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Elliot Harris

Elliot Harris, Pharmacy profileWhat made you decide to do Pharmacy?

To be completely honest even after I finished the infamous Health Science First Year (HSFY) course I wasn’t dead set on what I wanted to do. I’d discovered over the year that not only did I enjoy and excel in the human body systems and biochemistry papers, but I also had a crippling phobia of needles. This meant medicine and medical laboratory science probably weren’t a smart choice. I knew my degree was going to cost me a small fortune so I did my research and discovered that a Bachelor of Pharmacy encompassed everything that I enjoyed doing, and would give me a very rewarding (and well paid) career at the end of it.

What did you know about Pharmacy before you started your BPharm?

My lecturers will roll their eyes when they read this, but when I first started my BPharm I was one of those people who thought pharmacists were glorified shop keepers. I knew that with all the training they went through there must be something I was missing but I had no concept of just how much was actually involved in the position. It also never occurred to me that there were pharmacists not only working in pharmacies, but also in hospitals, industry, government agencies and at universities. This opened a heap of doors which I never knew existed and is exciting because it means there are opportunities to do different things if my career ever gets stale.

Where do you hope a career in Pharmacy will take you?

Everywhere! Before I even graduated my BPharm has taken me to Thailand, Australia, Zimbabwe and Botswana. I’ve had meetings with people ranging from the President of the Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand, to consultants working within the Ministry of Health. I contributed to discussions on pharmacist prescribing at a conference in Townsville and I’ve delivered a presentation to some of the most intelligent pharmaceutical students in the world at the University of Zimbabwe.

What I’m trying to say is there are so many opportunities and it’s difficult to nail down exactly the direction I want to take because there will always be something new and exciting to do. I really want to become a clinical pharmacist however I also have a low-key dream of coming back to Otago and doing a Masters, and even a PhD. In clinical pharmacy I find the field of oncology to be super interesting because of how complex it quickly becomes and how much of a positive impact a successful regime can have on people’s lives.

Why did you choose Otago?

I chose Otago because of HSFY programme and because of the awesome culture in Dunedin. At high school I loved human biology most of all and I knew that the University of Otago has a lot of opportunities for people who want to become involved in the health sector. HSFY provided a well structured, challenging programme that would open up as many doors as I was willing to put the effort into opening, so I went for it.

I also have a number of friends who’d gone to Otago and whenever I spoke to them about it they would harp on about how great it was and what shenanigans they’d gotten up to recently. This further solidified my choice of university as I couldn’t wait to be a part of that lifestyle. The fact that every one of my mates live a maximum of 10 minutes walking from me is a seriously under-rated perk of Otago.

What is/are the best thing(s) about being a Pharmacy student at Otago?

Otago has heaps going for it in terms of pharmacy. The staff are all super lovely and very invested in our learning. They’re always available when you need them and are some of the most intelligent pharmaceutical minds in the country. I sound like this is super scripted but they really are that great.

The student association NZAPS-O (New Zealand Association of Pharmacy Students – Otago) is also fantastic. They’re very active and put in a huge amount of effort into organising social and educational events for their members. As a former member of the NZAPS-O exec I can testify just how much they all strive to make sure their members enjoy their time at in the pharmacy school.

Finally, and I mentioned this before, is the distance thing. I literally lived a 3 minute walk from the pharmacy building and was so close I could wave to people who were doing their labs etc. in it. Forget your lunch or labcoat? No worries, you can run home and miss less than 10 minutes of class. I’ve spoken to students elsewhere who drive upwards of 45mins a day just to get to their classes and when I compare that to Otago it really becomes a no-brainer.

Do you have any plans for you internship?

For my internship in 2017 I am very fortunate to be in Tauranga Hospital. I’ve never even been to Tauranga and haven’t lived in the North Island before so it’s a big move for me. I’ve lived away from home for over 5 years now so I’m no stranger to being by myself but the fact that I haven’t even been to the place I’m moving to is a bit scary.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?

Oh geez where to start. I come from a middle-class background in a family of 6. I wasn’t a fantastic student in high school and so after that finished up I took a gap year and moved to the UK in an attempt to get my act together. From there I came back and went straight to university and did my BPharm. I loved the BPharm and fortunately my grades reflected that as they steadily increased as the years went on.

As of the end of 2016 I am also the current reigning Miss Pharmacy. Most years NZAPS-O hosts a Miss Pharmacy / Southern Man cross-dressing competition, which is a very long-standing tradition (to the point where there are some pictures of staff as undergrads performing). The idea behind the competition is to encourage body positivity and broadened the perspectives of pharmacy students surrounding social issues such as the concept of gender. The competition involves a series of events that challenge the idea of traditional gender roles… and it’s also a lot of fun. I won with my top-tier dance performance of the first minute of Beyoncé Knowles’ Single Ladies followed by a slow-dance with the NZAPS-O President.

Other stuff I got up to while I was doing my BPharm was joining NZAPS-O and being offered the opportunity to travel to Thailand for a pharmaceutical conference. That made me want to get onto the NZAPS-O Executive so that I could start contributing and by some miracle I was voted onto it. My role on the executive was to organise the students that went to pharmaceutical conferences, and to help plan the various public health campaigns that we do. This gave me further opportunity to travel and in mid-2016 I even found myself in Harare, Zimbabwe of all places. Moral of the story: Get involved because you never know where pharmacy will take you.