Dr Esa Chen MPS is starting important conversations

Dr Esa Chen MPS doesn’t shy away from difficult conversations. From diversity and inclusion to gender equity and climate change, she is using her voice to improve the pharmacy profession. 

Growing up as a Chinese-Malaysian-Australian in country New South Wales, Esa struggled to find people who looked like her. But moving to Melbourne to study pharmacy, and then spending 5 months in Hong Kong as part of her PhD research, made her realise just how much representation matters. 

In this episode of Pharmacy and Me, Esa speaks with hosts Peter Guthrey and Hannah Knowles about finding her voice, creating change and her best advice for other early career pharmacists who want to tackle the big issues.

Listen to the episode below or find it on SpotifyApple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.

Pharmacy & Me is proudly produced by the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia.

‘I want to live in a fair society where everyone gets the opportunity to bring their full selves [to work].’

Dr Esa Chen MPS

Follow the timestamps to jump to the topics below:

  • [00:01:33] Esa’s PhD research
  • [00:06:20] Intern year experiences 
  • [00:12:25] Getting into research
  • [00:14:36] The importance of diversity and inclusion
  • [00:16:26] Taking up space as a woman in the profession
  • [00:22:28] Feeling like an ‘other’
  • [00:27:18] Pharmacy and climate change
  • [00:31:49] Top tips


Esa [00:00:00] If you want to have a voice, my question would be: what do you want to use it for? So, what are your values? What do you believe in? What do you want to speak out for? Why do you want to have a voice if you don’t have anything to say?

Peter [00:00:23] From the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, hello and welcome to Pharmacy & Me, the podcast that explores how pharmacists do the extraordinary things they do. I’m Peter Guthrey from PSA and a community pharmacist at a 24/7 pharmacy in Melbourne, and I’m joining you today from the traditional land of the Kulin nation.

Hannah [00:00:41] And I’m Hannah Knowles, a senior pharmacist at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, and I am joining you today from the traditional lands of the Turrbal people.

In each episode of Pharmacy & Me, we speak to an everyday pharmacist doing outstanding work and about the highs and lows of their career. And we unpack what they’ve learnt and how you can put their experience into your practice.

Peter [00:01:02] This episode, we’re chatting to Dr Esa Chen, community pharmacist and current researcher at Monash University. Hi Esa, where are you joining us from today?

Esa [00:01:11] Hi, I’m joining you from Wurundjeri land in Naarm or Melbourne. I’d like to acknowledge the 60,000 years of continuing culture and system of medicine that existed before colonisation and continues today.

Hannah [00:01:23] Thanks, Esa. It’s really great to have you on the show. And first of all, congratulations on your doctorate, such a massive achievement. Can you tell us a little bit about your research project?

Esa [00:01:33] Yes, so in my PhD, we were looking at simplifying complex medication regimens for residents of aged care. So one of the cool things that came out of it was, I was fortunate, I guess, to be doing it at the same time that the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety was going on. So, my research was all directly relevant and had policy impact.

Peter [00:02:00] What aspect of the Royal Commission did your work contribute to?

Esa [00:02:03] My research was on really the resident experience of medications and the ease of giving medication regimens. We sort of hypothesised that making medicine regimens simpler would make them easier to give and easier to take. So, when the Royal Commission was hearing evidence, a lot of it was about residents and families who weren’t happy with the way that their medicines were managed. It was one of the most common complaints. So, while there are specific medication classes that were singled out, like antipsychotics, we were sort of looking at the whole regimen.

Peter [00:02:42] What sort of things were able to be done to make their medicine regimens simpler?

Esa [00:02:47] So one of the research projects that I did was to make a tool that assisted clinicians, whoever that might be, pharmacists, GP, nurse practitioners, to simplify the medication regimen. So that might be changing dose administration times, changing formulations, so using combination tablets, for example, or different formulations.

Peter [00:03:11] And what were the surprising things that you uncovered when you started working through that?

Esa [00:03:15] Something that I ran into multiple times was, whenever I would tell people about this research, they would say, oh, yes, that’s obvious. But when we looked at RMMRs, medication reviews, the research or the evidence didn’t show that that was actually something that was being addressed. So, while it seems obvious, it wasn’t actually happening. There were a lot of really simple interventions that could be made. And that was surprising to me, because, you know, it does seem like an obvious thing. Don’t take medications twice a day if you don’t have to.

Peter [00:03:54] What were some of your favourite medicines to target for simplification?

Esa [00:03:58] So, statins were the sort of prototypical example. This myth that you need to take them at night time and even, the older ones that you might have a slight benefit at night time. Does that actually outweigh the benefit of having one less administration time? Like think of the improvement in the quality of life by not having to be interrupted, not having to be woken up.

Peter [00:04:23] Hannah, you work in a hospital, I imagine you deal with some similar things.

Hannah [00:04:26] That’s definitely something that we tell our juniors and other nurses that if someone is sleeping, they probably don’t need their six o’clock Panadol. So, making sure that we’re not actually waking people up to then be giving them tablets that they may not need.

Peter [00:04:41] Just going back, I guess a bit, Esa, to where it all began, you sort of started your study through Monash University through 2011 to 2014, what attracted you to pharmacy in the first place?

Esa [00:04:51] So, I always wanted to work in health. Being the child of migrants, Chinese migrants, they really instilled health and education as the most important, I guess, social supports, not really the right word, but yes, health and education were really key. So, I sort of gravitated more towards health, because I was interested in science and caring for people. So, then it became where in health? And just sort of the way it shook out was that I ended up here in Victoria doing pharmacy.

Peter [00:05:29] And as you went through the degree, was it something that you immediately realised you’ve chosen the right part of the health industry to base your profession in? Or is it something that sort of grew over time?

Esa [00:05:38] I think once I got there, I was sure that that was the right move. First of all, I just really enjoyed living in a big city. I love the culture here. I love all the different people. So, I grew up in a town that was quite… There weren’t many Asians. So, I liked having lots of different people.

Hannah [00:06:04] It’s a big change, moving to the city from some small towns. With your background and your upbringing, do you think that affected some of the pathways you chose through uni and the things that you were involved with?

Esa [00:06:20] I just studied, I studied really hard. I think actually moving away from home did force me into a lot of extracurriculars at uni that I may not have pursued otherwise because I just didn’t really have a network here. And one of the best ways to make a community was through that university network. So, going and doing the activities that were part of O week, rather than hanging out with friends that I already had because I didn’t know anyone here.

Peter [00:06:48] You then had your intern year in Melbourne as well. How did that sort of build you up to be the pharmacist that you’ve become?

Esa [00:06:55] I did my internship in community pharmacy at National Pharmacies, and it was a community pharmacy that was very close to the community mental health unit of the local hospital. So, we had a lot of mental health patients transitioning in and out of care. We did a lot of packing and making sure that their medications were correct and safe. It taught me to be patient because we had a lot of last-minute changes. And you know, as much as you care about your patients, you’re never happy when you get a pack change at 4:30 pm on a Friday.

Hannah [00:07:40] And it’s always Friday afternoon.

Esa [00:07:41] It’s always Friday afternoon. Everyone’s got their own challenges, and we’re all just trying to make it in this world. So, I think that was a major thing that I learnt out of my internship. Another thing was, I just had really fantastic preceptors. All of the pharmacists at that pharmacy had been there quite a long time. It was a very stable team. And it taught me the importance of having a good team and what everyone contributes to that. And it’s something that I’ve tried to continue on in my practise.

Hannah [00:08:22] Are there any qualities that you identify with those pharmacists as being the best qualities for a preceptor?

Esa [00:08:30] My main preceptor was patient. I sometimes look back and think that I was a really rotten intern, impatient a lot of the time. I thought I knew a lot when I really didn’t. So, she was kind. She was patient. She had a lot of experience. So, she had, you know, a structured way of approaching internships or interns and training them and made time for me. So, I always knew that she was available. She never asked too much of me. I’m still grateful to this day, honestly.

Peter [00:09:12] You reflected there that you thought you knew more than you did. It’s sometimes a difficult realisation that, you go from that point of feeling, I guess at the top of your game coming out of uni to all of a sudden see that the mountain that you’re climbing to registration is quite a lot steeper than you might have anticipated. What was that like as an experience for you?

Esa [00:09:33] Freaking scary.

Peter [00:09:35] Yes.

Esa [00:09:35] It’s not fun, and, you know, it’s happened multiple times, multiple times throughout my PhD, not even to mention internship. But I think what it’s taught me, hopefully going forward, I’m sure it’ll happen again, but like to be humble and to always ask more questions and know that there’s more to the story usually than what you think and that’s true, like, not just for work, that’s for people as well.

Peter [00:10:03] Do you have a particular example of a moment like that where you’ve gone, oh, I shouldn’t have been so quick to come to judgment or, oh, I’m glad I asked that question?

Esa [00:10:12] I think there’s been lots of times, especially with the introduction of real-time prescription monitoring. I do remember a particularly long conversation I had with a patient who had just a lot of different medications for sleep. And as I was approaching her, I could see that she was expecting, you know, a certain conversation to take place. But I approached her and I said, you probably know that this new programme is being implemented and I can see that you’ve had, you know, X Y Z recently. And she told me what had been going on in her life and it was, stuff to do with her job, stuff to do with finances and also told me what support she had received. And it wasn’t really anything that I would expect would help someone in that particular situation. So, I was able to, you know, sort of, I hope, give good referrals to places that I thought would be more appropriate and hopefully that got a bit better for her.

Peter [00:11:24] One of my really early lessons when Safe Script came into Victoria was the need to have a really good understanding of signposting people through our health system. And a number of the listeners of Pharmacy & Me will be facing real-time prescription monitoring in their practice for the first time in the next few months. And it really is eye opening and quite humbling, both when you start to unravel some of these complex stories, but also you really need to know your referral networks because a referral back to their initial prescriber might, it may be appropriate, but it may also be part of the challenge that they’re experiencing as well.

Esa [00:12:00] As good as our health system is, it is not easy to navigate. Lots of people with higher education find it tricky. That’s people who have all the best advantages and all the best opportunities.

Hannah [00:12:12] So, Esa, after your intern year, you then moved into academia, what were the thoughts about potentially changing careers and did you have any doubts with making the move?

Esa [00:12:25] I didn’t have any doubts at all. I actually started looking into doing a PhD when I was in third year, and as part of that I did a research project as an undergraduate just to sort of, you know, test it out because I think you don’t know what a job’s really like until you actually do it.

Hannah [00:12:47] Absolutely.

Esa [00:12:47] Yes, so through my internship, which I loved, I just found out that it wasn’t the job for me. I was really drawn to the inquiry aspect of research, so being able to really think deeply about a problem and then come up with an answer or like results that no one else is seeing except you. The other thing that I really liked about research is that it allows me to work in health at a level that was a bit broader. So, from high school, we were sort of taught that health was multidimensional. It occurs in a society. We are all part of a community. And I didn’t really find that aspect a lot when I was practising in community pharmacy. So, working in research has been really good because we can look at it at that sort of systems level and make change for a whole lot of people.

Hannah [00:13:49] And there’s a lot of people who are interested in getting into research. If you haven’t had any experience as an undergrad, is there anything that you’d reflect on that might be worth people looking at or starting?

Esa [00:14:00] There’s a lot of student research projects out there, so I would be proactive in looking for programmes that offer that. And have a look at some research. Look at topics that you’re interested in. Look at who is doing that research and just send them an email because researchers love talking about their research.

Hannah [00:14:27] And Twitter is also another place I love finding out things that have just been published, and as soon as you get on a thread, it can really lead you down a wormhole.

Esa [00:14:35] Absolutely.

Hannah [00:14:36] Touching back on your comments with community and the importance of community. One of the key things in that is diversity and inclusion, and it’s a topic that you have taken quite an interest in. Where does that passion come from, Esa?

Esa [00:14:50] I’m Chinese Malaysian Australian. As I mentioned, grew up in a place that didn’t have a lot of people that looked like me and then came to a place that did have a lot of people that looked like me. And that sort of made me really realise how important a sense of belonging is and also made me realise that everyone has different perspectives and experiences, and that’s all important and valuable. And when you put them together, it’s really exciting and better for everyone. So, I think there’s that and there’s also just the sense that, I want to live in a fair society where everyone gets the opportunity to bring their full selves.

Peter [00:15:38] And on the topic of fairness, you’ve mentioned a while ago in Australian Pharmacist back in, I think, March in the International Women’s Day edition that we had. You spoke about that the opportunities for women might be equal at the earlier part of our career, but that when you look, say, five, 10, 20, 30 years down the track, that representation looks quite different. And you also mentioned that duties that people define as ‘female duties’, even cleaning up the office, teacake for a birthday party, in a society that we consider to be quite equal, that burden still often falls to female employees. You’re still relatively early in your career, but what advice do you have to those as they start to move through? How do you keep having those opportunities as you start to move through the profession?

Esa [00:16:26] I think mentorship is really important, so finding a mentor who can give you advice and, in some circumstances, sponsorship. I think what I am personally working on at the moment is taking up space, so, I know where my expertise lies, and I know that my voice is important. So, just trying to back myself. I think one of the classic things that I’ve read in sort of like leadership literature or women’s leadership literature, things like, in a meeting, you’ll put an idea forward and then that idea will come up later said by a man who everyone will congratulate on that brilliant idea.

Peter [00:17:21] High fives and back slaps.

Esa [00:17:24] Exactly. Taking up space in scenarios like that where you do stand up and say, yes, that was a great idea, I mentioned it a few minutes ago, or thanks for building on my idea. And that’s really difficult. It also helps when you have structural support, which is why it’s important for me to keep bringing this topic up.

Peter [00:17:49] You also said on that issue about being structural; even if we were unable to ascend, it needs to be possible for them to participate. What are some of the really tangible things that people can do to help women participate?

Esa [00:18:00] So, there are really obvious things like, asking them to speak or asking women for their opinion. So, you know, this depends on personality as well, but you might get into a room and then notice that there are lots of male voices, or lots of men speaking and lots of women listening. I think there are lots of things that employers can do around childcare. And while it might not be things like, you know, providing childcare or moving to a location that has easy access to childcare, you know, making sure meetings are at times that don’t interrupt with picking up children from school, things like that.

Hannah [00:18:49] That was something that we discussed at the last FIP World Congress, the fact that there’s no childcare available at conferences for presenters speaking, and that can really limit some of the opportunities that people have if they can’t have family members come with them.

Esa [00:19:07] I don’t know if this is the same in a lot of other professions, but lots of pharmacists are partnered with other pharmacists. So, it means when you have pharmacy conferences, it then becomes, who gets to go or who gets to participate in this session.

Hannah [00:19:24] And then if we take a step back and look wider, what’s your view of the state of diversity and inclusion in pharmacy at the moment? Particularly the leadership in pharmacy.

Esa [00:19:33] If I think of the cohort that I went through university with, it doesn’t look anything like the leadership of pharmacy. The other thing that I think is really important is that we as healthcare providers reflect the community that we’re serving. So, there was a Tweet that did really well recently where someone had put together a spreadsheet of pharmacies that had pharmacists that spoke mainly Vietnamese. But when you went into it, it was a lot of Asian and Southeast Asian languages as well. And they put that together because they were finding that people were more comfortable being vaccinated and certainly having a well-informed conversation about being vaccinated when they could speak to someone in their first language. So, I’m really proud that we have a workforce that is able to serve the diverse community that we have in Australia, and I feel like it lets everyone down when that diversity is not reflected at every level.

Hannah [00:20:44] It’s really nice to start to see some of the diversity that you’re talking about coming through in our Early Career Pharmacists Working Groups. Is there anything or tips that you would have or how you, as someone that’s starting to have a voice, can help mentor other people that are still finding theirs?

Esa [00:21:02] I’m just trying to be as encouraging as I can. We have quite a diverse student cohort, so I certainly don’t have any trouble finding really bright, enthusiastic pharmacists who I would consider to be future leaders. So, what I try to do is give them as much encouragement, give them as many opportunities as I can. I’m trying to talk about these issues and raise the profile of these issues so that they will get the chance to become leaders and take those positions, because I think that a bunch of different perspectives is really valuable and important. And it’s really important that we feel a sense of belonging as well.

Peter [00:21:56] You’ve spoken a few times online with this fantastic hashtag representation matters. One of my favourite Tweets about that was when you first spoke about representation, you looked at Crazy Rich Asians the movie and said that the first time you saw Asian Americans depicted as ‘normal’, which is long before you saw that with Asian Australians, you felt understood and validated. And that sort of was a moment that crystallised for you why representation matters. How do you explain that concept to those that have lived in a world where they’ve seen themselves everywhere?

Esa [00:22:28] So, I was really fortunate to go on exchange as part of my PhD to the University of Hong Kong, and I was there for 5 months. And one of the things that I loved most about it, actually, I mean their research group was world-leading and fantastic, but what I didn’t realise in going there, so in Hong Kong, they speak Cantonese, which is what I spoke at home, although my parents are Chinese Malaysian and grew up in Malaysia, our culture is Cantonese, essentially. So, when I went to Hong Kong, what I really wasn’t expecting was to feel a really deep sense of belonging to a place I’d never been, where my parents didn’t grow up. And the reason was not just because people looked like me, and when they spoke, I had flashbacks to my childhood in my home, but it was also things like, they had public holidays on days that were culturally significant to me. They understood what it was like to have a shared culture. So, coming back to Australia, which is a place that I have grown up, but also a place that, going back to just the celebrations, so the company that I did my internship with had a lot of Chinese, well, Southeast Asian pharmacists and it would always be a fight of who would get annual leave for Lunar New Year. Being able to spend important time with your family, to share experiences and values that are not necessarily the same as everyone else, you do feel a bit like an other. And it’s not something that I ever forget, living in Australia, that I am also a Chinese person. And I think it’s been really difficult recently as well with COVID and all of the racism that’s come up with that, that it still happens, right? And every time it happens, and it doesn’t have to be things like my parents’ business when I was younger, got spray-painted, ‘Asian’, just across the front of the store. So, it’s not just things like that that everyone thinks of when they think of racism, it’s microaggressions as well. Little things, little comments that people say when you’re in a workplace that come out of nowhere, that completely just take you by surprise, and all of a sudden, you’re reminded again that you don’t belong. And I don’t know how easy that is for other people to understand. But I, you know, hope that gives you some sort of insight.

Peter [00:25:32] Wow. That’s definitely given me some insight. That’s really quite powerful.

Hannah [00:25:37] Such powerful examples. Moving forward, what could leaders do to create a more inclusive environment?

Esa [00:25:44] I think recognising and valuing the experience that everyone brings and centring that as much as possible. So, making sure that opportunities are given equally. Celebrating differences as well, so celebrating Lunar New Year, for example, that would be my personal example. You know, but there are lots of different aspects of diversity and lots of different cultural holidays that we can celebrate in Australia, which is just the best, right? Being able to partake in all of these different cultures and eat all these different foods. The easy thing about diversity in some ways is that the actions that you take to make workplaces more diverse in gender, for example, are often the same things that you would do to make the workplace more diverse in other ways. So, I think it’s also important not just to focus on gender. Make room for all different kinds of people.

Peter [00:26:52] And as you said, that representation really matters. I think I’m quite struck when I hear, recently through the Paralympics, the athletes talked about the athlete’s village. They could live there forever because everybody looked and felt like them.

Hannah [00:27:03] And that celebrating everyone’s differences is something that I’m going to take away and actually look at putting a few more celebrations in our social calendar because we know in pharmacy everyone loves a good social calendar.

Esa [00:27:25] Exactly.

Hannah [00:27:16] Thanks very much, Esa.

Peter [00:27:18] To pivot, though, to the topic of climate change and sustainability, you tweeted a while ago that climate change is a health issue with impacts on health and health systems. But I guess for most of us, we see the daily news and we see pictures of polluting factories and we see pictures of deserts and droughts and thunderstorms and don’t really connect that with our daily work. As a health professional, what does sustainability and climate change look like in our practice?

Esa [00:27:43] I think first of all, the examples that you gave, the floods and the bushfires and things, they are health impacts. So, people live in those areas and they do have impacts on their health when extreme weather events like that happen, and we know that climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. And not only do we have people living in those areas, we have pharmacies in those areas. So, community pharmacists who have to increasingly be prepared to deal with events like that when they happen. So making sure that those residents in the areas have access to their medications in a time that’s really traumatic, which is another aspect of health that climate change is having an impact on. But I guess in, you know, like everyday practice, there are lots of things that we can do to further the cause, I guess. So, health care itself contributes to climate change, a really good example of, I think, low hanging fruit at this point is metered-dose inhalers. So, the carbon footprint of our Ventolin and other metered-dose inhalers is really high, and it’s because of, in part, because of the propellant that it uses. So, the things that we do as pharmacists in terms of medicines stewardship and quality use of medicines do have an impact on the carbon footprint. So, if we ensure that we have good asthma control, meaning that people will not need to use that Ventolin as often, we’re helping to decrease their carbon footprint.

Peter [00:29:29] And even FIP has recently done some work with clean air and the impact of clean air on health. And I remember I proudly declared that Australia had fantastic air quality and this wasn’t such a concern for us and I was thinking of the developing nations. And then we faced the bushfire season from hell and some of the images of people struggling to breathe and some of our colleagues who work down the New South Wales South Coast, and particularly ACT, which went through horrendous smoke pollution. There wasn’t really anything medicines could do to that degree of pollution that they experienced. How do we help both our patients and also our profession, connect with these issues in our daily life?

Esa [00:30:09] I think sometimes people look at the scale and they get a bit scared and think, oh, I’m one person, how am I ever going to make a difference? And that is true to a certain extent in that, you know, a lot of carbon emissions is big business and big companies. But the fact that it’s a global problem also means that we all have a part in it. We all have a responsibility to it. So, there are lots of things that we can do as an individual. A really common example in pharmacy is the level of waste that we see from medicines and deliveries and things like that. So, doing as much as we can to decrease that, thinking about our energy providers and where they source their energy. And also, I think something really powerful that we can do that, you know, we haven’t really claimed yet is advocacy, talking about it with other people.

Peter [00:31:15] You mentioned energy providers talking about things like green energy as being something to do and what else, in terms of waste reduction, can an individual community pharmacist focus on?

Esa [00:31:24] Yes, exactly. Renewable energy is going to be the future. But I will say it’s not an inevitable future. It’s going to be lots of people choosing to take that route. Actually, something that pharmacists can do is encourage patients to return unwanted medicines and inhalers, to keep them out of our waterways in the environment and make sure they’re disposed of safely.

Hannah [00:31:49] So, Esa, you mentioned that role of advocacy and having conversations. What are some of the steps or tips that you have for ECPs who may not have a strong voice within their pharmacy or workplace?

Esa [00:32:13] I think the first thing to do is just to start. So, talk to your preceptor. Begin networking. So, joining your professional organisations is a really good way to do that. I think it’s also really helpful if you want to have a voice, my question would be what do you want to use it for? So, what are your values? What do you believe in? What do you want to speak out for? Because why do you want to have a voice if you don’t have anything to say?

Hannah [00:32:46] We’ve covered some really big topics today and what I’m wanting to know is how do you find the courage to back yourself and start some of these conversations and attempt to tackle the big societal issues?

Esa [00:32:57] I might perhaps just be a bit foolish. I don’t see it as being particularly courageous. I think it’s more that I think this needs to be said, and I can’t see anyone else saying it. So, if it has to be me that starts the conversation, I mean, I don’t think that’s particularly important. As I’ve said, before I thought I knew everything and I didn’t. So, now I go into things, you know, assuming that I don’t know everything, which is true. So, when I, you know, in approaching these big topics, really all I’m trying to do is learn more. I don’t think that’s courageous or scary.

Peter [00:33:41] And being a curious inquirer can be a really wonderful way. I think it’s fair to say, though, that we’ve got a profession quite burnt out from COVID. Has it been harder lately to find room to express passion and to follow these issues in the world that a large number of us, particularly being here in Melbourne, are feeling quite burnt out at the moment?

Esa [00:34:01] Yes, for sure. I have a lot of admiration for all of the health workers who have essentially not really had a break in 2 years and are still working to keep the community safe. When I work on things that I believe in or am passionate about, it is energising for me. So, I make time to do that, and it’s time that recharges me. But for people who are so burnt out they don’t even know where to identify their passion, I guess it’s about talking to your network and talking to your community and helping or allowing them to hold you up.

Peter [00:34:45] Really nice way of saying it. And also, the theme of COVID, it’s, I guess there’s a lot of attention focused on people who are fulltime working on the frontline, but academia, where a large part of your role also sits, has been really hard hit by the pandemic. I was quite taken last year when you reflected that it’s a terrifying time to be graduating with a PhD right now, no money for hiring postdocs and limited competitive grants. What’s that experience been like for you?

Esa [00:35:13] It’s been really difficult for everyone. My plans when COVID hit did change course quite significantly. But I think you can get valuable experience and lessons out of most things. So, while I wish it never happened, just try to make the best out of it.

Hannah [00:35:35] So, Esa, where would you like your career to go?

Esa [00:35:38] I really like working in research at the moment, so that’s where I’m going to keep pursuing. But ultimately, anything that I do, this sounds a bit cheesy, but I just want to make the world a better place.

Hannah [00:35:50] Very noble effort. Do you remember the first time in your pharmacy career that you felt you really made a difference?

Esa [00:35:58] Yes, I think it was just picking up a script error and, you know, realising that the job that we’re trained to do actually matters and can improve people’s health.

Hannah [00:36:13] There are a couple of questions that we’d like to end on with all our guests, and the first one we like to start with is what’s the best piece of advice that you have been given so far in your career?

Esa [00:36:23] So, one of the first pharmacists I worked with approached things in a way where she was like, yes, I don’t know all the answers, and that’s okay and I’m always learning. And that has been an attitude that has stayed with me since I worked with her.

Hannah [00:36:39] And finally, what are your top three tips for other pharmacists who want to start having conversations about the issues that we’ve talked about within their circles?

Esa [00:36:48] I think, first, just go ahead and start and see what happens. You don’t know who you’re going to find, who is also interested and where that will lead. The second tip I would have is to do some research or further reading on it so that when you have those conversations, you know a little bit more what you’re talking about and that can also help you nurture those conversations. And then the third is to try and find the community that would be receptive to it. So, I think the world’s a really big place, so, it’s about trying to find your people.

Hannah [00:37:35] Some great advice, and thank you so much for coming on the show today, Esa and discussing all of these important issues with us.

Esa [00:37:42] Thanks for having me.

Hannah [00:37:44] And thanks to everyone for listening. You can check out the show notes for links to everything we’ve spoken about today. And don’t forget to subscribe to get episodes as soon as they’re released.

Peter [00:37:53] And if you’re looking to connect with other early career pharmacists and share your voice on matters that are important to you, consider joining the ECP Community of Special Interest.