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Wednesday, 20 December 2017

03 Sujita with Prof Sue Heydon and family at graduation 418PhD graduate, Sujita Narayan with Dr Susan Heydon and family at the School of Pharmacy graduation function on Friday 8 December 2017.

One of four PhD students to graduate from the School of Pharmacy this December, Dr Sujita Narayan celebrates the success of being the first Fijian pharmacist from the Fiji School of Medicine (now Fiji National University) with a PhD.

“I have always had a special interest (and fascination) with the diverse nature of medicines,” says Sujita. Her parents supported her interest in health care, particularly her Dad who encouraged her to study Pharmacy. She went on to receive a scholarship for the Bachelor of Pharmacy programme at the Fiji School of Medicine, completed in 2005.

Dr Roy Krishna, Professor & Director-Pharmacology, College of Osteopathic Medicine, Touro University, Nevada (previously Head of School of Health Sciences at the Fiji School of Medicine) recalls the time they met, “Sujita distinctly shone and had a glow that told me she was academically powered, determined and with her wonderful personality would be an outstanding student. She has proven me correct beyond that by successfully completing her PhD. She was outstanding and remains outstanding!”

Ms Joshila Lal, Lecturer, Department of Pharmacy & Pharmacology, Medicine, Nursing & Health Science, Fiji School of Medicine comments, “she is an inspiration to not only Fijian women but to all aspiring Fijian pharmacists.”

Following her degree, Sujita specialised in clinical pharmacy and was involved in the pooled procurement and management of antiretroviral medicines as a HIV consultant pharmacist, for 12 Pacific Island countries and territories.

Embarking in a career in research in 2011, Sujita attended Monash University (Melbourne, Australia) for postgraduate studies in the Master of Pharmacy Practice programme. Sujita then joined her husband in Dunedin, who was a Medical Registrar at the time, and daughter (age 1). It was during this time that Sujita was introduced to pharmacoepidemiology in her role as Research Assistant at the School of Pharmacy.

“This area of research provided a new insight into the broad spectrum of what a pharmacist can do to make a difference in people's lives and I decided to pursue this area of research into a PhD programme,” says Sujita.

Under supervision of Dr Prasad Nistala, Sujita completed her thesis titled “Pharmacoepidemiological approaches examining preventive medicines and multimorbidity in older people”.

“Modern medical practices and technology have opened up a number of pathways where we can detect the risk of having a disease quite early, therefore giving us healthcare providers an opportunity to delay the symptoms of a disease, or the disease itself, with primary prevention strategies. Having this foresight and the ability to do something about it is truly rewarding; you feel quite happy at the end of the day when you make a difference in people lives” states Sujita who aligns her passion with the popular proverb, “Prevention is better than cure” (Desiderius Erasmus).

Sujita adds that “Preventive medicines provide years of benefit to patients however they may not be as appropriate when an individual approaches end of life therefore identifying strategies to optimise medicine use in older people with multiple chronic diseases has been a focus of my research since joining the School of Pharmacy in 2012.”

It is “her eagerness to learn [that] sets her apart from other students,” says Dr Nishtala.

Sujita has won several awards for her podium presentations on both national and international stages, and has 12 publications in international peer-reviewed journals.

“I figured out that research is never-ending and therefore plan to stay in the world of academia,” says Sujita who will be joining the Centre for Big Data Research in Health, UNSW Medicine as a Research Fellow in January 2018.

Article written for the School of Pharmacy newsletter, Volume 2 Issue 3.

Photography by Alan Dove.

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