Mentoring is a long term relationship where one person invests time, energy and personal know-how in assisting the growth and ability of another, usually a younger or less experienced person. Through their deeds and works, mentors help the society to move towards the actualisation of set goals and objectives, as it influences career planning and professional satisfaction. As such, for someone who is new to a field, mentoring comes in handy for support and guidance.
German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, once said “Immaturity is the incapacity to use one’s intelligence without the guidance of another.” Thus, there is a constant need for more experienced individuals to help young people navigate through the teething stages through proper mentoring in their chosen profession.
Pharmacy, like the other high-skilled medical professions, requires sound tutelage during which the young practitioner is expected to hone his skills in the profession before launching out. The mentee is expected to receive professional guidance, knowledge about the mentor’s real-world experiences and build self-confidence over time. It also provides the young pharmacist information on how to maintain best practices, network with the right people and operate the trade at an acceptable and international standard.
As lofty as mentoring is, unfortunately, not all young people are favourably disposed to it. This is largely informed by the desire to always blindly follow their conviction in life and the wall of isolation usually erected by increased access to technology. A recent report by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) reveals that only 55 per cent of students reported having a mentor, which leaves almost half lacking any form of mentorship. This applies to African pharmacists as well, including Nigerian trained pharmacists.
In view of the transformative effect which mentoring can have, the Nigeria Academy of Pharmacy (NAPharm) recently launched a mentoring programme for young pharmacists in the country. The launch, which was themed: ‘The Next Generation Pharmacist, Poise, Pizzazz and Panache,’ held at the Lagos State Chamber of Commerce and Industry Exhibition Centre, Ikeja.
The programme is expected to benefit about 10,000 young pharmacists for a period of three years. It is also intended to groom them and improve the standard of pharmacy practice and image in Nigeria.
Setting the tone for the launch, Chairman of the occasion and President, Nigerian Academy of Pharmacy, Prince Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi, in his opening address, remarked that the programme was an effort by the older and more experienced generation of pharmacists to guide their younger counterparts, especially the newly qualified ones, to realise their potentials. This, he enthused, would help establish a mutually rewarding relationship between young pharmacists and their accomplished senior colleagues through counseling and technical support.
Adelusi-Adeluyi, who was a former Minister of Health and the founder of Juli Pharmacy, also noted that, ‘’a profession that does not take care of the welfare of its younger generation has no future,” adding that “the future of this profession is in the hands of younger people who dare to do things differently.” This charge, no doubt, struck a chord with the young pharmacists, and reverberated throughout the hall, as speaker after speaker, notably pharmacists who have excelled outside their field of profession, took turns to proffer pieces of advice to the young professionals.
Pharmacist and former Lagos State Peoples Democratic Party’s gubernatorial candidate, Mr Jimi Agbaje, also chairman of the Mentoring Committee, noted that most young people, after graduating from the university were confused as to which direction to go. While acknowledging that the mentoring scheme was timely, he observed that it was designed to “motivate, encourage and train those of them who will build the next generation of pharmacists in the country and help young pharmacists to push in the direction that their passion drives them.”
Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on New Media, Tolu Ogunlesi; a pharmacist by training, also admonished the participants to see success as a journey and not a destination. He advised that they have an open mind in order to enable them explore opportunities where they never existed. He emphasised the importance of vigorously pursuing one’s passion citing his own experience as a pharmacist, whose own life accomplishments dwell largely on his foray into the media. “There is no substitute for passion; passion drives you to success and excellence,” he noted. He also advised them not to shy away from politics, and to pursue further studies in order to enhance their skills.
This admonition was emphasised by the President, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Alhaji Ahmed Yakasai, who, in a goodwill message, urged young pharmacists not to relent in their quest for knowledge, which he said should go beyond university education.
The event also provided an avenue for experts in the industry to take a hard look at the pharmacy curricula with a view to ascertaining its viability, and also identify inadequacies in the profession. Adelusi-Adeluyi remarked that “the curricula used in the teaching of pharmacy and related courses were not sufficiently structured to confront the challenges facing the industry.”
He, therefore, advocated for the “incorporation of the modern aspects of healthcare delivery and personalised pharmaceutical services into the new syllabuses.” He also encouraged young pharmacists to find means of enhancing the knowledge gained as professionals.
Another critical gap affecting professional development of young pharmacists is the get-rich-quick syndrome, which often undermines professional conduct due to the inordinate drive for wealth. This inadequacy was decried by the Registrar, Pharmacists Council of Nigeria, Mr. Elijah Muhammed. He observed that the tendency negates the principle of mentoring, which thrives on long-term relationship, patience and endurance, and is capable of damaging the image and progress of the pharmacy profession.