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UC alumnus takes out top gong at the ACT Allied Health Excellence Awards

Michael Black

28 October 2021: Pharmacist and University of Canberra alumnus John Wsol has been named ACT Allied Health Professional of the Year, following a difficult 12 months during which health workers of all stripes rose to face the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are more than 1,800 Allied Health professionals in the ACT public health system, with individuals and teams recognised across eight categories at the Allied Health Excellence Awards.

Mr Wsol is the Lead Pharmacist for Education at Calvary Public Hospital and graduated from the University in 2010 with a Master of Pharmacy degree.

He worked in many areas of the hospital before moving into the education space. His most recent role also saw him win a second award for Allied Health Education Excellence.

“I was very surprised, I wasn’t expecting it at all,” he said.

“I feel a funny mixture of surprise and embarrassment because I don’t normally like showing off or anything!”

The awards acknowledge Mr Wsol’s dedication to the education of students and colleagues alike, his ability to deal with complex challenges, and a strong commitment to good patient outcomes.

“That was the appeal of Pharmacy for me – to be able to solve problems, as well as share my knowledge with colleagues and patients,” he said.

“I also find the behind-the-scenes work really rewarding, where research and policy work leads to positive changes on the ward,” he said.

Mr Wsol thanked his Allied Health colleagues for their tireless efforts during the recent months of the ACT COVID-19 outbreak, as well as the wider network of health workers and essential workers in the Canberra community.

ACT Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith also thanked Canberra's Allied Health workforce for their efforts over the past 18 months and congratulated Mr Wsol for his work in the sector.

“The ACT Allied Health Excellence Awards highlight the breadth and depth of Allied Health, and the commitment of Allied Health professionals to clinical excellence, research, innovation, and teamwork," Minister Stephen-Smith said.

"John Wsol is an outstanding Educator who demonstrates a creative approach to ensure education is engaging and meets the needs of learners."

Associate Professor Alison Shield heads up the Pharmacy discipline at the University of Canberra, with John being one of the first students she taught in 2008.

“We’re always proud of our students and it’s wonderful to see John get an award for doing great things in the workplace,” Associate Professor Shield said.

“He’s very capable — he’s one of those quiet achievers who doesn’t draw attention to himself.”

The University has developed strong ties with Calvary Hospital, which see John working directly with the next generation of students who are doing their practical placements.

Associate Professor Shield estimated that roughly 1/3 of the team at Calvary would be University of Canberra graduates, in addition to staff who have worked at the University in the past.

“It’s always nice to have our graduates move into the education space and give back to the next generation,” she said.

“John always gets great feedback from the students and he’s a big support to them as they learn the profession.”

The Bachelor of Pharmacy and Master of Pharmacy courses at University of Canberra offer students a solid mix of practical experience and research skills.

Pharmacy is one of many Allied Health professions taught at the University, with many students either going on to work directly with patients in the ACT or developing policies and innovations within the wider sector.

University of Canberra Pharmacy students and graduates have received several awards in recent years, including:

2020 Pharmacy Guild of Australia’s Intern of the Year: Angus Koerstz

2019 Pharmacy Guild of Australia’s Intern of the Year: Lucinda Kenny

2018 NPS MedicineWise’s Excellence in Consumer Information: Dr Nicole McDerby

2018 Pharmacy Student of the Year: Ben Coghlan

2017 Innovative Pharmacist of the Year: Kayla Lee