The seeds of what would become Noma Al-Ahmad’s mission were sown early in his career, with a disastrous pre-registration placement at an independent pharmacy.
“It was a bunch of lies and they weren’t determined to train at all,” Al-Ahmad said.
After months of doing nothing but boxes of pods, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) offered little help. She tried to look for an alternative, but no one was interested. It’s very difficult for interns in this position, says Al-Ahmad, “you’re kind of blacklisted.”
Eventually her persistence paid off and she was able to complete her training at another pharmacy, but the experience stuck with her. Insisting that no other trainee should undergo the same ordeal, she set herself the goal of considerably improving the training offered.
After graduating, she founded ProPharmace in 2006, today one of the UK’s leading pharmacy training providers. Almost 15 years later, it has grown from an initial cohort of 20 trainees to now 500 trainees per year, offering courses in setting up an immunization clinic, mock exams and training for supervisors.
“Her work in improving the quality of pre-registration training has had an impact nationwide by transforming the way pharmacy managers design and deliver their training programs,” said his proponent.
In September 2020, his team won a contract with Health Education England (HEE) to train supervisors for the London and South East region. In March 2021, this was extended to the south of England.
“If supervisors know what they are doing and can provide effective training and be certified, trainees are more likely to have a good experience,” says Al-Ahmad. “We want trainee pharmacists never to experience what I had to do. “
She would like the GPhC to make this training compulsory for all supervisors. At the moment, it is only mandatory for services ordered by HEE.
As Managing Director, Al-Ahmad supervises a small team of ten internal employees and around thirty trainers. The size of their business means they can be flexible, she notes. “We are always trying to stay ahead and adapt,” says Al-Ahmad. A perfect example was the sudden need to switch to online training from face-to-face sessions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When the GPhC announced that its exams would be posted online, it took a long time for them to announce it, but we were ready for it and had prepared online practice exams in advance,” says Al-Ahmad. .
ProPharmace has also created a set of free training resources to help pharmacy teams and some universities have reached out to ask for help.
The program is constantly evolving alongside the profession, she says, and recently there has been a lot of work devoted to introducing vital clinical skills sessions to new core pharmacy programs.
What sets Al-Ahmad apart, according to the person who appointed him, is his quickness in reaching out and supporting interns through difficult times. It offers tailor-made and free support to students in case of need, including those who have had difficulties with visas and refugee pharmacists..
The impact of the work that has been done to date can be seen in the high success rates of their interns, she notes. “We also always take feedback after each session into account so that we can adapt,” she adds.
For now, Al-Ahmad is focusing only on business, as well as her role as a guest lecturer at King’s College London (KCL). She is working on training collaborations with several universities, including KCL, as they learn about new basic pharmacy programs. “I would like to return to work in pharmacy next year as a substitute,” she says. “It is important to keep in touch. I plan to do my independent prescription and return to another area.
Starting her own business has been a learning curve, she admits: “Throughout my career, men have told me that we want to work with you because we think we can do better and that has been a challenge for me to navigate. “My advice to women who want to start a business is to go out there and not be stopped by someone who says you can’t do it. It can be hard to be taken seriously, but for me it’s about integrity and setting high standards. “
“Noma demonstrates that you can build on a passion to improve education and training and grow your business. “
“What is inspiring is the added value she puts into solving issues such as the black pharmacist level gap and supporting trainee pharmacists during one of the most difficult times of their careers. “
“Very influential. The work she does is very important and necessary. Tangible results.
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