NAPSA x APSA Symposium
Can you tell us more about APSA and what was your motivation for having APSA as your “home organisation”? What are the benefits for students to become involved with APSA?
Australasian Pharmaceutical Science Association (APSA) represents academic pharmacists with an interest in pharmaceutical science, pharmacy practice and pharmacy and pharmaceutical science education. APSA hosts an annual conference bringing together academic pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists from Australia and New Zealand to allow for the dissemination of their latest research findings and educational advances. APSA is particularly focused on supporting students and early career researchers to showcase their research.
We know that you have done lots of research in different parts of the world. How did you get this opportunity to be able to experience so many different countries?
I almost always found out about interesting opportunities from networking. I was active in professional organisations (like NAPSA) as a student and I went to as many conferences as I could afford. I would read about the keynote speakers and try to get a chance to speak with them. When I finished my course, I stayed active. Some of the people I met at conferences or contacted about their work because I was interested in it often connected me to nontraditional opportunities. For example, I first met academics from Monash when I lived in the United Kingdom. I was doing some pharmacy work in a virtual world called Second Life and so was Monash. Many years later when a position opened up, I already knew that there were great people working there so I was less afraid to move!
What is the pathway to studying for a Masters or PhD? What is the benefit for career progression?
For a PhD, either an Honours or Masters Degree is needed.
Masters or PhD give you additional skills, specifically research skills, which are well-sought after by employers in a range of areas, obviously academia, but also pharmaceutical industry. Having a PhD also opens doors to work internationally.
You mentioned that you worked as a research assistant on the side, how do you apply for a job in research? Do you just approach research companies?
I worked for academics that I had previously done projects with e.g. summer research projects or honours. Academics may only have enough money to hire 1 research assistant, so they are very cautious in who they hire and are most likely to hire someone they have worked well with previously. Building up your reputation and network are important for this.
How can you find a balance between ongoing long-term research programs and typical work in a community pharmacy? Is it hard to do both simultaneously?
This is a great question! I am sure this is a challenge for many of us pharmacist researchers. The truth is that it does require working long hours. I have learned, and am still learning, that prioritisation and time management is key. I now aim to set aside a specified day of the week to practise as a pharmacist in my pharmacy, as set block of day/time during the week for research and teaching. I am also hoping to build a research team at the moment so we can share our work and improve efficiency. I do find that community pharmacy work and research goes hand-in-hand and they are highly intertwined. I get driven when I see a ‘problem’ or a challenge at my pharmacy, and I would immediately think about how can I use research to methodically and scientifically find a solution for this – and the answer to that is ‘research’. I can then use what I learned from research and put them in practice, which helps to translate research findings into everyday practice. I will feel very bored if I can only do one thing!
Dr Fei Sim
What is most rewarding about academic work?
The most rewarding aspect of academic work is standing on stage at graduation day with pride as our students who we've taught along the way commence their professional careers.
I thoroughly enjoy both teaching and research as the two key parts of my academic work. I love to interact with all my students. I see them as future leaders of the profession and it makes me happy to be able to contribute to shaping the future of the profession. This drives me forward and keeps me going. For research, as mentioned in my earlier response, I find it rewarding to solve real-life practice problems using sound research methodology, and then use research findings to guide evidence-based practice. Ultimately, in my opinion this is the only way to improve practice.
Dr Fei Sim
NAPSA has a newly developed journal called the Australian Pharmacy Students’ Journal (APSJ). Would you recommend publishing in the new journal?
I would strongly encourage students to publish in the Australian Pharmacy Students' Journal (APSJ) as it will give you insight into the academic review process while at the same time, being able to showcase your latest and greatest research findings.
I think this is a fantastic initiative – well done and great job! This is a great step to instill a research culture amongst the profession and pharmacy student cohorts. I would absolutely recommend this to all my students. I think students should aim to submit their work (be it literature review, commentary or research project articles) to this journal. WELL DONE NAPSA!
Dr Fei Sim