Building a research network for pharmacists

Pharmacist and University of Queensland PhD candidate, Louisa Handyside, is this year’s recipient of the Alan Grant-Taylor Memorial Scholarship

The Alan Grant-Taylor Memorial Scholarship was established in 1995 and assists Higher Degree by Research candidates with financial support, so they can conduct high quality research in the field of community pharmacy practice.

Associate Professor Chris Freeman and Associate Professor Neil Cottrell are advisors for Ms Handyside’s PhD project.

Here we chat about her pharmacy career so far, and what she hopes to achieve for the profession.

1. What kinds of roles and activities have you done during your pharmacy career thus far?

I’ve worked in community pharmacies in various spots around Queensland, from Brisbane to Yeppoon on the Capricorn Coast.

However, consultant pharmacy was the role that I found most rewarding. I enjoyed meeting people in their home environment and discussing their health and medicines in depth.

Working as a consultant for my local Primary Health Network was another rewarding role: I worked with the Clinical Council and Consumer Advisory Committees to explore how we can improve antimicrobial use in our region.

I completed a Master of Pharmaceutical Public Health at James Cook University in 2020 which sparked an interest in pharmacy research and a desire keep learning.

2. Why did you choose to study pharmacy?

I was interested in a career in pharmacy from a young age when I discovered that some medicines were derived from plants. From that point on, I knew I wanted to be a pharmacist.

I completed a Bachelor of Science at UQ with a major in Pharmacology, where I met my soon-to-be husband. He also had dreams of becoming a pharmacist and we enrolled in a Bachelor of Pharmacy at UQ together – combining his love of medicinal chemistry and drug design with my love of the social and professional aspects of pharmacy.

I’m particularly interested in community pharmacists’ role in health promotion and disease prevention and consumer partnerships in the pharmacy context.

3. What is your PhD topic?

My PhD will explore how primary care pharmacists can get involved with high-quality research with real-world impacts. The project focuses on building a network of pharmacists who share project ideas and invite their community to get involved.

The network will support pharmacists learning more about research and facilitate supportive relationships among pharmacists and academics. It was the broad scope of this PhD topic that drew me in.

My Master’s studies focused on pharmacists’ impact on health outcomes in communities and populations. A network of pharmacists all taking part in research has the potential to have a huge impact on knowledge generation and translation and ultimately patient care.

The opportunity to apply for the Alan Grant Taylor Scholarship and work with advisors whom I greatly admire and respect were strong incentives to apply for this PhD with the UQ Pharmacy school.

4. What do you hope to achieve through your research?

Practice-based research networks tap into a source of knowledge that otherwise would be lying dormant. Networks of enthusiastic research-active health professionals have been successfully established overseas, and in other fields in Australia.

It is my hope with this project to grow a supportive network of research-active primary care pharmacists here in Australia. I’m inspired by the exciting opportunity to tap into the wealth of knowledge that is ready and waiting for us to explore in the field of pharmacy.

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