ECP of the Year Deborah Hawthorne MPS was once ready to trade her pharmacy career for life as a librarian. But exciting new roles in rural areas reignited her love for the profession.
Deborah Hawthorne MPS knows how to keep busy. Not only does the Wangaratta-based consultant and general practice pharmacist work part time, she is also mum to preschool-aged twins (known as the ‘twinados’ in the Hawthorne home) and proud owner of Coco, a 2-month-old border collie, along with several chickens.
If this wasn’t enough, she’s also studying to be a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE), runs a Facebook group for consultant pharmacists, works with telehealth service PharmOnline, is part of a research group that investigates medication review practice, and mentors pharmacists across Australia.
But PSA’s 2022 Early Career Pharmacist of the Year wasn’t always so motivated. In fact, at one point she was ready to quit pharmacy altogether.
On the move
Ms Hawthorne graduated from La Trobe University in Bendigo in 2009 with the idea that ‘you could work in hospital, community or industry – that was it’.
After an intern year at a community pharmacy in Bentleigh, she went onto manage pharmacies in Elwood and Healesville. However, it wasn’t long before her husband’s job as a doctor had the couple on the road, including to the small town of Benalla, population 10,000. Although she enjoyed working in the Melbourne suburbs, Ms Hawthorne says the opportunity to work in the country changed her career trajectory.
‘It opened my eyes to how respected we are in areas of need, particularly in rural towns,’ she says.
‘It was during this time that I decided to obtain my accreditation, as I sought clinical stimulation and other means to assist rural communities.’
Another move took the couple back to Melbourne and then onto Geelong, where the twins were born. But, unable to use her accreditation, Ms Hawthorne found her love of pharmacy fading.
She considered a career change, and started studying to be a librarian at the University of Melbourne. ‘My plan was to leave pharmacy and become a hospital librarian, coupling being an information manager with a health profession.’
But it wasn’t long before the couple was off again – to north-east Victoria, where Ms Hawthorne reconnected with old university friends who encouraged her to return to pharmacy and use her accreditation skills.
Among them was Kim Ching, a pharmacist who runs two GP clinics in Wangaratta. Ms Ching encouraged Ms Hawthorne to become a GP pharmacist.
‘At that time, I had no idea what this role entailed, but thought “why not?”,’ Ms Hawthorne says. ‘As a GP pharmacist, I was energised. I had found my thing, my passion, my reason to enjoy a working day. And then? The pandemic hit, and I once again felt lost.’
Rather than changing careers, Ms Hawthorne reached out, creating a Facebook group for consultant pharmacists. ‘Once this group was created, the floodgates of opportunity opened,’ she says. ‘[My] roles have allowed me access to incredible pharmacist mentors across Australia. I am inspired by those around me to continually better myself as a pharmacist, while helping others in the process.’
Her best advice for other ECPs is to ‘reach out’. ‘It can be daunting, but look outside of your comfort zone and talk to your heroes.
‘They want to talk to you as much as you want to talk to them … I often wonder if I’d had the ability to reach out for help to the pharmacists who have inspired me, how much more I could have changed and accomplished.’
1. What is your main goal at this stage for the future?
Continue expanding my pharmacy horizons, making effective pharmacy policy change and flexing my research muscles – and completing the 1,000 hours needed to become a CDE.
2. Where will you be in 5 years?
Still running after slightly older ‘twinados’ and enjoying farm life, while having a varied pharmacy career including research, medication management, embedded roles and strong advocacy for our profession.
3. What medicine do you find most fascinating and why?
SGLT-2 inhibitors – these wonder drugs are so interesting yet have many nuances.
4. What do you think has been the biggest achievement of the profession since 2019?
Other than the incredible uptake of pharmacist vaccinators, one of the biggest achievements has been the increased presence of pharmacists in areas where medicines are prescribed and used i.e. embedded pharmacists.
5. What should be a priority of the next plan for pharmacists?
Ensuring standards for accredited pharmacists are upheld. The outburst of support for my Facebook group for consultant pharmacists shows an unmet need for education, business training and advocacy for this specialised pharmacist workforce.