University of Nottingham: Pharmacy student championing inclusion makes trailblazing women list

A fourth year pharmacy student has been recognised for her work to improve inclusion across the profession and been named as a trailblazing ‘woman to watch’.

Adanna Anthony-Okeke from the University of Nottingham is one of 12 female pharmacy professionals who are breaking boundaries and recognised in the publication of The Pharmaceutical Journal’s ‘Women to Watch’ list for 2021.

Whilst studying Adanna noticed a gap in the course content that did not consider how patients from ethnic minority backgrounds may present or experience an illness.

She explains: “We had a session on asthma where they talked about turning blue and I asked what’s the case for black people and they didn’t know, so I decided to research that myself. It was getting frustrating because I knew a lot could be done.”

Adanna raised the issue with the MPharm course director who was supportive and resulted in her starting a project with staff and students in 2019 to ‘decolonise’ the curriculum.

She explains how important the support of the university was: “The university listened. The importance of this can’t be understated, it took a fair amount of courage on my part to approach course leaders in the first instance, they immediately understood and accepted the need to improve and the need to act promptly.”

Together with course leaders Adanna set up subgroups to work on different parts of the curriculum and look at the different modules through years one to three. Each person had their own module and looked at what could be improved. They identified areas of the curriculum where there was not enough information — for example, in pregnancy, there were no specifics about black women being more likely to die in labour.

This project was published in the Journal of Educational Innovation, Partnership and Change in May 2021 and subsequently featured in The Pharmaceutical Journalpodcast.

This work has been recognised by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association and the UK Black Pharmacists Association. She has also been invited to meetings with other universities about her work and was recently asked to speak at a roundtable event on inclusive pharmacy practice by NHS England.

In 2019, Adanna was involved in proposing a new educational module that pharmacy students can take, in addition to their degree, to encourage professional development.

The ‘Women to Watch’ initiative was launched in 2020, with the aim of showcasing the incredible work that women are doing in pharmacy and to identify future female role models within the pharmacy profession who can inspire others. It is designed to help identify and provide a platform to help tackle the historical deficit of women in senior positions in pharmacy. The list is the final result of a nationwide search to find women in the pharmacy profession who deserve greater recognition for their work.

I am truly honoured to have been nominated and selected by the panel to be on this list beside esteemed colleagues, women who have been thriving and paving the way for women like myself. Being listed provides me with further affirmation to bang on the doors I have previously been knocking. I am really proud of the efforts the team and I put towards ensuring the replicability of our work, essentially a roadmap for other Schools of Pharmacy.
Adanna Anthony-Okeke
Adanna’s inclusion work is far from over, she has plans for school outreach and helping to create a better understanding of patients from all deomographics, She said: “There is still work to do to ensure that we develop professionals that are able to best support patients from all demographics hence my desire to create a mini-module highlighting areas of healthcare that require greater racial sensitivity and conditions not covered representatively, such as Sickle Cell Disease. Equally, it is imperative that black students are able to recognise role models that look and sound like them, to this end I hope to develop a conference and I’m working on a campaign across secondary schools in Nottingham to encourage black students to study pharmacy – something I would have appreciated at their age.”

This is such a wonderful achievement for Adanna, so richly deserved and a true recognition of her dedication and hard work to championing equality, diversity and inclusivity in the pharmacy curriculum and wider profession. We are so proud of Adanna and all that she has achieved to-date and fully appreciate that this is just the beginning of even greater work and professional impact in future years.
Head of School of Pharmacy, Professor Barrie Kellam