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UKZN pharmacist recognised in the international arena

March 19, 2014

 Mr. Andy Gray

Mr. Andy Gray of the School of Health Sciences has been awarded the Donald E. Francke Medal for 2014 by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) - one of the largest associations representing pharmacists who practice in hospitals and other health systems.


The award will be made at the ASHP Midyear Clinical Meeting at Anaheim in California later this year.


Donald E. Francke, a key leader of ASHP in its formative years, was noted for his long-time service to American and international pharmacy. This award, established in 1971, credits individuals who have made considerable international contributions to health-system pharmacy.


‘This award is significant as it recognises my contribution to hospital pharmacy at an international level,’ said Gray. ‘While I have always tried to remain rooted in the realities of local practice, I have strived to learn about how pharmacy is practised in other countries and other health systems and to identify ways in which the profession can be advanced for the benefit of patients.


‘Looking at the list of previous awardees, I am honoured to be included among them. I have served with many of them on various committees and have benefitted from those experiences. I hope that I can continue to contribute in the myriad ways they have, across the globe.’


Gray has practiced and been involved in community pharmacy, hospital pharmacy and academia/research. As an academic since 1992, he said he has ‘always endeavoured to maintain contact with clinical pharmacy, particularly with hospital pharmacy’. Having served on local and national committees, Gray has remained involved with local voluntary associations such as the South African Association of Hospital and Institutional Pharmacists (SAAHIP).


In this way, he explains, his teaching and research have been informed by the demands of practice. ‘I have also been able to influence practice through my teaching as well as through service and political engagement. I have also tried to do the same at an international level, through my involvement with the International Pharmaceutical Federation.’


Gray said South Africa had made a brave commitment to universal healthcare coverage, in the form of National Health Insurance (NHI). Effectively managing medicines would be critical to the success of that venture, not only because of the high cost of medicines, but also because of the risk associated with their use.

He said there was still room for improvement in particular sectors of pharmacy. Ward-based and patient-directed clinical pharmacy in South African hospitals were still the exception rather than the rule. ‘Pharmacists need to bolster their skills sets, while convincing hospital managers and health authorities that increased attention needs to be given to the safe use of medicines. The focus must be on safety, not just affordability and access.’

Gray said every award, whether national or international, should not only be seen as recognition of past achievements, but also encouragement to maintain engagement. ‘I hope to continue to be engaged with pharmacy - particularly hospital pharmacy - at local, national and international levels, and to continue to influence the practice of my profession, the science that underpins it, and the careers of young pharmacy students and pharmacists.’


Gray says that his advice for future generations remains the same as it has done for many years: ‘Dive in, head-first; get involved; make a difference; and grow in the process.’


* Gray is a senior lecturer in the Discipline of Pharmaceutical Sciences and is a consulting Pharmacist whose research interests include policy examination in terms of improvement and effectiveness of National Medicine Policies.


- Zakia Jeewa

Zakia Jeewa

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