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The GP pharmacist with a prescription for success

Since winning the inaugural prize for GP or PCN Pharmacist of the Year at the C+D Awards 2023, Mohammad M Rahman has continued to put pharmacy on the map

It’s a rare sunny day in April when C+D stops by St Stephens Health Centre in Ashford, Kent to pay a visit to Mohammad M Rahman. It’s only mid-morning but the vast, modern health centre is already busy. Patients wait to be seen in the spacious waiting room while clinicians bustle from room to room and telephones trill at the reception desk.

Mohamad, or Mo as he often goes by, speaks to C+D from the comfort of his clinic. He sips coffee from a mug bearing the slogan: “Mo, the man, the myth, the legend.” The mug is a leaving present from his former PCN in Lewes, Sussex, and the moniker seems particularly apt for this impressive pharmacist.

Now the director of medicines and chief pharmacist at Ashford Medical Partnership, Mo has worn many hats during his career in pharmacy. Starting out as an industry pharmacist in 1996, he’s also worked his way “literally from the ground up” in community pharmacy and is now proving how valuable pharmacists can be in working closely with GPs in PCNs.

Read more: The award-winning community pharmacist leading the charge for DSPs

During his time at Lewes PCN and Foundry Healthcare, Mo set up a specialist pharmacist-led preventative cardiology clinic, established a multidisciplinary medicines management concept, and developed a collaborative approach with local community pharmacies to reduce waiting times for clinical and prescribing interventions.

His effective co-working with his colleagues in community pharmacies particularly impressed the judges at the C+D Awards 2023, who said his entry gave a clear example of multidisciplinary working, and Mo was crowned the inaugral GP or PCN pharmacist of the Year. Since picking up his trophy at a glitzy award ceremony in central London in September and moving to Ashford Medical Partnership earlier this year, Mo has risen to even greater heights. He is truly making a difference to the diverse population in the area.

“The Kent demographics are quite different from Lewes,” he concedes. “Patient health needs, mental health – a couple of things are quite different. I guess that Ashford was looking for someone like me who can come and join and make lots of changes but with the focus on the patient.”

Mo with the pharmacy team at St Stephens Health Centre

Indeed, as Mo shows C+D around St Stephens Health Centre, it seems his colleagues at Ashford Medical Partnership are delighted with his choice to make the move. He is greeted with nods and friendly smiles while he moves around the building and his team members are only too happy to stop by his clinic to pose with him for pictures.

Dr Iwin Varghese, GP partner at the health centre, tells C+D that Mo is doing “a brilliant job”. “Mo’s come with his own ideas and in our case the team working with him is relatively new, so we saw that as an opportunity to mould the team the way we really wanted it to be,” he says.

 

From the bottom up

 

Mo's formative years in pharmacy saw him doing pioneering work in drug development during his time working in the pharmaceutical industry. "I worked in in global pharmaceuticals, like Sanofi Aventis and Square, in my early days, for drug development and management," he explains. He quickly climbed the ladder and made his way to head of the vaccine division for Sanofi. But despite these impressive credentials, when he moved to the UK in 2006, he found that his existing qualification from Dhaka, Bangladesh was not recognised and that he would be forced to train as a pharmacist all over again. 

Read more: The university schooling its students on equality, diversity and inclusion

But not one to be deterred, he decided to turn this setback into an opportunity, working his way up by starting as a healthcare assistant at Boots. “But because of my calibre and past experience, I quicky [progressed],” he explains. Before long, he had become a store manager and subsequently re-qualified as a pharmacist. “That’s really probably helped me a lot because I’ve worked all the possible levels of community pharmacy,” he says.

Mo at work in his clinic in St Stephens Health Centre in Ashford, Kent

He kept a close eye on developments in the sector over the next few years. Realising that new roles were emerging for pharmacists in GP surgeries and PCNs, he decided to train as an IP – a course he paid for out of his own pocket. He says: “I was still in community pharmacy at the time but I was very carefully monitoring the situation [in GP practices]. So what I was doing was developing myself in community.” He also has a clinical diploma and has undertaken further education and training in cardiology – the only pharmacist on his course among a sea of doctors.

Read more: Podcast: The C+D Awards for 2024 are fast approaching. Enter now!

With all newly qualified pharmacists due to join the register with an IP qualification as a matter of course by 2026, Mo is a massive advocate for existing pharmacists carving out the time, energy and effort to get the training themselves. “It is a must,” he stresses. “[Pharmacists] have to do the IP because otherwise they will be outdated.” Although he recognises that there are challenges with finding a DPP, he says these can be overcome by forming strong relationships with other local healthcare professionals, improving the chances of fidning someone willing to take on this role.

For him, having completed his own IP course before making the move into GP pharmacy made all the difference to his success. “I became an IP when I was already in community so I was a very competent prescriber,” he explains. “Then I joined primary care. The beauty of that is you already have someone who doesn’t need that much to improve to make them ready. That helped me to really flourish in primary care.”

 

Making a difference

 

And flourish he did. When he joined Lewes PCN in 2020, Mo says he realised it was “very progressive”. “Lewes was miles ahead of other PCNs,” he says. He was given the opportunity to make the role his own, which he promptly did. “If I’m given that sort of opportunity, I am at my best,” he says.

And now that he is being given similar opportunities in Ashford, he believes he has the chance to go to the “next level”. With eyes on becoming the first consultant pharmacist from a primary care background, this is one pharmacist who can never seem to stop pushing himself. “I don’t stop – I’ve got a problem,” jokes Mo.

Mo with his colleagues Dr Iwin Varghese and Áine Quigley

He says that taking the time to reflect on his achievements when he sat down to write his C+D Awards entry last year helped him to see just how far he has come. He says: “To write the entry means you need to reflect on what you have done. When I was writing my entry, it came to my mind that I have done the work that probably not many pharmacists have done in the nation. It really gave me food for thought that it was time for a step up, a bigger role.”

In fact, he credits the C+D Awards with giving him the opportunity to move to his new role in Ashford. But more than anything, he says, entering the C+D Awards and coming home a winner provides an all-important morale boost. “It’s recognition of your work, recognition for the team,” he explains. “More importantly, it also helps shape how you carry yourself.”

“This is definitely a very good platform.”

 

The C+D Awards 2024 will take place at The Brewery in London on September 19. Could you or one of your colleagues be crowned as a C+D Award winner? Check out all the categories for the 2024 awards and enter today.

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