Kayla Lee is UTS Innovative Pharmacist of the Year

The UTS Innovative Pharmacist of the Year 2017 winner, Kayla Lee, was inspired to make a positive change in her community after the tragedy of losing her father when he took his own life. She saw a gap in the way pharmacists discussed mental health and devised Pharmafriend to fill it.

Pharmafriend is a novel program that was implemented 12 months ago at Capital Chemist Wanniassa, ACT, and aims to change fundamentally the way pharmacists interact with patients.

Ms Lee was recognised for her contribution last week at the UTS awards night at Parliament House in Sydney, when she won the top prize. She wins a medal, $5,000 towards further professional development, and the opportunity to share her program with the rest of the profession.

Now in its sixth year, the UTS Innovative Pharmacist of the Year Awards was sponsored by AstraZeneca, and recognises an individual or team that shares UTS’ passion for embracing innovation and implementing professional services in pharmacy.

The award was presented by the Minister for Education Rob Stokes, who highlighted the importance of recognising those who are trailblazing new approaches to pharmacy. “Innovative practices adopted by pharmacists today will immeasurably improve health outcomes for the patients of tomorrow,” he said. “Innovation is the foundation of pharmaceutical progress – and we are very fortunate to have universities such as UTS and pharmacists such as Kayla Lee – as exemplars of excellence right here in NSW.”

Thrilled to receive the award, Ms Lee says that Pharmafriend is an easy-to-implement, up-scalable program that she hopes to see in every pharmacy across Australia. “Pharmafriend uses a combination of psychoeducation resources that are freely available through various organisations, and a selection of leaflets and information packs that I have developed,” she said. “These resources could be easily replicated.

“We do not charge our patients for Pharmafriend consultations and, interestingly, consultations often result in patients not taking or buying the prescribed medication because they feel able to make a more informed decision about their health. For me, it isn’t about the dollar value – it’s about the return custom and loyalty to my pharmacy because of the support and time we have given to that patient.”

Ms Lee says she plans to use the award to travel to Canada to experience the work its community pharmacies are doing in the mental-health area, so she can expand Pharmafriend in Australia. “My big dream is to see community pharmacies become mental-health hubs providing support to everyone in the community,” she said.

In addition to the overall winner, five more pharmacy students won awards. Head of Discipline for Pharmacy Kylie Williams, who presented the student awards, says she is very proud of all the student winners and runners-up. “The standard and quality of our students this year is unsurpassed – I congratulate all the winners and look forward to following their careers in the future,” she said.

The winners include:

  • Haneen Al khthir – the PSA First Year Student Prize for Academic Excellence.
  • Shohana Rahman – who developed a service that caters to the issues facing Australia’s ageing population during her professional-services-stream subjects.
  • Ellen South, Jessica Jose and Daniel Barnaby for their outstanding work throughout the year.

UTS Head of School for the Graduate School of Health Professor Charlie Benrimoj said he was very impressed with the high quality of the nominations this year: “Kayla Lee’s innovative Pharmafriend program epitomises what this award is all about and is well-deserved. The commitment our students demonstrate towards their work and future is also inspirational. Innovation is the cornerstone of pharmacy and the Graduate School of Health is proud to recognise the outstanding contributions of those in this critical profession.”

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