Pharmacists receive 2022 Australia Day Honours

Valerie Constable FPS and Bill Horsfall FPS were included in the 2022 Australia Day Honours list.
Valerie Constable FPS and Bill Horsfall FPS were included in the 2022 Australia Day Honours list.

PSA Lifetime Achievement Award recipients Valerie Constable FPS, John Coppock FPS and Bill Horsfall FPS, together with Chemist Outlet Founder Niels Bowen MPS, were among 545 people to receive a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the 2022 Australia Day honours.

They were all honoured for their ‘service to the pharmacy profession’ and were among 732 awards in the general division of which a record 346 (47%) were women.

The PSA National President Associate Professor Chris Freeman congratulated the recipients for their tireless work supporting the health and wellbeing of Australians. 

‘It is pleasing to see that these respected professionals have been recognised for their ongoing work and many years of dedication to improving pharmacy and our nation as a whole,’ he said.

‘Australian society and the health sector has clearly benefited from their efforts, and [the] honours are testament to that.’

Meet the recipients

A trailblazer of the pharmacy profession, Valerie Constable FPS was PSA’s first female President in Victoria and founded the Pharmacists Support Service (PSS) in 1995. Ms Constable took the calls for the first 2 years, assisted by Alistair Lloyd, and was a volunteer for a further 25 years.

Ms Constable was a joint recipient of PSA’s 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award.

‘I felt quite strongly about it,’ she said of the PSS, the highlight of her career.

‘My family had experienced suicide and I knew what it did to people. So I put my hand up and said if anybody should do it, it should be PSA, because they represent all pharmacists. I took the calls for the first 2 years. It was seat-of-the-pants stuff, as there wasn’t another organisation in Australia to follow. Similar outfits in the UK and US were just getting started.’

In addition to leadership roles with PSA and establishing PSS, Ms Constable dedicated her career to community pharmacy. She met her husband Bob at the Victorian College of Pharmacy in the early 1950s, and spent 36 years living above their pharmacy in a former drapery store in Pascoe Vale South, about 10 kilometres north of Melbourne’s CBD.

She is also a former board member of the National Asthma Campaign, now the National Asthma Council.

Ms Constable told Australian Pharmacist that while she was ‘honoured and delighted’ to receive the recognition, ‘it is not just for me personally’.

‘It recognises the work done by pharmacists to care for the community and also the increasing involvement of female pharmacists in leadership roles and ownership,’ she said.

‘Importantly, it promotes the existence of the Pharmacists’ Support Service and their contribution to maintaining the wellbeing of pharmacists.’

William (Bill) Horsfall FPS received a PSA Victorian Lifetime Achievement Award in 2021. Dedicated to advancing the clinical knowledge of pharmacists, in the past 60 years he has been involved in hospital and community pharmacy, the Sydney Olympic Games and was Director of Pharmacy at the 2006 Commonwealth Games.

After learning from a master pharmacist in the late 1950s, Mr Horsfall started his pharmacy career in the Brisbane General Hospital manufacturing department. He went on to become Chief Pharmacist at the Townsville General Hospital and at Mackay Base Hospital, before managing a community pharmacy.

He enjoyed a working holiday in the United Kingdom from 1964 to 1967 and went into pharmacy ownership upon his return to Australia. He then moved into pharmacy education, working with PSA’s Victorian branch for 23 years. 

He remains passionate, currently working for NPS MedicineWise as an Educational Visitor to general practitioners advising on the current guidelines on the treatment of heart failure and dealing safely with high anticholinergic burden of multiple medications. He also presents the anticholinergic topic to senior nurses at residential aged care facilities around south-east Melbourne.

‘Bill is one of the most well-known pharmacists in Victoria and has had an illustrious career across many areas of pharmacy practice,’ A/Prof Freeman said.

‘Bill is a role model for all. He has raised practice standards by example over a lifetime of dedicated practice.’

President of the PSS since 2010, John Coppock FPS was awarded a PSA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015, in recognition of his efforts as a ‘stabilising force and a guiding hand’ of the profession. 

Mr Coppock graduated from the Melbourne College of Pharmacy in 1954, and later became Chairman of PDL.

‘John has made a huge contribution to ensuring the pharmacy profession’s health and wellbeing remained front and centre,’ A/Prof Freeman said.

Niels Bowen MPS was also honoured for his contributions to the profession. The founder of pharmacy group Chemist Outlet, Mr Bowen opened his first pharmacy in 1972. He started Chemist Outlet with partner Jayne Cannon in 2005, with a location in Lisarow on the New South Wales Central Coast. There are now 20 stores across three states.

He has also supported the Royal Flying Doctor Service and is a member of the Salvation Army advisory board.

Remembering Mary Polack

PSA Life Fellow Mary Polack was awarded an OAM in 2007 for services to pharmacy. An innovator in pharmacy practice, she was a pioneer of PSA’s Self Care program and a humanitarian who helped refugees and the homeless in her home state of Tasmania.

Ms Polack died in Hobart on 28 December 2021.

‘Mary inspired me to become involved in the PSA,’ said Anne Todd MPS, a PSA Tasmania vice-president and PSA Board Director.

‘She was always there for pharmacists, always available, always running an event, always coming up with ideas. She was so passionate.’

Born in Hobart in 1941, Ms Polack qualified as a pharmacist in Tasmania in 1963. She was director of PSA’s Tasmanian branch from 1978 to 1999 but also gave countless voluntary hours to the profession she loved, introducing a rigorous program of professional education for pharmacists and representing PSA on government and health committees and organisations.

Robert Scanlon MPS, a former PSA Tasmanian president and national councillor, said Ms Polack embraced innovation at a time of significant change in pharmacy practice, education and patient safety.

‘Mary very early recognised the need for pharmacists to have good quality continuing education to keep abreast of the rapidly changing and expanding range of pharmaceutical products appearing on the market and maintain their professional competence to practice,’ he said.

She encouraged pharmacists to come out of the dispensary and take a more active and evidence-based role advising patients on medicines, Mr Scanlon said.

Ms Polack was involved in the national development of Pharmacy Self Care, PSA’s comprehensive health information program for the community, pharmacists and their staff – and for 12 years was PSA’s Tasmanian Self Care manager, visiting every pharmacy in the state at least once a year.

She co-wrote the Counselling Guide for Non-Prescription Medicines for PSA and developed ‘shelf talkers’, a card system of health information originally duplicated on Gestetner machines, to prompt pharmacists to hand out the Self Care cards to the public.

Ms Polack met Alan, her husband of 54 years, when they worked in a pharmacy in London. They returned to Hobart and had two children. Dr Polack was later the Head of the School of Pharmacy at the University of Tasmania.

Ms Todd said the Polacks were ‘a double act’ in pharmacy circles in Tasmania, both ‘incredibly passionate about community pharmacy and clinical pharmacy and for pharmacists to operate at the top of their scope of practice’.

Mr Scanlon said he organised a retirement gift for Mrs Polack and was overwhelmed by the generous support from most pharmacists in Tasmania. 

‘It was recognition by her peers of the extremely high regard she was held in and the huge voluntary contribution she made to her profession,’ he said.

She was also a guiding light for female pharmacists and was entered on the Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women in 2006. 

‘Mary was such a strong feminist role model,’ Ms Todd said. ‘There was nothing we didn’t think we could do because we had such strong role models in Tasmania.’

In retirement Ms Polack supported the integration of Sudanese refugees into the Tasmanian community, training as a volunteer with the Adult Migrant Education Service and offering English language tuition and practical assistance such as taking new arrivals shopping.

For many years she cooked soup for Loui’s Vans for the homeless and hungry, a mobile food van run by the St Vincent de Paul Society in Hobart and northern Tasmania. In lieu of flowers at her funeral, Ms Polack’s family asked for donations to Loui’s Vans and to the Menzies Institute for Medical Research.

She is survived by Alan, children Fiona and John, and granddaughter Susannah.