Meet the expert: Shaping pharmacy with Associate Professor Karen Whitfield
An award-winning registered pharmacist, Associate Professor Karen Whitfield’s passion for teaching and wealth of experience are benefiting her students, the pharmacy workforce, and patients.
Karen’s experience bettering tomorrow’s experts
With an extensive background in pharmacy practice, Karen knows how important it is for pharmacy students to be ready for their careers.
“The role of the pharmacist is rapidly changing in our healthcare system and provides exciting opportunities to evolve and expand the scope of the pharmacy workforce," she says.
“My aim is to develop a pharmacist that meets the future needs of consumers, students, the profession, and society more broadly.”
"Investing in others and making a difference to society have always been important to me. I have worked as a pharmacist for over 30 years in clinical pharmacy practice and academia, and I continue to be inspired every day with the dedication and high quality of care that the pharmacy profession delivers to our consumers."
From an early passion to leader in the field
In 2017, Karen received the annual Australian Clinical Pharmacist award by the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia, an award that recognises the outstanding contributions pharmacists make in the area of clinical pharmacy, and the crucial role they play in the patient journey.
But her devotion to patient care, and the ability to inspire the next generation of pharmacy experts, can be traced back to her own childhood learnings, with an early interest in science lighting a path for many to come after.
“My favourite subject at school was chemistry, so it was a natural progression to study pharmacy and become a healthcare professional,” says Karen.
The natural progression hasn’t been limited to pharmacy practice, with Karen’s research accomplishments also being recognised.
“In 2020 I was awarded the Research Excellence Award for Research Support by Metro North Health Service,” she says.
"For me, this was one of my career highlights, as I am committed to investing in others to support them in being the best they can be. It is essential that we develop and invest in early career researchers that can translate research directly into practice."
The future of pharmacy
Not one to rest on her laurels, Karen is committed to developing the future leaders of pharmacy and conducting research to better serve them, and their patients, for years to come.
Her current research covers women’s health, specifically medication use in pregnancy and lactation, and medication optimisation in newborns, including those born prematurely. She is equally focused on making sure her students are equipped to handle a fast-paced career in a rapidly changing world.
“My role allows me to work with students who will ultimately shape the future of pharmacy, and support them to develop essential skills such as critical thinking and problem-solving skills, as well as resilience development and leadership skills,” says Karen.
"We need to develop a pharmacy workforce ready to tackle the challenges of tomorrow, and I find this one of the most rewarding aspects of my current role."
Meet some other UQ academics or learn more about the Bachelor of Pharmacy (Honours) and postgraduate programs in pharmacy.