Two ‘lifetimes’ in one year

Warwick Plunkett AM FPS

Warwick Plunkett AM FPS adds the national Lifetime Achievement Award to his NSW accolade earlier this year, recognising almost 55 years of service to the profession.

When then PSA National President Warwick Plunkett introduced the Excellence Awards in 1996, he couldn’t have predicted he would receive one – let alone two – almost 30 years later. But with a career spanning community pharmacy, leadership, education and government roles, he is a deserving recipient of PSA’s 2023 NSW and national Lifetime Achievement Awards.

A career in pharmacy was almost inevitable for Mr Plunkett, who grew up in the back of his father’s pharmacy in Croydon, NSW. As well as observing day-to-day pharmacy operations, he saw the importance of leadership. His father took on positions including National President of PSA’s predecessor, the Pharmaceutical Association of Australia.

His great-grandfather also owned a pharmacy, choosing to set up shop in Forbes, NSW, after migrating from Scotland during the gold rush. And his daughter is carrying on the family tradition, currently working as a registered pharmacist in a pharmacy co-owned by Mr Plunkett.

‘Studying medicine vaguely went through my mind when I was in my teenage years, but I never varied much from thinking I would be a pharmacist,’ he says. ‘I’m very thrilled and pleased I chose it because it offers a lot. It has been a blessing to be involved in pharmacy and I’m very passionate about it.’

International education

There have been many achievements over the years, including launching PSA’s Offshore Refresher Course in the 1970s. While Mr Plunkett says they started ‘in a fairly modest fashion’, the first event in Noumea attracted more than double the expected numbers, with attendance levels reaching 500 people by the fifth iteration in Hong Kong.

Offshore venues that give insight into practices in other countries are always a plus when updating pharmacy education, he says. ‘And in fact, that’s how it’s worked out. People enjoy the education, we get 100% attendance at the sessions and people take it seriously.’

This year’s conference, held in Greece, was the first offshore event since 2019 due to the pandemic, and post-conference evaluations suggest it was the most enjoyed of the 47 editions so far. But it is the 1996 conference in Florence that sticks out in Mr Plunkett’s mind.

‘We held a gala dinner one night where everyone had to dress up in medieval costume. I was National President at the time and had to be “Lorenzo the Magnificent”. As part of the role I had to enter the ballroom on a horse. It was a memorable experience!’

Continuing to serve

Mr Plunkett retired in June from PSA’s National Board but still has many things to keep him occupied – including a weekly round or two of golf and the occasional game of bridge.

‘I have an interest in a pharmacy, and I’m Chairman of the Return Unwanted Medicines Project for the government. I also chair the UTS Pharmacy School Industry Advisory Board and I’m heavily involved in the offshore conference. So I still have my fingers in a few pies.’

While appreciating the recognition a Lifetime Achievement Award brings, ultimately Mr Plunkett hopes it will motivate others to get involved.

‘It’s nice to be able to tell your story, but I hope it’s a story that inspires others. I want people to think, “If Warwick could do that, maybe I could, too.”’


What advice do you have for your younger self?

I would say you need to be a member of the PSA, because being a member of your professional organisation is important for keeping in touch and staying on course in your professional life. You also need to be passionate about what you do, understand the opportunities available to you and throw yourself into them. Beyond that, just be positive about the future and take an active role in determining what the future will be. Don’t let circumstances overwhelm you – take charge.

How do you balance the energy needed to support yourself as well as others?

I’m passionate about what I do and I’m also persistent. You have to be persistent in following through on your dreams. But support from others is also important.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have had support from my wife, and from those who I’ve known throughout my career. To have support from your peers is extremely important if you’re going to enjoy what you do and make a difference.