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Aspiring pharmacist earns national recognition

Tara Corcoran

1 August 2018: Ben Coghlan remained unfazed when he went from being the assessor to the assessed.

Mr Coghlan, a postgraduate pharmacy student at the University of Canberra, was providing routine clinical advice to a patient using the skills and knowledge he has gained during his studies.

The catch was, he was also being examined during the fictitious scenario that formed the final part of his journey to becoming Australia’s 2018 Pharmacy Student of the Year.

“I still am a bit shocked. It was very surreal being able to showcase my skills in a room full of pharmacists,” Mr Coghlan said following his win at the 2018 Pharmaceutical Society of Australia gala dinner on Saturday.

“The scenario was unknown to us, so it was as close to being in a regular pharmacy as possible. We had to recommend an appropriate treatment based on our clinical judgement and knowledge and then counsel that treatment with lifestyle advice.”

Mr Coghlan, who also took home the People’s Choice Award, finished ahead of seven aspiring pharmacists from around the country to claim the coveted award. It was a long road to get there, however.

Undergraduate and postgraduate pharmacy students at the University participate in tutorials and knock-out rounds as part of the selection process.

Mr Coghlan eventually emerged as the ACT finalist, overcoming stiff competition from three of his peers at the University.

In the final round of competition, students were given five minutes to question a fictitious patient about their symptoms and medical history – like a pharmacist would.

Mr Coghlan didn’t miss a beat.

“I have been very humbled by the experience as I was up against stiff competition in seven other great pharmacy students,” he said.

Mr Coghlan will receive financial assistance to undertake pharmacy-specific education at an international event. He expects to finish his studies at the end of the year and has already secured an internship at Calvary Public Hospital in 2019.