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The award-winning trainee pharmacist looking to the future

Ola Padonu has been hailed for the tenacity she showed during her training year, helping her clinch a C+D Award

It is said that the future is yours for the taking. The winner of the Trainee Pharmacist of the Year Award at the C+D Awards 2022, Olaotan Padonu, is testament to that. As she speaks to C+D, Olaotan – or Ola, as everyone calls her – is cool, calm and collected.

This came in handy during last year’s heatwave, when the trainee pharmacist took time out of her holiday to design information material helping patients deal with the scorching temperatures.

This dedication to patients is typical of Ola, who still works at M J Williams Pharmacy Group's Kellaway Pharmacy in Bristol where she did her training year. Her colleagues describe her as "uncompromising in her professionalism" while managing to show "tenacity, humanity and kindness". Her pharmacy journey, they say, is "a testament to her drive and grit, all shrouded in kindness and empathy".

Read more: They’re back! C+D Awards officially return for 2023 with two new categories

These admirable qualities were recognised by the C+D Awards judges, who could see from her entry that she had “made a huge impression” on her patients and colleagues alike. They also applauded Ola for "using her voice" to tackle healthcare inequalities in the community, through which they said she “has shown pharmacists can have an impact on making healthcare truly inclusive”.

Due to take her pre-registration exam next month, Ola sits down with C+D to talk about her impressive training year and what life has in store for her next.


Tell us more about you


I'm a Nigerian-trained pharmacist. I relocated to the UK in 2020 and I started off with the overseas pharmacists' assessment programme (OSPAP) conversion course. After that, I got a placement with M J Williams Pharmacy to do my training.

Growing up, I thought I wanted to be a doctor because at some points in my childhood, I would randomly pick up a medication, go through the leaflet, look at its indications, method of administration and also side effects. So, everybody thought [I wanted to be a] doctor. But little did we know that I was more interested in the medicine itself.

In Nigeria, you need to select a first and second choice. My brother helped fill in the form and he selected medicine and pharmacy. We don't know why he selected pharmacy because I didn't know much about it at that point. I prayed and I told God to give me the best course where I'll be able to function, where I'll be able to give my best and where I believe I'm meant to be. When the results came out, I was given pharmacy.

In my first year, I was a bit downcast because I thought, "I still want to study medicine. I think I'm meant to study medicine". But in my first and second years, when I started getting to know more about the drugs and know about how they work, it dawned on me that it had been pharmacy all along and not really medicine.


Tell us about your placement


I got my placement by word of mouth. A senior colleague of mine trained in Nigeria as well and when I was moving to the UK, I was in contact with him. He was able to give me a lot of good advice, guide me on what to do and what have you. When it was time to pick a placement, he told me about M J Williams Pharmacy and said it was a very good place to try.

So, I sent in an application and had an interview with the superintendent, Ade Williams. I was offered the position not too long after. That was the only place I applied to and I think I had just moved here when it was time to start my placement.

When I first started, we had the COVID-19 vaccination clinics. So that was something I was quite interested in, because I saw a lot of people coming out to get jabs, to stay safe and keep other people safe as well. So, I first got my vaccination training and I started helping to draw out the vaccines and also be involved in the vaccinations themselves.

Also, I had the opportunity to host a talk for the black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) community about modern and traditional medicine, the benefits and how to exploit their uses.

Read more: The ‘truly inspirational’ pharmacist who always puts the community first

I also tried to address community pharmacist consultation service (CPCS). I noticed we were getting more. We are all aware that the GP surgeries are quite [stretched] with a lot of calls and trying to see people, so that was one thing I was able to do. I was able to ring around the GPs near the pharmacy to let them know that we were quite happy to take as many as they were willing to send our way. Anyone we would not able to deal with, we could always refer back to them.

There was also the heatwave. That was quite concerning for me as well because in the branch I was in, we got a lot of frail patients. I just tried to get a lot of information out there on how they could stay safe and what they should do and what not to do.


Tell us about winning a C+D Award


Winning the Trainee Pharmacist of the Year C+D Award was one of the best moments of my career. What made it even more interesting and made me appreciate it more was because everything I did, I did without the aim of winning an Award. [With] everything I did, I just got involved, participated and I really wanted to do it. [Entering] made me feel that hard work, positivity and a good attitude can actually be recognised and appreciated on a very large scale.

Read more: Could you win a C+D Award? Top tips to make your entry sparkle

I’m glad I applied for it and actually won. Every time I feel down, I am having a bad day or some things are not going as planned, I got back to read the things that were written about me and it actually makes me feel better. I have actually done something good and have been recognised for it. I would say after winning the award, I've wanted to do more.


What’s next?


I would like to explore the opportunities here [at the MJ Williams Group] first – build a very good foundation. And let's say, in the next couple of years, try something new.


The C+D Awards 2023 will take place at The Brewery in London on September 6. Could you or one of your colleagues be crowned as a C+D Award winner? Check out all the categories for the 2023 awards and enter today.

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