constantly trying to improve how we look after the people using our service. This is a never-ending passion for us. We want to leave the pharmacy landscape in a better place than we found it,’ she says.
‘Whenever we feel like we are in a rut or looking for inspiration, we ask ourselves, “What more can we do to help?” I believe the role of quality pharmacy care can positively impact generations of people, and it’s that type of care, that legacy, that I want Capital Chemist Wanniassa to be known for long after Honor, the team and I are there.’
A rewarding choice
Ms Apolloni first considered a career in pharmacy after work experience in ‘a lovely community pharmacy’ during high school. After graduating, aged 17, she moved interstate to study and never looked back. She has thrown herself into the profession while raising a family with her husband Dean, who is also a pharmacist.
‘I was considering different health career pathways, but I was most excited about the accessibility of and relationships built by pharmacists and pharmacy teams within the community,’ she says. ‘The highlights of being a pharmacist are to do with the relationships we develop, the way we can help our communities and the satisfaction from the way we go the extra mile … Spending my time as a community pharmacist is never dull and is always evolving. It is a very rewarding way to spend my days.’
As with all jobs, there are challenges, and Ms Apolloni says she has had to learn to manage her expectations of herself in stressful moments. ‘We are adaptable, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t hurdles,’ she says. ‘It’s about recognising what I can control, and what I can’t.’
A mentor and more
Described by one of her peers as someone who ‘lives and breathes the profession’, Ms Apolloni is passionate about being a preceptor and has trained 20 interns in the past 12 years. She is also a mentor to other pharmacists and owners, and helps yet more pharmacists through PSA’s Early Career Pharmacist Facebook page, where she generously shares advice.
Her dedication to the community extends beyond the pharmacy, including right onto the pavement, where the Wanniassa team recently installed a street pantry and street library. She is also involved in local community groups, and engages with the public during pharmacy open days and on social media, where she has been known to sing informative songs about health.
‘I love being able to bring ideas to life for our community,’ she says. ‘Above all else, I love community connection and giving as many opportunities as possible for people to have access to outstanding pharmacy care.
‘Volunteering roles and offering community pharmacy perspectives to many organisations over the years has also been very rewarding. Explaining what pharmacists and our teams can do, as well as striving to provide the best care for our communities, is a job that is never finished!’
What advice do you have for your younger self?
This is an amazing profession with opportunities in so many different areas. Immerse yourself in these opportunities. Be open to ways you can contribute to the betterment of pharmacy care. Sometimes you’ll get knocked back. Sometimes opportunities you hoped for won’t eventuate. But continue to show your passion for and commitment to pharmacy. The people in your community deserve the best pharmacy possible and anything you can do to bring that to life is worth striving for.
How do you balance the energy needed to support yourself as well as others?
I have a very supportive family and ‘pharmily’ around me. You can’t pour from an empty cup, as they say. While I am not sure I will ever get enough sleep, or ever finish my to-do list, having moments of calm and disconnection from the wider world is important to recharge. Outside of pharmacy, I enjoy spending time with family and friends, cooking with my children (a rather messy hobby at times!), over-researching various topics of interest – currently it’s electric vehicles and cake decorating – and collecting medical and pharmacy antiques that we then display at work.