When the Australian Journal of Pharmacy (AJP) set out to find pharmacy’s 10 Women of Influence, they received nominations for 300 exemplary candidates – and confirmation that there are a lot of female pharmacists at the heart of the profession.
Charles Sturt University graduates Samantha Kourtis and Elise Apolloni were both named on the list.
For Samantha, 2014 Pharmacy of the Year winner and passionate spokesperson for pharmacy and professional service expansion, being named on the list was an honour.
“To be recognised as one of 10 women out of however many thousands of female pharmacists in our country, when there’s so many excellent female pharmacists out there, was both a surprise and an honour. It makes me feel like I’m on track and doing the right thing.”
Community pharmacist, pharmacy owner, asthma educator, credentialed diabetes educator, mental health advocate and Lifeline volunteer, Elise was also thrilled to be included on the list.
“It was an enormous honour! I felt incredibly grateful to be recognised by my pharmacy peers, and to be listed with many other women in our industry who I look up to.”
Both Samantha and Elise are today inspired by community and connection in their work, something that took root while studying at Charles Sturt.
“Making a difference inspires me,” explained Samantha. “Our business strategy is to inspire, connect and make a difference through healthcare.”
“My first degree was in biochemistry but by the end of my three years of science I thought, ‘I can’t deal with petri dishes. I need people.’
“I was working in a pharmacy at the time and my boss who happened to be an amazing female business owner in pharmacy suggested I go to Wagga to do pharmacy. I got down there and loved it.
“I loved living in Wagga and being at Charles Sturt University because the sense of community and the connection with the people who lived there was huge. In Canberra, where I completed my first degree, that was lost. It was a really tightknit community and it reinforced why I wanted to study healthcare – because it was community that was important.
“I definitely try and implement that sense of community at our pharmacy today.”
Elise, also named Young Pharmacist of the Year and Telstra Australian Young Businesswoman of the Year in 2017, says that she’s inspired by the big-picture changes happening beyond the four walls of her pharmacy.
“I like thinking big, and I love thinking about what legacy I want to leave in my profession. I also love the grassroots community care I am able to provide every day.”
Associate Professor in Pharmacy Practice, Maree Simpson, said both Elise and Samantha exemplify the calibre of Charles Sturt University’s pharmacy graduates.
“These two amazing young women epitomise what pharmacists can achieve to enhance health outcomes in their communities in an innovative, inclusive and inspired manner. They are active participants in their communities and in peak pharmacy bodies and so contribute to practice change.
“I believe they are exceptional young women. Our graduates overall are of a high calibre. We have many young pharmacists who are in an ownership or partnership situation leading to the sustainability of country communities and pharmacy industry.
“We have individuals who soon after graduation seek and gain positions of influence in pharmacy peak bodies. People such as Krysti-Lee Rigby on the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia committee, and Eleanna Ballis and Tim Mizzi who have both served as president of the National Australian Pharmacy Students’ Association.
“We have had successes in Pharmacy Student of the Year at state and national level, such as Jamie Pisani, and successes with Intern of the Year over several years, including Kerry Watts in 2016 and Seema Khiani [in 2017].
“We have also seen Pharmacy of the Year winners, such as Charnwood, and Young Pharmacist of the Year winners such as Amy Page. It does seem that for a modestly sized course cohort, we ‘punch above our weight’ in this regard.”
Celebrating 20 years
After two decades of pharmacy education at Charles Sturt University, Dr Simpson had a simple message for course graduates.
“Thanks for the opportunity to contribute to the education of our future leaders and keep up the good work. We send out best wishes to all our graduates from all of us involved in the course.”
Elise and Samantha also had messages for the university.
“My assumption is that when Charles Sturt University decided to provide healthcare tertiary education, they did it because there was a need in our country to graduate quality graduates who would be committed to the communities in these areas,” Samantha said.
“The course isn’t just teaching you the best evidenced-based medicine, it’s also teaching you the difference you can make. Good on the university for trying to meet the gaps in our country and get the graduates out to those smaller communities that need really good healthcare.”
Elise added, “I’m grateful for the career and the connections Charles Sturt University has given me, including some great friends and my wonderful husband, Dean.
“I still remember Ross Kennedy explaining at the start of my degree that your degree is like a brick wall; if you have a gap in your pharmacy foundations, everything on top of it won’t be as stable.
“I am confident Charles Sturt provided me with a very good brick wall, a lot of life experience, and memories that I will think fondly of for the rest of my life. So, well done – may there be many more milestones for the pharmacy school, and many more successful passionate pharmacists entering our workforce!”
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