Pharmacist all-rounder

PSA’s 2022 Victorian Pharmacy Medal winner Paul Gysslink

PSA’s 2022 Victorian Pharmacy Medal winner Paul Gysslink wanted something different, while loving being a pharmacist. It set him on the road to more qualifications and a continuing interesting, varied and highly flexible career. 

Why did you choose pharmacy? 

With Year 12 maths and science my options were science teaching or specialising in pharmacy (the local pharmacy was doing well and it looked like a good career!). 

After passing what became a 4-year course at the Victorian College of Pharmacy for me (it was a 3-year course back then, and I was fortunate to be invited to repeat my second year), I completed my internship in a small suburban pharmacy, then worked as a locum for 2 years in suburban and country pharmacies, which provided valuable experience. 

What other qualifications have you achieved over the years? 

I completed a Diploma in Education at the University of Melbourne (when university study was free in the 1970s and 1980s!) to ‘add an extra string to my bow’. It was one year of study to gain access to another career. Next was an economics degree at Monash University, thinking it would be good to merge economics and pharmacy, as health economics was just starting as a formal discipline. 

Later in my career, I received a Diploma in Health Economics and Evaluation while working for the Victorian State Health Department Drugs and Poisons Unit, largely checking compliance with methadone programs in community pharmacies then transferring to the Drug Treatment Services Unit. 

How did you keep your hand in community pharmacy? 

My umbilical cord to community pharmacy stretches back to 1976. And since 1994, I have worked at least one shift every week at Mount’s Pharmacy in Ivanhoe, a Melbourne suburb (near my home). It’s a great place to work with competent staff who also have worked there for a long time. 

For the last 2 decades I have also been an assessor for the Quality Care Pharmacy Program, an accreditation program for community pharmacies, and I also do sessional work for Monash University as a Teaching Associate in the Pharmacy course. 

What were your other career jumps? 

Prior to joining the Health Department I worked in hospital pharmacy at the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital. I had a 2-year stint teaching biology at a secondary school and 2 years working for Big Pharma as a health economist. 

Then I ventured into training and assessing in the certificate courses for hospital pharmacy technicians – firstly with Victoria University, then Box Hill Institute – and for the last 5 years with SWC Training, a private Registered Training Organisation. 

How far has the profession come since you started? 

The scope of practise has expanded widely (HMRs, Medschecks and vaccinations) and now is the time for further expansion. Pharmacy has always been at the forefront of embracing technology, now with dispensing robots, eScripts and My Health Record access. 

What advice do you have for ECPs? 

I am fortunate that I now have a ‘jigsaw’ of complementary jobs. ECPs should get a couple of solid years practice in pharmacy. Become active in pharmacy organisations and identify your passions and interests. This will help you find your niche. 

You must enjoy what you do – don’t become a slave to a job.