Tuesday, 1 March 2016
After six years leading the University of Otago's School of Pharmacy, Dean Stephen Duffull is standing down to enter what he calls the third stage of his academic career. "It's about an opportunity to move onto a new phase of my life," Professor Duffull, 51, explains as he eyes a departure date at the end of May."I've been an academic, I've been a dean and now it's time to move on to the third stage of my academic career."
The university is still working through the process of appointing a new dean. The tenure of someone in the dean's role is usually a five year term with potential to complete two terms, or a total of 10 years. Professor Duffull intended to complete one term, though a desire to finish off some current projects, particularly a review of the school curriculum, led him to stay on for an extra year.
And, he considers six years has been plenty of time to achieve as much as he possibly can in the role. "I feel I've contributed as much as I am able to all the good things I'm ever going to do have happened; if I haven't achieved them in six years, then I probably wasn't going to."
Professor Duffull believes some professional aspects of the school have developed during his time as dean.The school now hosts health literacy clinics, where students and staff help the public learn more about their medicines and how to use them. "It's great for pharmacy and the public and it's a great opportunity for students," he says.
Professor Duffull has also introduced a formal ceremony at the beginning the academic year, known as the White Coat Ceremony as students receive their dispensing coats, welcoming students entering the first professional year of their studies.
Research continues to be a priority with the school, currently ranked 9th for research performance across the university. Things are not always plain sailing as dean however, and Professor Duffull likens it to working within the "Swiss cheesemodel". "There are always holes; you can't do everything in the role, the role is too big to do everything."
One of Professor Duffull's frustrations is that he is not always able to recognise what, in his words, is the great work staff do. There are more than 140 staff who contribute to the various pharmacy programmes and it is difficult to find ways to recognise and get the best opportunity for everyone, he says.
Although departing as dean, Professor Duffull will remain in the school, continuing in his role as professor of clinical pharmacy. But first he will be on a sabbatical and is looking forward to "reinventing" himself as an academic: looking at how pharmacy research translates into useful commodities or knowledgebase.
Article written by Liane Topham-Kindly for PharmacyToday, February 2016.