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New President intro blog!

Let me introduce myself.


My name is Sam and am currently the President of the UK Black Pharmacist Association (UKBPA).


I may lose you at some point due to the length of this blog, but here it goes.


The UKBPA has many arms, dedicated board members and enthusiastic members. Even though I am new at the time of writing, that much is clear.


This year, our focus and strategy revolves around


1) Career development


2) Wellbeing support



Through hard work, taking feedback and supportive colleagues, my career has gone through some difficult and wonderful times. Currently I am in a Deputy Director of Pharmacy role at a large NHS Mental Health Trust.



In this introductory blog, I'll share some of the instances when I wished I had reached out to available support as a Black Pharmacist. As President, I hope that no-one feels alone if experiencing similar things.


If things mentioned in this blog resonate with you, please reach to us via our email address ukbpa1@gmail.com or come talk to us when out and about a conferences.


 

Right now I am comfortable in my skin at work but that was not always the case.



I see myself as Black British, that's where I think I fit best in terms of culture


It took me a while to settle on that, as I took too much notice of people saying I wasn't Black enough or British enough and all the microaggressions that come with it ("Where are you really from?","You don't speak like your Black" etc). Don't get me wrong, I am proud of my Ghanaian names and family history but for me self-defining as Black British is as accurate enough as I'll get, regardless of what others might say.



Ask me again in a decade or so and the answer may be different.



Anyway, back to the topic at hand: the UKBPA. I believe in the power of sharing stories so here's a selection of personal pharmacy stories as a Black man.



 

My first notable experience happened as a teenager doing work experience at my relative's community pharmacy. A customer called on the phone, started talking to me candidly questioning what the pharmacist had told them as "it was what the dark lady said". Myself, knowing full well that it was my relative that the patient was talking about that was the moment when I questioned will some people see the colour of my skin first before myself as a professional. Would/could that impact how I am perceived professionally I began to ask myself?



As a basic-grade clinical pharmacist in a general hospital I would visit a variety of wards and was often met with numerous microaggression from patients. This was so common I used to joke about it with my friends but deep down it hurt. I didn't have the vocabulary to articulate how I felt about it at the time. When I visited the ward patients would do things like shout out random African countries, I would often get asked where I was from (so often that I stopped answering and used to say "can you guess")


No-one ever guessed right.



Depending on the context the answer is different, (I always wonder I get asked that question so frequently and why that matters as if I'm novelty, anomaly?)



One patient saw I had a BNF in my hand and shouted "I bet you're not part of the British National Front" then asked me why my palms were white and the rest of skin Black, then proceeded to answer himself and said probably because my ancestors walked around with their palms down (then mimicked moving around like so)



Then there was a Pharmacy Christmas party where on the coach after the party a foundation pharmacist at the time shouted "Sam you f_____ Black c_____" in front of the whole coach. This seemingly came out of nowhere as I thought we were friendly before then. I was properly stunned. Reflecting back, that coach was full of senior pharmacists. No one said a thing during or after. It was only one of my best friends and colleagues who get to hear about it later (he wasn't on the coach) who encouraged me to report it (which I didn't) and to my friend's credit got the offender to apologise to me.



Then there's the numerous community pharmacy locums over the years, countless "jokes" about me being a drug-dealer, countless butcherings of my name, countless looks of shock/confusion when people ask for the pharmacist and I answer that I am the pharmacist.


Then in primary care, a GP made a joke about me being a drug dealer. A patient on a phone med review graphically detailing the racist abuse he dished out to a neighbour - guessing he didn't know I was black either



Those zoom/teams meetings where I am very often the only man of colour and someone says something like "everyone's face has gone red" or "we are all pale" in response to someone returning from their holidays.



Then there's getting confused/mixed up with the one other black person in the room. As if 'we' are nameless and interchangeable. Again still happens, not so regularly any more even at executive/senior which did surprise me at first.



However, I wish to end on a positive note. In the past few weeks, I received an in-person apology from a senior manager who had called me by another Black colleagues name inadvertently when we passed in the corridor. We had a positive face to face chat about the incident, the manager's recent bystander training, my experiences and our organisation.



Anyway, there's some of my story Black Pharmacist story. Whether long or short, I would be interested in reading/hearing yours too.


Until next time




Sam Appiah-Anane

UKBPA President

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