Elsy Gomez Campos says when she first moved to the UK, she came across challenges that could have “potentially destroyed me as a person and destroyed me as a professional”.
Although she had already qualified as a pharmacist at the University of Havana in 1994, in 2000 she had to take a year-long course at the University of Sunderland because her degree was from outside the European Economic Area.
In the following years, Ms Gomez Campos rose through the ranks of pharmacy. She took on executive roles at NHS Leadership Academy and the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA), becoming the PDA’s inaugural BAME Pharmacists’ Network president in late 2020.
Her career was also recognised through receiving a fellowship with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) in November last year, she tells C+D editor Beth Kennedy in a podcast.
“The whole experience was quite lonely,” Ms Gomez Campos says of her experience adapting to life in the UK as a black pharmacist from overseas. “I faced some sort of discrimination, I didn't have a voice, I didn't have a network to support me.”
To improve the experiences of other black pharmacists in the future, Ms Gomez Campos founded the UK Black Pharmacist Association (UKBPA) in 2018. The aim of the organisation is to raise awareness of important issues in pharmacy and provide support for its 500-plus members, she says.
“We have been quite successful at doing that,” she says. One of the greatest successes of the group has been to empower black pharmacists to put themselves forward for leadership positions in the sector, Ms Gomez Campos continues. As a result, she hopes to see greater black representation in leading organisations such as the RPS board in the future, she says.
“It's about saying: ‘You are good enough and it’s about time that you go out there and show to the whole profession what it is that you can do.’
“We will support them, we will encourage them to go out there and put their heads above the parapet and say: ‘Our voices count.’”
Listen to the podcast to find out more about:
- Wanting to become a doctor but being too squeamish with blood
- Not being afraid of trying different things
- The “shocking” COVID-19 risk assessment issue
You can listen to the podcast above. Alternatively, follow C+D's podcasts by searching “Chemist+Druggist podcast” on your preferred app or on Soundcloud