On Being a TV “Star”

From time to time I have noticed comment in pharmacy media of the lack of programs on television that feature pharmacist’s roles and that make a positive contribution to pharmacy culture.
Occasionally you find the odd program that has a minor mention of a pharmacist, but generally derogatory in some way due to a character flaw, or being dishonest, sneaky or even a village idiot.
Yet always the doctor or nurse being the paragon of virtue, and always the heroes of the story.

There is one particular show that spurs me to change channels immediately it appears on the ABC.
It’s called “Doc Martin” and portrays an arrogant and very rude GP in a small Cornish seaside village who is actually a failed surgeon because he faints at the sight of blood.

The village pharmacist is a middle-aged woman who is portrayed in an eccentric and ridiculous manner, amplified by a neck support she wears for some unspecified reason.
The story line has her fantasizing as the romantic interest of the doctor.
Any similarity to a normal professional pharmacist is totally lost as she is frequently cast disrespectfully as an incompetent “village idiot”.

Stories are the backbone of culture and whilst I accept that any story can be told with some form of good natured humour, the story of Doc Martin is a vindictive one for the pharmacist, yet somehow still manages to portray the flawed character of the GP as the hero.

I guess that the nature of pharmacy work does not create a group of extrovert people, but I am sure that TV producers can find a range of stories that could portray some of the excellent work performed by most dedicated pharmacists.

That pharmacists consistently rate in the top three professions for ethics and honesty means that despite all the different media-type slurs (read the Murdoch Press) we are still able to rise above all those adverse portrayals in the eyes of our patients.

Recently, the National Prescribing Service turned its hand towards the funding of some witty and enlightening short films that were produced for Tropfest, the short-film festival that has now evolved to an international event.

That made me think that a similar endeavour by our leadership organisations might create an interesting counterbalance to the continual stream of negativism that mainstream print and TV media keeps feeding the general public.

The thought came to me when I read of the recent award given by PSA to Andrew “Robbo” Roberts for his work in Indigenous Health.

Living in a small community and travelling extensively throughout remote areas, “Robbo” said when “he went bush in 2005 it wasn’t his place of work, but his home”.

He provides pharmacist services to 10 clinics which service 2500 people across a practice area the size of Victoria.
His work requires navigation of jurisdictional regulations across the WA and the NT.

 “You can feel very isolated at times from your peers working 1000km from the nearest pharmacy and regional hospital. I am never sure if my voice is heard, and if so, not dismissed as that mad man from the bush!” he said.

“My biggest thanks go to the people of the Ngaanyatjarra Lands for welcoming me on to their lands and into their lives for over 10 years. I hope this award increases the recognition of the need for pharmacists to be working as part of the health care team for our remote Indigenous Australians.”

National president of PSA, Joe Demarte, said Mr Roberts was an exceptional pharmacist and an exceptional human being.

“The work he does means he is a community leader, a councillor, a coach, a Mr Fix-It and a pharmacist and he fulfils these roles with passion and commitment,” Mr Demarte said.

But the punch line came from Brett Barons, general manager of Symbion, the sponsors of the awards who said:

“Reading his nomination is like reading an adventure novel; an adventure novel where the hero is a pharmacist who is absolutely dedicated to the people he serves.”

Surely there is someone creative enough to put together a short film project on the professional life of “Robbo”, that would have universal appeal to the Australian general public and add greatly to the culture of pharmacy, and the impacts being made in indigenous health by pharmacists collectively.

And while “Robbo” has high character appeal, he is not the only pharmacist, past or present, that has an inspiring story to tell.
All the stories contribute to a culture that is a unifying force and a motivational force for new pharmacists to achieve in a similar manner.

PSA is doing a great job in recognising pharmacists across Australia who are achieving at all levels and I am sure there could be a range of sponsors from the pharmaceutical manufacturers that would find mutual benefit in sponsoring the “Robbo” types of stories.

And I am sure the National Prescribing Service could help with appropriate advice derived from the success of their recent Tropfest experiences.

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