The journey towards making this campaign national began in November 2015. I was starting my second year at King’s College London as a member of the BPSA (British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association) executive, and at the time, I was hoping to try something new. A desire to improve quality of life was what brought me into pharmacy, and a combination of this and an ambition to be different, together with advice from friends, made me consider working towards holding a national public health campaign on antimicrobial resistance. After attending the BPSA 73rd annual conference in Liverpool, I was surprised to realise that pharmacists, and pharmacy students were very active on Twitter. It was through social media that I became familiar with the most prominent voices in pharmacy, such as Ash Soni, immediate past president of the Royal Pharmaceutical society, Keith Ridge, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for NHS England, and Dr Diane Ashiru-Oredope, Lead Pharmacist, Antimicrobial Resistance, Public Health England (PHE).
After getting in touch with Diane, it was in both of our interests to hold a national campaign. I invited her to King’s College to hold a workshop for pharmacy students about the Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) campaign. During World Antibiotic Awareness Week, we were able to have pharmacy students from King’s posted at different locations. Students were placed around campus, while others worked with hospital staff at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital to raise awareness to the wider member of public.
Although the campaign was not national at the student level then, we still managed to reach out to hundreds of students across the week, and it was a massive success. The AMR campaign is unique, in that it is an “always on” campaign and so raising awareness didn’t stop with the end of official dates.
Fast-forwarding to April 2016, I received an email from Diane, with figures showing that almost 50% of students who were engaged were pharmacy students. She asked me if I could bring together an inter-professional team composed of Vets, Nurses, pharmacy and Medical students.
Building the team
Due to the exciting nature of the work I was undertaking, it didn’t take me too long to find people who were interested in planning a national campaign. At King’s College, each year we routinely undertake inter-professional learning, and so finding medical students and nurses wasn’t too difficult. Where I couldn’t find volunteers, I asked my friends from other universities who helped advertise the opportunity. This was how the team grew from one to sixteen.
Two months later, we arrived at Public Health England Headquarters to hold our first meeting. Most of us started the campaign because we felt like being involved in health-related matters is a good idea. This still holds true. Additionally, however, as time as passed, we have all come to realise the significance of the work that we are doing with PHE. This campaign is more than just about being involved. It’s about making a difference in what really matters. Students often live in the “here and now” and the challenge we face with pushing the campaign is the fact that antimicrobial resistance isn’t yet an uncontrolled outbreak here in the UK. Our mission is therefore to cause a shift in the “here and now” mind-set that most students have, to a focus on “tomorrow”.
We encourage every healthcare professional, including students, to join the journey by becoming an Antibiotic Guardian here.
Written by Osenadia Joseph-Ebare