A pharmacist for the environment

Grace Wong

BPharm, MPH AACPA MSHPA, class of 2012

Grace Wong is the founder of Pharmacists for the Environment Australia (PEA), which is committed to advocacy and promotion of sustainable pharmacy practices for better human and planet health.

The Parkville campus was a memorable and enjoyable time for Grace. “I fondly look back on the day-long practical sessions in white lab coats, Dr John Hurley's colourful handwritten overhead projector slides, having semester exams in Cossar Hall, and all the crazy University balls.”

After graduating, Grace worked in regional Victoria before moving to Melbourne to work in hospital-based Home Medications Reviews(HMR). “This is a comprehensive clinical review of a patient's medicines in their home by an accredited pharmacist. It was a good opportunity to safely dispose of any unwanted or expired medicines.”

Grace travelled overseas, working as a pharmacy technician in the UK. She then returned to Monash as a sessional tutor for the Graduate Certificate in Pharmacy Practice.

“A Master of Public Health opened up a whole new perspective on career opportunities. I did volunteer work that was confronting but a good opportunity to use the skills obtained from my master’s.

“I volunteered for Calcutta Rescue, a not-for-profit organisation based in West Bengal, India, where I was involved with the organisation's medicines procurement system and clinical work with the medicine team in the slum areas of Kolkata.

“I also worked in the Northern Territory as the renal pharmacist for Central Australia, managing the needs of dialysis patients in the Red Centre. It was a stark reminder of the health disparity that exists in our country and the crucial role pharmacists play in remote and regional areas.”

Returning to Melbourne with a broader outlook on the world, she founded PEA. “I was nominated as ‘Green Champion’ for the Western Health Pharmacy Department, and involved in our Five-Year Sustainability Action Plan. This led me to start PEA, to be able to reach pharmacists beyond my workplace.”

PEA looks at what practical and tangible environmental solutions we can commit to in the pharmacy profession. “Going to India, I saw first-hand the environmental and human health consequences of pharmaceutical pollution.

“The chairman of one of the world’s largest drugmakers, recently interviewed by Reuters, said: ‘Pollution from antibiotics is causing antimicrobial resistances. Antibiotic concentrations in effluent from a treatment plant used by drug factories were higher than would be expected in the blood of patients undergoing a course of treatment.”