Aboriginal intern pharmacist Lillian Emery believes her cultural heritage has added to her strengths as a young pharmacist.
“My heritage is intertwined in everything I do and that includes my practice as a pharmacist,” she says.
“I think my cultural diversity has helped to give me an understanding that people experience things in different ways.
“It has helped me approach situations and connect with people in different ways with a better understanding of their cultural diversity.”
Lillian believes the pharmacy profession is taking steps in the right direction to close the gap in health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples.
“But there is always more that we can do, and I think being culturally aware is important,” she says.
“I think the profession could be pushing more for greater accessibility to services, perhaps through urging funding to subsidise pharmacy services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients. An example is vaccinations which we can currently provide through pharmacy, but I think it would be great if we could get these services subsidised through pharmacy like they can be through GP clinics.”
Lillian believes NAIDOC Week is not only important; it is necessary.
“NAIDOC Week is a celebration of Indigenous Australians’ history, culture and achievements and recognising the struggles previously and currently faced by First Nations people.
“It is a coming together to support and respect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and it allows all Australians to have a better understanding of First Nations peoples.
“We should be doing this every day but NAIDOC Week is a week to come together as a nation and celebrate Indigenous culture. In my community it’s something I do every day.”
Lillian says her background did not present any barriers to her desire to become a pharmacist.
“In fact, I found the opposite and I got great support from the Queensland University of Technology and the Pharmacy Guild.
“For any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person thinking of pharmacy as a profession, I would urge them to look at the support that is out there for them.
“QUT and the Guild provided me with a lot of emotional, educational and financial support which was vital for my journey through university.
“I was provided with many opportunities to educate myself and through these I can help educate our communities.”
Lillian says she loves pharmacy and is looking forward to completing her intern year.
“I was attracted to pharmacy because I really loved the healthcare side of things. I love customer service and being able to interact with patients. Pharmacy is all these things and I have loved it from the start.
“I haven’t pictured my 10-year plan but obviously I would still love to be out in the community, helping patients. I haven’t really thought beyond that as I am just finishing up my intern year.”
The cultural background of an Aboriginal heritage has given pharmacy student Louis Emery insights and skills which he believes are unique and a real benefit to patient outcomes.
The Queensland University of Technology student says people-to-people skills are a basis of his culture.
“One of the most striking things about my culture is that empathy and understanding are inherent to it,” he says.
“And that’s largely due to the way we interact with one another.
“Having that empathy and understanding has made it easy for me to learn and to communicate with people which is so critical in pharmacy.
“So even though I haven’t graduated yet my heritage has certainly helped me in pharmacy, and I am sure it will continue to do so throughout my career.”.
Louis says he was drawn to pharmacy because he has always been attracted to working with people and working in health was something he was also keen to be involved in.
“So I was pulled towards pharmacy which was a natural fit,” he says.
“I was doing another degree but I wasn’t sure about it, so I went to a Queensland University of Technology open day and attended the pharmacy presentation.
“I was really impressed by the speaker and a lot of what was said resonated with me so I was sold from there.
“I’ve been pretty blessed because I come from a family that has a lot of respect for education so I’ve always been encouraged to pursue education.”
He thinks the Closing the Gap campaign is failing to meet targets but also believes pharmacists are doing the best they can.
“I think we have gone off the rails a bit in Closing the Gap with health outcomes which I think was due to be reached in 2031. That is frustrating but I think pharmacists are doing a lot.
“I believe that if you as a pharmacist on an individual level are doing your job, you are doing enough.
“Pharmacists should be aiming for the best possible health outcomes for all patients and as long as you are striving to do the best work you can do with the people you interact with – without any prejudice - then I think you as an individual are doing enough.”
On a macro scale, things are a bit different.
“If you are talking about the profession as a whole then there is always room for improvement,” he says.
“Things like accessibility to medications and health services and health literacy are areas for example where I think we can do better.
“But then we fall into the discussion as to whose responsibility that is and at times the debate as to what do we do and what does it look like raises more questions than answers.”
Louis said he would encourage more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to join the profession.
“Being Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander gives you a unique perspective and I have seen this in my work.
“My skills, my culture and my heritage have all been very valuable in a profession that strives to successfully help people
“I can see how my unique heritage can really help with the many people I interact with.
“It makes me more emphatic and sympathetic.”