Advice from a former ‘aimless loser’


The winner of this year’s SHPA Medal of Merit says his career started when he was a graduate who wasn’t interested in pharmacy… but now, he hopes to inspire the leaders of tomorrow

Honouring his persistent pursuit of the advancement of hospital pharmacy and health informatics in his home state of Tasmania, Tom Simpson has been awarded the 2019 SHPA Medal of Merit at Medicines
Management 2019 (MM2019), the 45th SHPA National Conference.

A buoyant Mr Simpson told delegates that when he graduated from university, he “wondered what on earth I’d done”.

“I had no interest in being a pharmacist, let alone any passion or conviction for the profession,” he said.

Then he attended the 2001 SHPA conference, where he met industry leaders and was inspired by them.

Mr Simpson said he wanted to pass on the sort of advice his current self would have given his past self in 2001.

“It’s probable that the 2036 Medal of Merit award recipient is in the audience today, and dammit, I’m going to be the one to inspire them!” he said.

“The lessons I’ve learnt that have taken me from aimless to passionately engaged are: get involved; take opportunities and get out of your comfort zone; find the best mentors; and partner with people you admire and adore.

“Whoever you partner with in life, and whatever their field of work, I hope you find someone who enriches, teaches, supports you, and makes you happy.

“It’s been the most important thing that’s happened to me.”

Mr Simpson also said in work, as in life, it is important to understand ‘it’s not all going to go your way’.

“The best thing we can all do is look after yourself, look after your team, build a team of people around you who will look after you when things aren’t going well.”

He said pharmacists should build the best teams they can: “There is great joy in working in a team of people who are smarter than you. They bring new ideas, and they improve your own. Working with partnership is the only way to work well.”

He said that he hoped one thing he had in common with the previous recipients of the Medal was an inability to accept that the status quo was good enough.

He said these lessons have “taken me from aimless loser to passionately engaged”. 

Announcing the award in the afternoon plenary on the Gold Coast, SHPA President and fellow Tasmanian Peter Fowler acknowledged Mr Simpson’s energetic leadership and extensive impact on statewide pharmacy practice.

“Under Tom’s leadership, hospital pharmacy practice in Tasmania has strengthened to a point that was unimaginable only a handful of years ago,” he said.

“He has made lasting impact across many sectors, including policy, acute, rural and education.

“A member of the inaugural Health Council of Tasmania, where he advocates for medication safety and hospital pharmacy at a health policy and governance level, Tom’s broad skillset, creativity and ambition have seen him take leadership roles through which his achievements have made significant impact on broader health services in Tasmania.”

Mr Fowler says well beyond the accolade, Mr Simpson’s impact on health care will be continued to felt at a state level.

“Tasmanians are now seeing more clinical pharmacists embedded in their hospitals and will soon see a state-wide multidisciplinary Safe Medication Practice Unit.

“Through Tom has established rural pharmacy services across Tasmania so patients in rural hospitals can get the same level of pharmacy care as those in acute hospitals.”

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