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APPEL’s Future of pharmacIE returned this year on Thursday 20 October

This virtual careers event was launched in 2021, providing an opportunity for pharmacy students from across the country to learn more about different career paths in pharmacy and to start to build their professional networks. This year’s event built on the success of last year, with nearly 400 pharmacy students and professionals registered for the event, said the organisers.

The schedule for the day was jam-packed with opportunities for attendees to tune into panel discussions, promote their organisations, connect with others, build their professional network, and get inspiration for their pharmacy careers.

The event began at 1pm with a welcome speech from APPEL Director and National Co-ordinator, Joanne Kissane. She outlined the agenda for the day and highlighted the different features of the online event platform being used. Guests then had the chance to connect with others in the Networking Zone, where they could arrange one-to-one video calls, send chat messages, and swap virtual business cards. They could also head to the Exhibition Hall, where numerous organisations were showcasing their work, sharing the opportunities available with them, and where representatives were available for video calls and to answer questions.


The first panel discussion welcomed a number of experienced pharmacists from different practice areas to share their career journeys to-date and their advice for future pharmacists. Leonie Clarke (Executive Director of the Irish Medicines Verification Organisation) shared how non-patient facing practice is still very patient-centered, while Fionnuala King (Chief Pharmacist for the Acute Hospitals Drugs Management Programme) championed the value of pharmacists in innovation and decision-making in the health service.

Attendees got a valuable insight into community pharmacy from Tomás Conefrey (owner and superintendent of Conefrey’s CarePlus Pharmacy) and Rory O’Donnell (owner of O’Donnell’s TotalHealth Pharmacy and chair of the TotalHealth pharmacy group). The panel was completed with Fergus Nugent (Chief Pharmacist for the Mater Private Hospital Cork) and Noor Bajalan (Senior Clinical Pharmacist for the Mater Private Hospital Dublin) who shared their journeys to hospital pharmacy practice, as well as their hopes for the future.

Moderator Ruth McCarthy (APPEL Practice Educator for UCC) introduced the second panel later in the afternoon, this time welcoming back some former pharmacy students who were now experiencing APPEL placements from the Trainers perspective. Seán Coll, Sinéad McCarthy, and Tejiri Arubayi all graduated in the first year of the new integrated MPharm programme in 2020. They shared their experience of now paying it forward by contributing to current pharmacy students’ training. This was a particularly inspiring panel for the pharmacy students in attendance, as it showed the opportunities awaiting them in the not-too-distant future.


At 4pm, Emer Cooke took to the virtual stage to deliver her keynote speech detailing her journey from undergraduate pharmacy student in Trinity College Dublin to Executive Director of the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Ms Cooke joined the event from Dublin as she was home in Ireland to receive a Trinity College Dublin Alumni Award that evening. The speech was followed by a Q&A with Joanne Kissane. Ms Cooke’s honesty, sense of humour, and capacity for self-reflection were clear as she discussed both the challenges and triumphs she has encountered over her career.

With Ms Cooke taking on the role of Executive Director of the EMA in November 2020, she was also able to provide a unique insight into the importance of pharmacy and pharmacists in the Covid-19 pandemic response across Europe and worldwide. She highlighted the incredible transferrable skillset of pharmacists, one which is being increasingly recognised in areas outside of traditional pharmacy practice. Her encouragement to students and professional attendees to be ambitious and ‘go for it’ was an inspiration to everyone.

As the event came to a close, attendees has one last chance to connect with organisations in the Exhibition Hall or finish a conversation in the Networking Zone. Some also shared their views on the day on social media, using the hashtag #FutureofpharmacIE.

The APPEL team celebrated a successful day for their students and stakeholders and began planning for ‘Future of pharmacIE 2023’, with hopes for it being an in-person event. If you would like to learn more about the APPEL programme and offer experiential learning placements to pharmacy students, please go to or contact