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3 March, 2021

Students flock to study pharmacy

James Cook University is offering Pharmacy courses for the first time, and they are proving popular with the Cairns intake completely full when classes started recently.

Ashlee Bermingham began her first year of studying Pharmacy at JCU recently. Photo: Ben Langtree, JCU

Head of Pharmacy at JCU, Associate Professor John Smithson said the response to JCU’s first year of offering Pharmacy in Cairns and Mackay had been very encouraging.

“We expanded our program in response to the local shortage of pharmacists and the need to improve health access for the communities in our region," he said.

“With local courses now available, it’s a more affordable option for school leavers and career-changers alike, and increases the chance graduates will stay to practice in the region, improving the health of their community."

 In Cairns, 24 pharmacy students began the course on MOnday, February 22. In Mackay seven students commenced, joining 42 new Townsville students for the four-year course.

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Queensland Branch, and local community pharmacy groups – Alive Pharmacy Warehouse, Calanna Whole Health Pharmacy, LiveLife Pharmacy and Wholelife Pharmacy and Healthfoods - supported JCU with an advertising campaign to expand the course offering beyond Townsville to Cairns and Mackay. 

Queensland Branch President, and JCU Adjunct Professor, Professor Trent Twomey, said the increase in the number of JCU students studying the course in 2021 was a positive step forward for community pharmacy.

A study published last year found two thirds of JCU Pharmacy graduates from regional, rural or remote areas ended up working in those areas – helping address a shortage of health professionals outside of major cities.

Dr Smithson said pharmacy was a diverse career, with pharmacists in Australia now providing an expanding scope of health care services including vaccinations, opioid substitution programs, wound care, and medication management reviews. 

“There are so many things you can do, from community pharmacy – educating and advising people on their medications, performing vaccinations and health checks – to hospital pharmacy, cancer specialists, Defence Force pharmacy and even medicines development and research,” he said.

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