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School of Pharmacy 50th Jubilee

12–14 April 2013

Jubilee opening

Professor Duffull and Emeritus Professor Fastier
Professor Duffull (left), and Emeritus Professor Fastier.

The opening of the School's Jubilee was held on Friday, 12 April in the Main Common Room of the Student Union on campus, with a mihiwhakatau by Mark Brunton of the University of Otago, followed by speeches from the current Dean of the School, Professor Stephen Duffull; the PVC of Health Sciences Professor Peter Crampton; and one of the founding academics and first head, Emeritus Professor Fred Fastier.

There were approximately 120 registered participants, and together with current staff, enjoyed an afternoon with drinks and nibbles and an occasion to catch up and make reconnections. The opening was followed by the launch of the book celebrating the history and jubliee of the School.

Pharmacy 50th Jubilee opening event montage
The Jubilee opening event.

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Book launch

The arrival of her book, the day before the School of Pharmacy's 50th Jubilee celebrations got under way, marked the end of a year's worth of detective work and writing for historian Susan Heydon.

Co-authored with the school's Dean, Professor Stephen Duffull, the book outlines the 50-year history of the Otago Pharmacy School, covering stories from the campaign to get degree education for pharmacists in New Zealand, to how the School's representative colour came to be deep green instead of yellow. "I wanted a book that was readable, looked good and really told the story of pharmacy at Otago," Dr Heydon says.

From small beginnings in 1963, with a class of three students, "appalling accommodation", and facilities that were "a health and safety nightmare", the School has grown to a graduating class of 138 students in 2012. The school provided the first university qualification for pharmacy in New Zealand and the first four-year pharmacy degree in Australiasia.

When Dr Heydon first began her research, there was "an awful lot we didn't know", she says. There were so many moves from department to department, that many records were lost. Photographs, long-forgotten pieces of paper found behind filing cabinets, and even boxes of stuff stored at home by students helped to piece the story together. "It is quite exciting when you find that key piece of information". It could be a photograph of a group of students, that happened to include the sign on the building saying "pharmacy building", or "just chance", such as when the first recorded minutes of the Pharmacy Students' Association, held at 10pm on 27 April 1963, were stumbled upon in the back of someone's filing cabinet. "Somebody had a box of stuff at home, which they hadn't been through for 20 years until their mother said 'can you sort through this box'."

Knowing about the past shapes how we are today, says Dr Heydon. Having Professor Duffull co-author the book was important to her, as it showed the value he placed on telling the school's story. "This is not something to stick up on the shelf and forget about.  It is about saying the past does matter … and this becomes a starting point to build upon."

Dr Heydon's book was officially launched on Friday 12 April, during the weekend's celebrations.

This artlice was written by Edith Leigh, Pharmacy Today, May 2013 edition.

Pharmacy book launch montage
Scences from the book launch.

Pharmacy at Otago book coverPharmacy at Otago: The First 50 Years  (the school, the profession and the people) by Susan Heydon and Stephen Duffull

Copies of the book are available for NZ$35 including GST (all cheques should be made out to "University of Otago").

All enquiries may be made with the School of Pharmacy reception:

Tel 64 3 479 7275

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Alumni event

Memories came flooding back for former students of the University of Otago Pharmacy School, as alumni shared their experiences of student life through the decades, from the 1960s to the present.

An alumni event, which was part of the Otago Pharmacy School’s 50th Jubilee celebrations, brought about roars of laughter, the odd tear, and the exposure of a few student secrets.

It all began in the early 1960s, when the pharmacy school came into being with just three students. The 1960s was an era when mixed flatting was banned, there was a formal student ball nearly every weekend during winter and computers were the size of a room. One of the school's first graduates, Euan Galloway, remembered listening to a transistor radio during a pharmacy practical, while Apollo landed on the moon. He also remembered partaking in the last "six o'clock swill" at the Bowling Green Tavern, a once prominent student bar more affectionately known as "the Bowler". Most of the school's lectures took place in the Knox parish halls and Margaret Duguid’s most vivid memories of the pharmacology laboratory were of the "horrendous experiments" they conducted, which left her feeling as if she had majored in animal cruelty. Ken Windle summed up the '60s by saying the new BPharm degree, with its unique combination of physical sciences and biology, set its graduates up for widely diverse careers. Coming together again, after 45 years, they discovered their classmates had gone into areas ranging from the pharmacy industry to pharmaceutical leadership, government health and safety policy, hospital practice and one was even the dean of a college of pharmacy in Nairobi, where he was setting up a new BPharm course.

Moving into the 1970s, the Pharmacy School was still in a "hut" and clinical pharmacy was largely absent from teaching, recalled Julia Kennedy.  The class of 1971 was the first to have an even split of male and female students, but males and females were still housed in separate towers at the student hall of residence Unicol, Professor Kennedy said.  Unicol became infamous for firing rockets, constructed from vacuum cleaner pipes and fireworks, down at Clyde Street flats. And, one audience member recalled the Herald publishing a full page time-lapse photograph of rocket launches from Unicol, which caused his mother to comment: "You are not going there."  Joe Tui's Café was a big part of student life and rent in a student flat was $5 a week, and $5 a week for the kitty.

By the 1980s the cost of flatting was $12 a week, flats were mixed and Kerri Miedema could recall battling Hoovermatic washing machines. "You could never go away and let it rinse or there would be floods." Flats also had only one telephone, so if a person wanted any privacy they would have to drag the cord into the bathroom. Andi Shirtcliffe recalled the 80s as an era of "legendary road trips", while fellow classmate Shane Scahill remembered typing up his final-year project, after waiting in a long queue for the one typewriter, and colouring in graphs with pencils.  Their year, the class of 1987, was one of the last small classes, with 26 students, and the whole group still remained in contact, they said.

The 1990s began with the closure of the Central Institue of Technology in Wellington, where most pharmacists had previously trained, and the intake of students at the Otago school increased dramatically. Fiona Corbin had strong memories of other tragic events occurring outside of student life during her time in Otago. She, and fellow students, could remember all the helicopters flying overhead, during the Aramoana massacre, when gunman David Gray shot dead 13 people at the tiny seaside township near Dunedin.

The new millennium saw the university’s new Central Library opened, where the "celebrity boxes" are still popular study seats, said Kate Chesney.  The cost of flatting has risen to $66 a week, but the drinking age has dropped to 18 years. The Bowler made national headlines with its "wife-beater Wednesdays" as it struggled to stay afloat, before it was bought by the university in 2009 and turned into academic offices.

Cellphones became more prevalent in this decade, and Robin Janata recalled students somehow obtaining the phone number of the emergency telephone in the Red Lecture Theatre and ringing it during lectures.

Students could now submit their assignments electronically and Facebook also appeared on the scene, and was used to disseminate exam answers.

Nowadays, laptops are so prevalent that it "sounds like rain" during lectures as every student types away, Janata says. "What they do for a three-hour written exam I'm not sure, as being able to write fast is a skill you used to learn." Pharmacy students were heading overseas during their years of study, going on an "industry trip" to Melbourne, and some doing hospital internships in Thailand. However, travel after graduation was severly curtailed when the UK cancelled the reciprocal pharmacy qualification arrangement with New Zealand, putting an end to Kiwi graduates heading off to the isles, to work in pharmacy, for their OEs.

The Gardens Tavern, or the Gardies, as it was better known, was bought by the university in 2010 and turned into a "study centre". A cloud of uncertainty hangs over one of the last remaining North Dunedin student pubs, the Cook, or the Captain Cook Tavern, where the lease is due to expire at the end of June.

Jay Gong tells the audience that in the present decade, from 2010 on, "alcohol labs" are no more, but wine and cheese nights, and flat crawls, are still going strong. The cost of a room in a flat on Dundas Street is $110 per week.

Pharmacy camp at the start of the year is a great opportunity for students to get to know each other, and the "pharmacy revue", a pharmacy version of the capping show, last year featured Lord of the Benzene Rings.

Students headed to Egypt to attend the International Pharmaceutical Students' Federation world congress last year and, with the latest batch of graduates only just having left, only a "keen few" attended the jubilee celebrations, Gong said.

Article written by Edith Leigh, for Pharmacy Today, May 2013 issue.

Pharmacy alumni speakers
Alumni speakers: (Back) Abbie Copinga, Fiona Corbin, Kerri Miedema, Kate Chesney, Julia Kennedy, Andi Shirtcliffe, Euan Galloway, Margaret Duguid and Ken Windle. (Front) Robin Janata, Shane Scahill, Paul Barrett.

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Academic Symposium

Many diseases still not treatable despite advances, by Edith Leigh for Pharmacy Today

Frankenstein, the pill, exam questions and billion-dollar numbers were among the topics discussed at the academic symposium held during the Otago pharmacy school jubilee.

The speakers included Barbara Brookes, from the Department of History, Antipodean Pharmaceuticals Ltd chief executive Ken Taylor, who was also one of the first three students to graduate from the Otago Pharmacy School, Ian Tucker, from the school, and pharmacist turned crime writer Vanda Symon.

Professor Brooks discussed society’s growing expectations that any health problem night be solved by taking a pill. One of her particular areas of interest is hormonal preparations, and the contraceptive pill, which was taken up more rapidly in New Zealand and Australia than anywhere else in the world. But, while the pill brought about ability for women to control their fertility, it also raised an abundance of questions and ethical debates. There were questions of drug availability, with the pill not being available in all pharmacies, most notably, those run by Catholics. In the early 1960s, women had to present a wedding ring or have a letter from their husband to access the pill, and there was a "very interesting debate" in the university council, as to whether student health should be prescribing the pill, as doctors there began to see increasing numbers of young women pregnant.

Mr Taylor discussed changes in the global pharmaceutical industry during the past 50 years, as it entered a period of phenomenal growth and profitability. However, while "financial blockbuster" drugs led to the creation of major pharmaceutical corporations, investment in research was not sufficient to maintain their market growth and profitability. A huge question around new drugs and research for this decade is "who's going to pay?", and when you are talking about numbers in the pharmaceutical industry "you've got to think big", Mr Taylor says. It takes about 12 years to bring a drug onto the market, a patent last for 20 years, so that leaves eight years to recover $1 billion to $8 billion, he says. The peak profit on previous drugs was $12 billion. Another big change is the internet-informed patient as a health decision maker. More and more into the future, he predicts pharmacists will be the first human point of contact after people have been researching on the web. One thing that has not changed in 50 years is that many diseases still remain untreatable, Mr Taylor says.

Professor Ian Tucker outlined the evolution of the pharmacy undergraduate programme in 50 years. Exam questions from different eras reveal where the focus of studies has been. In the 1960s, the programme was heavily scientific and the role of the pharmacist was product-focused. But questions from later years show the shift in emphasis from the product to the patient.

Ms Symon's brief was "let your creative juices flow" and imagine what the future might hold. She began in the past with Frankenstein. When this novel was penned by Mary Shelley in 1818, the idea of piecing together and reanimating a man was shocking and in the realm of fantasy. However, once fantastical ideas have now moved into reality, as surgeons sew limbs back on, and use electricity to shock people back to life. "To look at advances for the future it does pay to look at what creative people are coming up with". Some of Ms Symon's predictions include diagnostics becoming far less invasive, micro-nano robots that could target individual diseased cells in the body and massive advances in bionics as "the six-million dollar man becomes the sixty-six billion dollar man". Or, in the words of her six-year-old son, "You put the wire under the skin and stick it straight into the brain."

Pharmacy Academic Symposium speakers
Academic symposium speakers: (Left to right): Vanda Symons, Barbara Brooks, Ian Tucker, Bernie McCone and Ken Taylor.

From 30 scripts to 1000 a day in 30 years, by Edith Leigh for Pharmacy Today

Bernie McKone
Bernie McKone.

In an academic symposium, Gore pharmacist Bernie McKone talked about how dramatically pharmacy has changed since he graduated, and then opened his own pharmacy a few years later.

When Bernard McKone finished his pharmacy training in 1980, his career goal was to own his own pharmacy. It was goal he achieved within a few years, but it is a dream he believes is not possible for many of today's pharmacy graduates.

Speaking at an academic symposium, examining "trends, dead ends and portends" in pharmacy, during the Otago Pharmacy School's 50th Jubilee celebrations (12 to 14 April), Mr McKone talked about 50 years of change in community pharmacy, and the journey taken by "a store in Gore".

Mr McKone came from a grocery background and a time when toilet paper and women's hygiene products could not be sold after 5pm on a Friday.  As grocery stores have moved on, so have pharmacies, and Mr McKone now operates in a world where he owns five franchise pharmacies, online sales are outstripping over-the-counter sales and clinical work at the hospital is his most lucrative line of work, in terms of value for time and investment. One noticeable trend in community pharmacy is the sheer volume of dispensing, Mr McKone says.

Prescription records at Quins Gore Pharmacy show that, during a typical day in 1958, 30 scripts were dispensed. Today more than a thousand scripts are processed in a day, and the record this year is 1260 scripts.

Another area that is "going through the roof" was online sales, Mr McKone says. Exponential sales growth saw his four online best sellers—the "back pod", blood pressure monitors, glucosamine and fish oil—sell more in three months than one year of over-the-counter sales. "It's so scary I can’t get my head around it."

However, it is his belief the pharmacy profession needs to look beyond just products, to service, he says. One portend he predicts is that pharmacies would offer an increasing range of services, such as smoking cessation, INR, contraception and emergency contraception. "I gave my first jab the other day, so I'm now a vaccinator."

In Mr McKone's early days of pharmacy practice, it was always a source of frustration to him that pharmacy was about "dispensing the tablets, or the mixture, without any idea of what they were for". After travelling to the US in the 1990s, and being inspired by work he saw done there, he was able to come back and work with local GPs to set up a clinic specifically to look at patients' medications, answering questions such as were they on the right medicines and/or dosages? It was a concept that saw him win the Stevens Pharmacy Marketing Award in 1990. Mr McKone's involvement in a pilot study, over the past three years to examine hospital admissions, and the resulting revelation some admissions could have been avoided if patient medications had been reviewed earlier, saw him offered a new contract by the hospital. Now he runs a clinical one day a week reviewing people on complex medical regimens. While such clinical work is "not really recognised by the main funding streams", more of these kind of jobs are starting to emerge, Mr McKone says. "I now need to hire pharmacists to take over those roles, but it's a bit of a challenge to find people willing to get in there."

His prediction for the future is that a new workforce stream will emerge, in which pharmacists would be working in multidisciplinary clinical teams. "I think interns might be better off coming out with a full five years' training."

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Jubilee Dinner

The Jubilee dinner was celebrated at the Otago Museum from 7–10 pm, with a buffet meal accompanied by samples of the Jubilee wine, especially commissioned for the event from a Central Otago vineyard.

Pharmacy jubilee dinner
Jubilee attendees enjoying the Jubilee Dinner at Otago Museum.

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