Mildura pharmacy alumni pride

They are two friendly faces anybody living in Mildura who has visited a local pharmacy probably recognises.  La Trobe pharmacy alumni Brooke Shelly and Tim DeBoo are now using their pharmacy degrees in ways they might not have imagined when they moved to Bendigo as teenagers to study their degrees.

Both are proudly living and working in their hometown of Mildura and are passionate advocates for their profession, clinical education and addressing the disparity in healthcare access in regional Australia.

Brooke Shelly completed high school at St Joseph’s College and says working at a local pharmacy after school and on weekends exposed her to the profession.

“I loved the way the pharmacists knew everyone by name, that they were the all-round solver of problems and often the patient’s first point of contact with the healthcare system. I knew pharmacy to be a great career for women wanting to prioritise having a family, but what I really didn’t know at the time, however, was that it was a degree that opens the door to far more opportunities than the traditional community or hospital pharmacist roles.”

And doors that degree has opened for Brooke.  She is now one of the few pharmacists in the country working in General Practice as a General Practice Pharmacist. Currently, she enjoys a portfolio career; Home Medicine Review (HMR), GP Pharmacist consulting at Ontario Medical Clinic and as a Clinical Pharmacist at Beyond Pain.

“My role as a GP Consultant Pharmacist is definitely in its infancy in Australia, despite it being quite commonplace in other countries like New Zealand, Canada, the UK and the US.  I consult from the Ontario Medical Clinic in their multidisciplinary team. I am a non-dispensing pharmacist; the role is split between patient facing activities, education/training and clinical governance. The role really is whatever you and the practice make of it, and that comes down to the sheer breadth of the pharmacist degree.”

Tim DeBoo attests to diversity of careers pharmacy can lead to.  He is now the Director of Clinical Learning and Development at Mildura Base Public Hospital (MBPH) and practises as a Community Pharmacist one night a week.

“My role at MBPH involves overseeing a team dedicated to addressing the learning needs of Nursing, Midwifery, and Allied Health Professionals within MBPH and the Northern Mallee.  I love learning new facts and concepts and stretching my mind. There is no better place to do that than being in education. It is rewarding when you provide someone with a new concept and it just "clicks".

“My role as a Community Pharmacist is focussed on meeting the needs of patients, be that with medicine supply and advice or assistance with minor ailments. I am continuously researching innovative methods to deliver clinical education, catering to a range of skill levels.”

Like Brooke, Tim too worked at a local pharmacy in his teens before deciding to pursue studying Pharmacy at La Trobe’s Bendigo Campus.  Tim completed high school at Mildura Senior College.  Brooke and Tim actually met for the first time at university in Bendigo, having attended different high schools in Mildura. Brooke commented that “country kids” seem to always navigate towards each other and they’ve remained friends and colleagues ever since.

During their time studying, Brooke and Tim both undertook clinical placement in Mildura. “I love science, chemistry and wanted to help others in my local community - I did not want to leave Mildura.  It was fantastic completing placement at Mildura Base Hospital, as it was then.  I was able to see areas of the hospital that I would not have had exposure to if I had competed all of my placements in an inner metropolitan hospital,” Tim says.

Brooke adds, “I also did multiple community pharmacist placements in Mildura, Merbein and Red Cliffs throughout my undergraduate qualification, as well as inner city tertiary hospital placements.  But I was always drawn to the more relational style of practicing in the bush, getting to know your patients and their families and seeing a person’s health from diagnosis through to the complexity of multimorbidity and end of life care.  You really do get to do it all when you work rurally!”

Tim says the skills he learnt during his degree have been applied in many different areas and have allowed him to follow other interests.

“Some of those interests, I did not even know I had at the time!

“During my time at La Trobe, I loved the interaction with the lecturers, the constant sharing and gaining of knowledge and the forming of lifelong friendships.”

Tim and Brooke both agree that La Trobe set them up to be big thinkers and look beyond the status quo.  Brooke describes pharmacy as currently at a crossroads.

“I think each generation of pharmacists says it and that’s because the role consistently adapts and evolves and personally, I love that about the profession. When I started the degree there wasn’t a GP Pharmacist role, there wasn’t pharmacists working on-site in Residential Aged Care Facilities, pharmacists weren’t administering vaccinations or other injectable medicines. Pharmacists are now moving into the prescribing space and I truly think that now is a great time to study pharmacy.”