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Students and wider sector reap benefits of new fellow's mental health knowledge

Friday, 10 November 2017 9:51am

Emma Smith-418
New professional practice fellow Emma Smith is running a series of workshops about treatment-resistant depression around the country.

New professional practice fellow Emma Smith is keen to spread her enthusiasm, passion and knowledge for pharmacy as widely as she can.

The third and fourth year students she is currently teaching are the primary benefactors of this.

“The students are the future and I want them to be enthusiastic about their career as well as opening their eyes to the variety of job opportunities available to pharmacists nowadays,” professional practice fellow, Emma Smith

“I want them to know there’s a lot more involved than solely working in the dispensary; pharmacists are working in multidisciplinary teams, carrying out de-prescribing in GP practices and hopefully, with independent prescribing, they can run their own clinics.”

But it’s not just students who are benefiting from Ms Smith’s knowledge. Together with school dean Carlo Marra, the advanced clinical pharmacist who has specialised in mental health, has begun a series of continuing medical education workshops around the country focusing on treatment-resistant depression.

Prior to moving to New Zealand permanently to live in 2015, Ms Smith held an advanced clinical pharmacist role in the UK, specialising in mental health for eight years.

Based in a tertiary hospital working for Leeds and York Partnerships NHS Foundation Trust, she worked with a team of 14 pharmacists dedicated to looking after people with a wide variety of mental health conditions from eating disorders to schizophrenia, dementia to psychiatric intensive care.

She “absolutely loved” the work and the opportunities she was given to broaden her knowledge about the use of medicines in mental health, studying towards a Certificate in Psychiatric Therapeutics from Aston University, and “horizon scanning” – researching new drugs entering the market which may affect future use of mental health medication.

Now, she is passing on her knowledge to the wider sector, initially in respect to treatment-resistant depression.

“I’m very passionate about it, the issue of depression needs to be discussed more openly,” Ms Smith says.

“Healthcare professionals need to be mindful of how common depression is, the signs, symptoms and risk factors, knowing how and when to refer and what they might see in treatment resistance.”

One of the key priorities of the workshops is to help reduce the risk of suicide.

Ms Smith has a Master in Pharmacy degree from Portsmouth University in the UK. Most of her career has been spent in hospital pharmacy, though she has worked in community pharmacies in New Zealand, initially during her OE in 2006, where she met her husband-to-be, Kiwi Simon Crack.

Now with two young daughters – Alice (6) and Rachel (4), the pair decided to shift to Dunedin for family reasons with Ms Smith working at Dunedin Hospital prior to beginning her role at the School of Pharmacy earlier this year.

She’s thriving in her new environment. “With the new curriculum soon to come on board, it’s an exciting time to change the material and the way we teach.”

She takes her role of educating future pharmacists seriously.

“For me, this is the next generation, these are the people we are looking to who will be pharmacists of the future, they may even be looking after me one day,” she smiles.


Article written by Liane Topham-Kindley for PharmacyToday, November 2017.  Photograph by Rewa Pene.