More than just med­i­ca­tion ex­perts

New Straits Times - - Higher Ed - O.C. YEOH ocyeoh@nst.com.my RE­QUIRED QUAL­I­FI­CA­TIONS Af­ter his Foun­da­tion in Sci­ence year, Yap went SHAHRIZAL SU­LAIMAN, CA­REER PROSPECTS ANY DRAW­BACKS?

PHAR­MA­CISTS help to run health­care fa­cil­i­ties, serve the com­mu­nity and are also the na­tion’s reg­u­la­tory gate­keep­ers. Tra­di­tion­ally, phar­ma­cists are in­dis­pens­able for any­one who needs to quickly con­sult a med­i­cal ex­pert re­gard­ing health­care.

While there is cur­rently no short­age of phar­ma­cists in Malaysia, with some 13,500 reg­is­tered, the coun­try will need at least 18,000 by 2020.

Both in Malaysia and world­wide, a ca­reer as a phar­ma­cist is not only one that is sta­ble but also pays well. In de­vel­oped coun­tries, be­ing a phar­ma­cist is one of the best-paid pro­fes­sions, of­ten rank­ing within the top five.

We speak to some phar­ma­cists to get their take on why they chose this ca­reer, the qual­i­fi­ca­tions process they have to un­dergo, the longterm prospects and any down­side that can be ex­pected.

To Elyana Ab­dul Rahim, whose am­bi­tion since sec­ondary school was to be in the “med­i­cal line”, study­ing Phar­macy fit­ted her needs and goals. “My late fa­ther gave me the moral sup­port to pur­sue this course as he saw the role of phar­ma­cists as an im­por­tant one for work­ing with pa­tients,” she said, who is now an in­dus­trial phar­ma­cist em­ployed in Ster­iPack Asia Sdn Bhd.

“I be­lieve that pa­tients do best when phar­ma­cists are part of their health­care teams be­cause phar­ma­cists are the ‘med­i­ca­tion spe­cial­ists’.”

Yap Peng Yew is work­ing in Hospi­tal Wanita & Kanak-kanak Sabah in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah as an In­tra­venous Ad­mix­ture Phar­ma­cist.

He has long been cu­ri­ous about how dis­eases af­fect the hu­man body, and his de­sire is to help hu­man­ity in com­bat­ing dis­eases.

Shahrizal Su­laiman is Con­sul­tant Phar­ma­cist at Tera Ni­aga (M) Plt, a phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal and food con­sult­ing firm.

He chose to be­come a phar­ma­cist be­cause of its flex­i­ble ca­reer path­ways, as well as its long-term job se­cu­rity.

“The start­ing salary for fresh phar­macy grad­u­ates is also among the best across all in­dus­try sec­tors,” he said.

An­nal­iza Chan­drasegar also found that be­ing a phar­ma­cist of­fered her nu­mer­ous ca­reer path­ways.

“I started work­ing in a Gov­ern­ment hospi­tal and then ex­panded my ex­pe­ri­ence to that of a com­mu­nity clinic set­ting,” she said.

“Sub­se­quently, I was cu­ri­ous to learn the job scope of a reg­u­la­tory phar­ma­cist and so trans­ferred to my cur­rent workplace, Ba­ha­gian Reg­u­la­tori Far­masi Ne­gara.” on to earn his Bach­e­lor of Phar­macy (Hons) from Cy­ber­jaya Univer­sity of Med­i­cal Sciences.

To be a reg­is­tered phar­ma­cist in Malaysia, one will need a de­gree in Phar­macy from a univer­sity ac­cred­ited by the Phar­macy Board of Malaysia.

As Shahrizal did not have the min­i­mum SPM re­sults to pur­sue Medicine, he un­der­took a three­year Diploma in Sci­ence and did well enough to earn a schol­ar­ship of­fer to fur­ther his study in medicine or phar­macy.

He then chose to do his de­gree in Phar­macy in UiTM with a mi­nor in Busi­ness Man­age­ment.

To prac­tise as a fully-reg­is­tered phar­ma­cist, one needs to com­plete a one-year on­the-job train­ing as Pro­vi­sional Reg­is­tered Phar­ma­cist (PRP) and pass a qual­i­fy­ing ex­am­i­na­tion.

“For Phar­macy grad­u­ates, this is com­pul­sory ser­vice and it mim­ics that which has al­ready been im­ple­mented for the med­i­cal and den­tal pro­fes­sion,” said Elyana.

“Dur­ing this time, Phar­macy grad­u­ates are re­quired to be pro­vi­sion­ally reg­is­tered with the Phar­macy Board of Malaysia and on do­ing so, will en­gage in em­ploy­ment as a public ser­vant in a listed premise for a pe­riod of not less than one year.

“PRPs will be re­quired to pass the qual­i­fy­ing ex­ams by the PBM be­fore they can be fully reg­is­tered as a phar­ma­cist in Malaysia.”

A phar­ma­cist’s tra­di­tional role is dis­pens­ing med­i­ca­tion, but the pro­fes­sion now of­fers wide-rang­ing prospects and flex­i­ble ca­reer path­ways.

Said Shahrizal: “Now the pro­fes­sion is con­stantly tak­ing on new roles and ex­pand­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“One can be work­ing in clin­i­cal prac­tice in hospi­tal, be a re­searcher or have a ca­reer in academia.

“One may also work in the in­dus­try for a man­u­fac­turer as pro­duc­tion man­ager or reg­u­la­tory affairs, or even be the gen­eral man­ager.

“In Malaysia, the gov­ern­ment ser­vice of­fers op­por­tu­ni­ties to work in dif­fer­ent prac­tices, in­clud­ing in public hos­pi­tals, clin­ics, en­force­ment agen­cies, reg­u­la­tory affairs as well as the mil­i­tary.

“Each set­ting will ex­pose you to dif­fer­ent spe­cial­ties and knowl­edge.

“The phar­ma­cist’s ca­reer pro­gres­sion will be rel­a­tively lin­ear with a time-based pro­mo­tion.

“A reg­is­tered phar­ma­cist can even ap­ply to be in­spec­tor of medicine and med­i­cal equip­ment on a ship or oil rig.”

Added Yap: “If you like do­ing busi­ness or serv­ing the com­mu­nity, you may be­come a med­i­cal prod­uct spe­cial­ist, go into the sales line or even open your own re­tail phar­macy.”

An­nal­iza said that within the Ba­ha­gian Reg­u­la­tori Far­masi Ne­gara it­self, there are many de­part­ments and sub-de­part­ments. “As your grade in­creases, and de­pend­ing on va­cancy of posts, you will have the op­por­tu­nity to be pro­moted or lat­er­ally trans­ferred to head of unit or head of de­part­ment po­si­tions,” she­said.

“You can get more in­for­ma­tion by vis­it­ing the web­site at www.npra.gov.my.”

“The school fees in pri­vate uni­ver­si­ties are ex­pen­sive. If you are not able to se­cure a schol­ar­ship, you may end up pay­ing it off over 15 to 20 years,” said Shahrizal.

“Also, with more stu­dents pur­su­ing Phar­macy, grad­u­ates will have to com­pete for place­ment of PRP in a hospi­tal set­ting — with most grad­u­ates wish­ing they can get a place in gov­ern­ment hos­pi­tals.

“Since there are limited place­ments in gov­ern­ment set­tings, the grad­u­ate is now al­lowed to un­dergo their PRP train­ing with a re­tailer or man­u­fac­turer, but the start­ing salary in the pri­vate sec­tor is slightly lower than that of the gov­ern­ment one.”

Shahrizal added that a few years ear­lier, the pri­vate sec­tor found it dif­fi­cult to em­ploy and re­tain a reg­is­tered phar­ma­cist, and phar­macy chains would of­fer re­fer­ral fees if some­one in­tro­duced a reg­is­tered phar­ma­cist.

“Back then, reg­is­tered phar­ma­cists re­ceived a bet­ter re­mu­ner­a­tion com­pared to to­day’s cur­rent market salary,” he said.

Shahrizal also ob­served that in Malaysia, re­tail phar­ma­cists might find them­selves be­ing treated as a sales staff not­with­stand­ing their roles and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

“How­ever, thanks to so­cial me­dia, the pro­fes­sion is now get­ting bet­ter public recog­ni­tion,” he­said.

Yap said that work­ing in a hospi­tal set­ting, the work­flow can be­come too rou­tine and thus, not chal­leng­ing over time.

“It is im­por­tant that we equip our­selves with new knowl­edge as well as find new ap­proaches that can make our job more in­ter­est­ing.”

The start­ing salary for fresh phar­macy grad­u­ates is also among the best across all in­dus­try sec­tors.”

Con­sul­tant Phar­ma­cist at Tera Ni­aga (M) Plt

Shahrizal Su­laiman (front row, third from right) and his fi­nal-year clin­i­cal at­tach­ment co­horts.

An­nal­iza Chan­drasegar

Elyana Ab­dul Rahim

Yap Peng Yew

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