What made you decide to do Pharmacy?
There are many aspects of a career in pharmacy that appeal to me. I really love the idea of having a career that can provide so many options after finishing my degree—these options include working in community or hospital pharmacies, conducting my own research, working in the pharmaceutical industry, and running my very own pharmacy.
People often think the role of a pharmacist is simply to dispense drugs to patients' and nothing else. However, this is a common misconception and the role of a pharmacist is much more than that.
There are many different skill sets that we will develop throughout our careers like communication skills, working well under pressure, working in a team, managing the finances of a pharmacy, and most importantly being able to relate to and help out our patients—sometimes in their darkest moments. So it can be an immensely rewarding career.
When making the decision to study pharmacy, I took into consideration the future. In the future, I want to one day be able to start a family with children and at the same time be able to continue working. I just knew a career in pharmacy would be ideal because of the flexible hours, and I was happy about the fact that there are no midnight shifts like in other healthcare specialties!
What did you know about Pharmacy before you started your BPharm?
For my Year 12 job experience project, I decided to go to a busy Pharmacy in the heart of Auckland city—a Pharmacy on Queen Street. I was there for a total of three days and since then I been in love with the role of a pharmacist.
The manager there at the time, was young, married, a pharmacist and she owned the store. I remember thinking "Wow I want to be like that!"
She was just very friendly and I noticed she got on really well with everyone who came into her pharmacy, and got on really well with the staff that worked with her. She was good at her job and had an extensive knowledge of medications, their doses, and side effects.
This experience taught me about what a pharmacist does and how a pharmacy was run. A pharmacist dispenses medication to patients and customer service is a big part of the job—you need to be able to relate to people, have a great smile and just a nice positive and friendly attitude.
Where do you hope a career in Pharmacy will take you?
It is difficult to say because of all the options available. I really hope to one day work in a hospital on the paediatrics ward as a clinical pharmacist, because I really enjoy working with children and it brings a cheesy smile to my face and a sense of satisfaction when I see a sick child bounce back onto their feet again after being sick in bed all week.
I would also like to work as a pharmacist who visits patients' homes to help them with their medication. Specifically how to take them, advising them on side effects, and how to store them properly to ensure they are protected from degradation. This is important particularly in the future with an ageing population where there will be more and more elderly patients who are on multiple medications and will need some expertise from pharmacists about how to appropriately dose medications in order to prevent major side effects from occurring. This would be incredibly rewarding for me.
Perhaps when I am a bit older, I would like to start my own pharmacy and the prospect of managing the day-to-day activities of a pharmacy sounds exciting, and the benefit of being your own boss would be great!
Why did you choose Otago?
I chose Otago because having done my first degree at home (Auckland), I knew it was time to branch out a little, it was time to live outside of my comfort zone! My dad was fortunate enough to be sent to England at the age of 17 for high school and to later attend university. I grew up listening to his exciting university stories and I always knew a part of me yearned to experience something similar. So here I am, following in his footsteps and trying to make some worthwhile memories of my own to tell my children one day.
What are the best things about being a Pharmacy student at Otago?
Living five mins away from university for $90 a week is pretty awesome. I can literally wake up 30 mins before my class, have a refreshing shower, a nice breakfast, and still be on time for my class. When studying in Auckland, I would have to wake up at least an hour before my classes just to beat the legendary Auckland traffic!
Otago is a student city at heart during university periods. This is something I did not really feel in Auckland, where the university is literally in the city with traffic everywhere, businessmen and stores surrounding it.
It's cold here … I lie, it's really cold here. But the friendly family and supportive vibe you get from everyone around you here just warms your heart.
I feel as if studying to finish my degree and being away from home at the same time motivates me to study and work harder because it's sort-of like a taste of what the real world is like—mum and dad aren't here to make sure I am studying or to pay for things. It all comes down to me down here in Otago, if I don’t make good choices while I'm here, I’ll return home with my head held down with no prospects of a good future. But if I keep working hard and keep pushing myself, I'll return home with my head held high knowing it was all worth it, with a stable bright future ahead of me. Being away from home just forces your eyes open and makes you see clearer because mum and dad aren’t around.
Being away from home and family for almost an entire year and returning home at the end of the year only to be treated like royalty because they have missed your absence! I don’t know about you guys, but this unfortunately doesn't last very long in my family!
Do you have any plans for you internship?
For my internship year, I plan to apply to community pharmacies in both Auckland and Dunedin. I also plan to apply at some hospitals and hopefully I can get into a hospital pharmacy in either Auckland or Dunedin. Personally, I would love to kick start my pharmacy career in a hospital while I am young, energetic, and eager to learn, and maybe later when I'm older and things start to slow down—yikes—I would love to work in a quiet community pharmacy or maybe in my own pharmacy one day.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
In Dunedin I am known as Crystal, but my full name is Hepisipa Pua Crystal Mutu Kanga Ki Rewa A Masiofo Lavulo. I like to think that I pushed myself out while my mum was in the delivery room on the 25th of December at 5am, because she clearly wasn't exhausted enough to have given me such a long name!
I hail from the friendly island of Tongatapu and I am number eight and second youngest of nine siblings—unfortunately, we didn’t quite make it to a soccer team, I think that’s what my parents were trying for. No, the story goes: my father was an only child and apparently my grandpa made my dad promise him that he will have lots of kids, so as you can see my dad likes to keep his promises!
Having grown up in Tonga, my grandpa used to run a little store. I remember him stacking his products properly only to take them down in a few days time to dust the shelves, he used to always say that running a clean and orderly store is very important to business, and I smile at how relevant that is to my career as a pharmacist in the future. One day, I was helping him in the shop, when a homeless man walked in begging for money but grandpa gave him a loaf of bread instead and told me that if he gave him money, he will only go and buy liquor. Bread is more valuable even if he doesn’t know it because it will fill him better than alcohol will. I like to think that my grandpa instilled a caring nature in me that day and something I know will be quite important to have as a practising pharmacist one day .