A Career in Pharmaceutical Medicine

The Melanin Medics Blog Series showcasing black Medical Professionals in various Medical Specialties. Sharing their journeys, challenges and life lessons. #RepresentationMatters. This week we're showcasing a career in Pharmaceutical Medicine!

Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your career journey so far

My name is Dr. John FW Ndikum

Medical Doctor | Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Class of 2010

MPH | Yale School of Public Health, Class of 2018


Like many Black children inspired by Dr. Ben Carson, I was determined to become a neurosurgeon and began actively working towards this goal from about the age of 13. After several years of discipline, focus and dedication, I was admitted to Barts and The London Medical School at the age of 18. This marked one of the greatest moments of my life, and the consummation of a dream I had harboured since the age of 3 following a visit to the hospital.  


By the time I had graduated from medical school however,  I felt very lost. It was tough - here I was at 23, unsure of what I should spend the rest of my life specialising in. I did eventually find my feet in General Medicine, which I thoroughly enjoyed. 


Working within the NHS was a blessing and a curse; I was blessed to be privy to the inner workings of Europe’s largest healthcare provider but frustrated by my inability to overcome the structural limitations that at times prevented the optimal delivery of care. This frustration eventually blossomed into a passion for Public Health, leading me to Yale where I graduated with a Master of Public Health degree in May 2018. 


Why did you choose this Specialty?

During my time at Yale, I explored several options post-graduation and was attracted by the prospect of combining my interest in organisational management, medicine and public health. After some thorough research, it became obvious that Pharmaceutical Medicine fit the bill; I could improve the health of populations at both the downstream and upstream levels whilst being training to add ever-greater value and make a wider impact to the global village. 


What is Pharmaceutical Medicine?

'Pharmaceutical medicine is the medical scientific discipline concerned with the discovery, development, evaluation, registration, monitoring and medical aspects of marketing of medicines for the benefit of patients and the health of the community.


At core of the discipline is the clinical testing of medicines, translation of pharmaceutical drug research into new medicines, safety and well-being of research participants in clinical trials, and understanding the safety profile of medicines and their benefit-risk balance.' - Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians of the UK


During your time in Medical School, did you enjoy this specialty?

This actually wasn’t a speciality that was discussed during my time in medical school. It was my own exploration as well as discussion with colleagues that made me aware of it.


What is your greatest achievement till date?

The journey through which I passed, which I discuss in verse in my book of poetry book of poetry (Words of a Feather). That period was instrumental in helping me to find an inner strength that I was not aware I possessed and awakening me to the immense power and utility of harnessed resilience. 


What has been your biggest challenge working in this specialty so far?

Learning to manage colleagues who are not medical professionals. Doctors have their own lingo and cultural mores which they assume everyone else understands. So learning to work outside the standard medical hierarchy has required much reflection but in hindsight, has served to refine and enhance my communication skills. 


What do you like to do outside of work?

Gym - strength, power and endurance training. 

Dance!

Read - primarily non-fiction on a variety of topics. 

Discuss random abstract topics (e.g. philosophy, the nature of society, the function of government)  with like-minded friends. 


What advice would you give to someone interested in this specialty?

Reach out to people working in it and find out if it really is for you. I personally love being at the forefront of research and enjoy flexing my creative muscles. Some people don’t. So I suppose you’ve just got to spend the time finding out what fits with your temperament. 


'Medical school is a means and not an end. Beyond its gates lie arduous hours and night shifts. There is no glamour. And the ‘oh he’s a doctor’ proclamations of enamoured family members soon wear off. Graduation from medical school marks the beginning of a very long road ahead – are you ready for it?


As important as it is to acknowledge the underrepresentation of Black individuals in the medical profession, an undue focus on this can derail you. Focus instead on why and HOW exactly you want to be of service in this world, and the strength of your desire will obliterate obstacles in your way.


Acknowledge reality, but do not deny your own inner greatness. Be of service first to yourself by dreaming of a bigger life, then create a vision that includes others. Things of significance are not achieved by focusing on why we cannot, but on why we can, and WILL. Remember this.'

- Read more from Dr Ndikum's Blog Post - Strive On

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