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Primary prevention strategies a focus for soon-to-be-intern pharmacist

Saturday, 11 November 2017 10:11am

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“I have always been really passionate about primary prevention strategies – improving public health and targeting preventable illnesses like obesity and diabetes before they occur,” Future Pharmacist of the Year winner, Sonja Bimler.

Final-year pharmacy student Sonja Bimler is looking forward to putting her passion for primary prevention strategies to work in a couple of months’ time when she begins her internship.

The 22-year-old has secured an internship at Waikato Hospital which she will begin in January next year.

Her hospital placement during training introduced her to medicines information inquiries, medicines reconciliation and areas of specialisation like oncology, all of which she found highly engaging.

But one of her key drivers for helping people improve their health is educating them about prevention strategies.

“I have always been really passionate about primary prevention strategies – improving public health and targeting preventable illnesses like obesity and diabetes before they occur,” Sonja explains.

Sonja’s interest in this area was a factor in her winning the Future Pharmacist of the Year Award at this year’s Pharmacy Awards. Her award-winning essay about recent reductions in childhood vaccination rates and the need for better communication with parents to help boost rates, focused on prevention strategies.

Improving health literacy with good science communication skills to the public is another area she is particularly interested in.

Sonja says she knew early on at secondary school that she wanted to work in the health sector as she had a real interest in diseases and how these are prevented, treated and managed. She also had a decent grasp of the core science subjects, good interpersonal skills and a desire to work with patients on a daily basis.

But, while she understood the basic premise of supplying medicines and providing information about how to use them properly, Sonja was not aware of the extent of other roles pharmacists now provide until beginning her studies at Otago.

She has also particularly enjoyed the curriculum’s focus on science. “I really like that you get a good background in chemistry and all the basic sciences underlying pharmacy; you may not use it in your day-to-day practice, but it’s good to have the knowledge.”

Sonja says one of the best things about being a pharmacy student at Otago is the school staff. “The lecturers in the pharmacy school are really committed to teaching and put a huge amount of effort into helping out when something is difficult to understand.”

There’s also a good balance between lectures, practical workshops or labs as well as events like the wine and cheese evening and the pharmacy ball, Sonja says.


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