April 20, 2017, by Editor

Pharmacy – building on the past

This blog has been written by Xianle Chen, one of our fourth year undergraduate MPharm students.

The importance of history in modern research is often underestimated. The lessons of the past can often inspire researchers trying to solve challenges today. For this reason I applied for the Rajesh Joshi Memorial Bursary in 2015. The bursary, which is open to all undergraduates and postgraduates in the UK, is a joint award from the British Society for the History of Pharmacy (BSHP) and The Health Education Foundation and offers a chance to explore the development of the National Pharmacy Association since 1921.

XianleChen with Martin Astbury and Nicholas Wood

Xianle Chen with Martin Astbury and Nicholas Wood

As part of the bursary, I was invited to attend a two-day conference in London to better understand the role of history in modern pharmacy. While there I had the honour to meet with the President of The Royal Pharmaceutical Society Martin Astbury, as well as the Master of the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London, Nicholas Wood.

Discussion was lively, and our conclusions clear: the history of this ancient discipline has a massive impact on modern pharmacy. British pharmacy is still making history today and we, the students of the subject, could easily be part of life-changing events in our future years as pharmacists. I am even more convinced that it’s essential for us to have an appreciation of pharmacy’s historical weight.

One highlight was the BSHP’s 50th anniversary dinner, when I had the chance to talk to many experienced and highly respected pharmacists. It was an eye-opening experience, and really helped me develop a better understanding of the profession. For me, the most important lesson was that the advances of pharmacy are often embodied in us, the pharmacists – their knowledge and experience was proof enough of that.

Some people might ask what this has to do with pharmacy science, but history can have key insights into even the most technical challenges. On the second day of the conference there was a lecture focusing on the botanical exploration of pharmacy. One of the great points made was that Professor Tu Youyou, who won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2015, discovered artemisinin by analysing ancient Traditional Chinese Medicine texts. This alone shows that the future of drug discovery could be dependent on our understanding of history.

This two-day conference has provided me with great insight into the practicality of becoming a pharmacist. It was a great experience, and I felt it helped me grow both academically and professionally.

Posted in Pharmaceutical ResearchPharmacy Student Life