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Young Leader in Pharmacy Farah Aqqad: "... we are working with and for our patients."

I have made it my personal mission to challenge preconceived notions about what pharmacists can and cannot do: to improve and advance health globally. No matter what their career path might be, pharmacists have the ability to influence change and contribute to healthcare.
Farah cropped


Education: Bachelor of Science: Doctor of Pharmacy - University of Jordan.

Current role: FIP Regional Engagement, Support and Development Manager

What excites you about being a pharmacist?

"You do what? I thought you were a pharmacist," is a question I am frequently asked.

In my community, many urged me to leave pharmacy school because it is considered a dying profession where one can only work as a dispenser or sales representative. As I studied, volunteered, and became more familiar with the profession, I couldn't get enough of it. I mean, it is impossible to limit yourself to what you can learn and accomplish in a pharmacy profession. The combination of science, healthcare, information technology, management, business, leadership, the list goes on and on. You can pick and choose a career based on your skills and knowledge (in fact, you can design your own – I work in a career I never knew existed). For pharmacists, there's a choice: either accept the label of a dying profession or make an impact. 

Another exciting thing about pharmacy is the values it embodies; we are working with and for our patients, providing a variety of services, influencing local and global health, and being challenged, learning, and growing in a field that is always evolving.

When you graduated, what did you envision for your future?

I had no idea what to envision, which freaked me out every day. There seemed to be a huge gap between what I was learning and what I needed to learn as a student. Thus, I was determined to take advantage of all the opportunities I could find, including volunteering, internships, courses, etc. Initially, I removed all career options I didn't want to pursue. As time went on, it became apparent that unless you test your options and put yourself out there, you won't know what your preferences are and what opportunities may arise.

How has your career evolved since your graduation?

I tried several internships and work opportunities during my time as a student to explore my options. With each of my previous positions, I accumulated skills that are relevant to my current position.

In my final term of my undergraduate programme, I met the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) and was the president of the pharmacy students’ association in my country. At this time, I managed all student-related components of FIP’s first regional conference in Amman. After that, I was offered an internship at FIP to help with a global vaccine access programme for pharmacy professionals around the world. Working with this global federation and seeing how it impacts many leadership bodies and countries, as well as how pharmacists play a huge role in global health has inspired me. This experience has made me incredibly proud to be a pharmacist. This internship was a turning point in my life. It was like I knew right away that I was meant to be here. In the long run, this is what I want: to facilitate the development of this profession and to develop evidence-based solutions to national, regional, and global health challenges.

After my internship, I was offered a part-time position with FIP to support the transformation programme and the implementation of the FIP development goals. While I worked part-time for FIP, I was also working full-time for a national pharmaceutical company as a project manager for CNS medications; I was primarily involved in sales and market performance. After a few months, I was offered a full-time job expanding my role in regional engagement, needs assessments, and advocacy. It was impossible to work at both jobs, and my passion for global health and development, as well as the work this global organization performs, led me to pursue a career with FIP.

Currently, I'm the FIP regional engagement support and development manager, focusing on the needs of 140 pharmacy leadership bodies worldwide, working with various members of the FIP team and the FIP Global Pharmaceutical Observatory. With more knowledge of national needs and challenges, I became more passionate about directing data-driven engagement, advocacy, and outreach programmes, and I'm eager to build on that. 

How important is mentoring in your career?

Even though I think it is incredibly important, I haven't had a mentor. Instead, I had managers who acted as my advisors. My career journey has allowed me to work with great leaders who set an example, provided insight into the skills and expectations I needed, and provided constructive feedback.  

In my career, I've had managers who pushed me to the edge, challenged me to think differently, and supported me in discovering what I'm passionate about. They made it possible for me, and I hope I inspire others the way they inspired me.

Was there an “aha” moment for you, when you realized the impact of the difference you’re making?

During my first semester at university, I suffered from stage fright and speaker's anxiety. As soon as I see all those eyes on me, I get butterflies in my stomach, shakes in my legs and hands, and my mind goes blank. For this reason, I deliberately placed myself in situations where I would have to speak on stage. In my first experience with this, I applied for the secretary general position of a student organization. At that moment, I started shaking, was given water to calm down, and repeated my speech TWICE. The good news is that I got this role, and then I realized how much I had been missing. One year later, I became the president of this association and the chairperson for the first student’s national symposium. I managed more than 43 committee members and team leaders, and our public health and humanitarian projects made a huge impact on the Jordanian community. It was when I realised fear would always be there that I had my aha moment. You just need to face it. I realized my weaknesses and found a way out.

One of the other “aha” milestones was organizing the first pharmacy students' national symposium in Jordan. The lack of support and being told we were "too young to organize such a large symposium" left me feeling powerless and as though my world was falling apart, but with a dedicated team, we worked around the clock to convince sponsors, negotiate, get funding, organize, meet needs, and host an unforgettable symposium. It ended up being one of Jordan's biggest national events, being covered by multiple Jordanian social media channels and being opened by pharmacy leaders. This symposium was a true one-of-a-kind experience as noted by students and speakers.

As a dynamic leader in the profession, what continues to drive you?

I have made it my personal mission to challenge preconceived notions about what pharmacists can and cannot do: to improve and advance health globally. No matter what their career path might be, pharmacists have the ability to influence change and contribute to healthcare. That's why I keep going, no matter how hard it gets.

How are young leaders paving the way for changes in the pharmacy profession?

In an evolving world, young leaders have the potential to influence what a profession is and what it can become. Young pharmacists and students face a lot of needs, challenges, and gaps, and nobody can identify those better than they can. It is imperative they identify needs, demonstrate impact, and suggest changes, working together to transform the future of pharmacy with the support of healthcare leaders. It's the advocacy, hard work, new skills, and innovative thinking of young leaders that's changing the profession.

What advice would you give to new pharmacy graduates?

There is no doubt that a degree in pharmacy is not enough to make you successful, as the pharmacy profession is incredibly competitive, and you do not really learn the necessary knowledge or skills at pharmacy school. It is imperative to develop your own skills, experiment with yourself, learn from your mistakes, and be a lifelong learner. You can only find what you're looking for if you put yourself out there, and the best advice I can give you comes from my experience: face your fears, do what makes you nervous, take chances, and break out of your comfort zone. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at what you can accomplish. As a pharmacist, you are called to be a leader right from the start, regardless of title.


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