The University of Canberra’s first group of pharmacy undergraduates have graduated

Carleigh Tongs will achieve a number of firsts when she graduated from the University of Canberra last week: the 22-year-old is among the first cohort of students at the institution to graduate with a Bachelor of Pharmacy.

She is also the first Indigenous student to complete the UC degree, and is the first in her immediate family to graduate from university.

“I’ve loved studying at UC. It’s a great accomplishment not only to graduate but to be part of the first undergraduate pharmacy degree. We really had a sense of community and camaraderie with our lecturers, tutors and peers,” she says.

Ms Tongs recently had her Aboriginal ancestry through her paternal grandmother’s side confirmed, with the connection inspiring her to take on further study focusing on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

“I’m interested in learning more about Indigenous health and why Indigenous Australians are predisposed to more medical conditions compared to non-Indigenous people,” she says.

Ms Tongs moved to the Northern Territory in January for a year-long pharmacy internship at Alice Springs Hospital and returned to Canberra to attend her graduation at Parliament House. She has also completed placements on the South Coast, at Moruya and Batemans Bay District Hospitals.

She said it has been an amazing and eye-opening experience to live and work in the remote town.

“My internship so far has been a wonderful experience, though challenging, and all the pharmacists including my supervisor are always willing to drop whatever they’re doing to help me or answer one of my questions. I’ve had the chance to work alongside technicians in the dispensary and in the general medical ward, surgical ward and palliative care,” she says.

Ms Tongs was inspired to study pharmacy after taking up an after-school job at a community pharmacy when she was 15 years old.

“I like how much of an impact I can have as a pharmacist. We have to take into consideration so many different factors, interactions, other medications and if the medication is doing more harm than good,” she says.

“There’s a lot of work to it.”