The roaming pharmacists


"Most people left the 2016 APP Conference with new knowledge and ideas, I ended up leaving with a van," says Liam

Our interview with two early career pharmacists who work as locums travelling all over Australia, with a focus on mental health and harm reduction

Liam Murphy and Luke Vrankovich are two pharmacists who are forging a career path all their own.

The young locum pharmacists are part of a collective called The Roaming Pharmacist, in which like-minded individuals join together to combine creativity and adventure with healthcare and education.

Group founder Liam says he found the skills gathered from travelling and advanced study complimented his work as a community pharmacist. Creating The Roaming Pharmacist was about generating a platform to try to develop a unique career incorporating his interests and skill set.

“As much as I have enjoyed locuming, I realised that my ‘dream career’ in pharmacy doesn’t quite exist,” says Liam, who grew up in Melbourne with his pharmacist parents.

“I’m still working out what this is exactly but I envision it as being involved in a variety of positive initiatives and projects that utilise my pharmacy and education training.

“This job would also allow me to incorporate my passions of travelling, language, music and surfing into my career and also tap into the ‘digital nomad’ culture that is allowing people the flexibility to work from anywhere in the world.

“Put simply, the notion of community is evolving. With the rise of social media and improvements in technology, it is now easier than ever for like-minded individuals to connect and collaborate regardless of geographical proximity,” he tells AJP.

“These can be specific sport or lifestyle enthusiasts such as surfers and snowboarders to young people living in a van or even grey nomads. One of our goals at The Roaming Pharmacist is to evolve our brand of pharmacy to create a new breed of community pharmacist that is relevant and can serve these new styles of communities.”

Liam met co-member Luke (pictured left, below) at the 2011 NAPSA congress in Adelaide. In the years since, they have caught up in places all over Australia.

The two travel Australia contributing in various roles, as locums, teachers, speakers and travellers, with a particular focus on mental health and harm minimisation.

“There are a range of social issues we are passionate about and saw creating this concept as an opportunity to amplify our voice as health and education professionals,” they explain.

“We want to be advocates on certain issues including harm reduction with illicit substances and the way mental health is perceived and treated in Australia.”

Luke after Shaving his beard for Movember.
Luke after Shaving his beard for Movember.

Luke is a Mental Health First Aid provider who is currently undertaking medication review accreditation and a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment.

He was also named the 2014 MIMS Guild Intern of the Year for his clinical excellence and passion for improving mental health outcomes.

One issue they strongly believe in is that pill testing happening at festivals should happen sooner rather than later.

“We think the pharmacy industry and its governing bodies should be behind this idea too,” they tell the AJP.

“If we, as a profession, really care about creating positive interventions in the community then this is an absolute gold mine.

“There is the potential to create a whole new style of pharmacist that engages people to open up a discourse about their substance use with a health professional in a non-judgemental and productive way.”

The two believe there is a need for improvement in how health practitioners approach young people and their health.

“On the whole, our observation is that pharmacy in Australia is yet to fulfil its potential of engaging, educating and inspiring many of the youth of Australia.

“A challenge we all face is to get young people to engage in their health and we need to work out how best provide them with the tools to be autonomous in accessing help when they need it.

“We believe that if we want to engage this demographic it has to come from a genuine place and by collaborating with different avenues, as a team can put ourselves in a position to actively engage a youth audience, as well as people from all walks of life, through social media platforms.”

Liam presenting at the 2016 NAPSA Congress in Townsville.
Liam presenting at the 2016 NAPSA Congress in Townsville.

The Roaming Pharmacist isn’t just two pharmacists, Liam points out, but includes the wider support network of friends that have been donating their time and knowledge, from designers and musicians, to health professionals, teachers and entrepreneurs.

2017 sees The Roaming Pharmacist continuing on its range of adventures.

Luke will be working as a locum in Merimbula, NSW, and throughout WA – including in Broome and his hometown of Carnarvon. He will also be conducting Mental Health First Aid training for students, and both members will be presenting at the 2017 NAPSA Congress in Perth.

Meanwhile Liam will be starting a round-the-country trip, spending six months road tripping around Australia before getting back to the Snowy Mountains for another winter at Perisher Pharmacy.

He also plans to do some locum work in outback WA, some teaching work in North Queensland, and set aside “plenty of time” to enjoy the Australian oceans and wilderness.

“The best way for pharmacists to engage with us is through our social media platforms and we would love for you all to follow our adventures,” says Liam.

“Pharmacists can help us gain traction with our ideas by utilising our resources, articles and content as it becomes available. If you like or agree with our content online then please share it amongst your networks and feel free to add your own two cents.”

Stay up to date with their adventures on Facebook and Instagram.

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