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Tuesday 25 September 2018
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Case study: What’s it like to be a novel immunotherapies researcher?

Stephanie Annett has a PhD in experimental therapeutics, is a researcher for novel immunotherapies and a lecturer of pharmacology at the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland and locums in community pharmacy

Stephanie Annett has a PhD in experimental therapeutics, is a researcher for novel immunotherapies and a lecturer of pharmacology at the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland and locums in community pharmacy.
 
She talks to Léa Legraien about her passion for research and pharmacy and her success.
 
 
Q Why did you become a pharmacist?
 
I was always interested in science, which I had chosen at A-level.
 
When I suffered meningitis and septicaemia, I had to stop my A-level and, thanks to this, became fascinated in medicine, pharmacology and pharmacy and how I could be cured by penicillin.
 
I was also drawn to the flexibility of a pharmacy degree combined with science and the patient facing role.
 
Q What’s the key to your success?
 
Being passionate about what you do is the most important thing as it will give you the drive to focus and work hard.
 
Also being open to try any new opportunities that come along.
 
Q What are your biggest achievements?
 
A Passing my PhD, which involved a lot of new skills, lab and field experiments and long nights writing my thesis.
 
When I passed my degree, everything came together and doors opened up.
 
Q Can you tell me more about experimental therapies and novel immunotherapies?
 
My PhD was in a peptide drug, which was being used as a novel therapeutic in cancer. Now my work focuses on seeing if that drug also has immune potential particularly, in sepsis.
 
Sepsis is a disease that has very little therapies beyond supportive care. The goal of my work is to try and see if I can repair the damage to the blood vessels and stop the immune system from attacking the blood vessels. Hopefully that would be a new therapeutic for sepsis.
 
There are challenges within the research community in experimental therapeutics, such as trying to translate what we find in the lab to patients.
 
Q How do you juggle your different jobs?
 
It’s the biggest challenge about my jobs. Even though I love the variety it’s difficult to find time for everything.
 
That’s why you have to be really focussed in what you do and find time for yourself.
 
Q What have been your biggest challenges?
 
Time management has been one of the biggest issues, as well as transferring from sector to sector and learning new skills.   
 
There is a big disparity in research between women that get to professor level and the number of women that do a science degree and PhDs. But I’m confident that with new schemes that have been aligned for the past few years and more recognition of women that my generation is going forward and won’t face as many challenges as the generation before.
 
Q What makes you happy at work?
 
I love the variety of my work and the freedom and creativity scientific research gives. I love when ideas come together and you get results to show.
 
I also love to travel and can combine it with things such as going to conferences to get inspiration from other research talks and new ideas.
 
There’s such flexibility within a pharmacy degree ranging from working in GP practices, community pharmacies, hospitals, research levels to regulation.
 
Q How would you describe the current state of pharmacy in Ireland?
 
Pharmacy and the health service in general have some major infrastructure challenges compared to the UK. It needs modernisation and there’s a lot of privatisation of the healthcare sector, which makes you appreciate the NHS.
 
I think there’s huge optimism in the air with our recently appointed Prime Minister being a doctor.
 
There have been huge changes happening recently in Irish society and I hope that optimism will continue and we’ll put Ireland at the forefront of healthcare in research.
 
Q What changes would you like to see in pharmacy?
 
A All sectors have their own challenges. I love the ethos of pharmacy but I think it’s been eroded over the years by targets of multiples and some contractors just up for profit.
 
Younger pharmacists have got a lot of clinical training in their degree programme and are drawn to other careers such as in hospital and in primary care due to the lack of clinical skills or limbic clinical skills that can be used on a day-to-day basis within pharmacy.
 
I was a pre-registration pharmacist in the hospital sector and really loved the application of clinical skills but felt the continued underfunding and investment really affected the working environment.
 
I think to a worse end that others aspects of pharmacies such as industry regulations and Brexit cause a massive uncertainty and hinder the growth of pharmacists and the sector.
 
Q Are you confident about the future?
 
Yes. There are huge opportunities for pharmacists and it’s an exciting time to be a pharmacist.
 
No mater what sector you work in, there’s an opportunity to really make a difference to patients’ lives.


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