Pharmacy Leaders of Southeast Asia: 5 questions to Professor Sirima Sitaruno

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Prof. Sirima Sitarumo is one of the leading critical care pharmacy specialists in the region. She practices and teaches the discipline at the Prince of Songkhla University in Southern Thailand. 

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I am a lecturer at the Department of Clinical Pharmacy, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Prince of Songkhla University. I graduated with a Bachelor of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical care from that same University, specializing in critical care pharmacy. I am currently teaching pharmaceutical care for critically ill patients to both undergraduate and graduate students and practicing clinical pharmacy at the university’s Songklanagarind hospital.

Why did you choose to pursue a career in the field of pharmacy? What attracted you to this discipline?

My first motivation was to acquire the knowledge to care for my family and my community. After graduating, I became a teacher in the newly created Department of Clinical Pharmacy of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences. This gave me the opportunity to teach while practicing clinical pharmacy, in other words educating future graduates while constantly updating my own knowledge of pharmacy care in an hospital setting.

How would you define the role of a clinical pharmacist?

A clinical pharmacist is part of a team of healthcare professionals working in a hospital setting. He/she plays a critical role as a drug consultant, making sure each patient gets the right treatment. However, this role is played behind the scenes. Patients often don’t realise the importance of the clinical pharmacist’s input into his/her treatment.

We hear a lot about automation in pharmacy care, how do you think technologies such as AI will impact your discipline?

I personally think that AI will replace human beings to perform simple, repetitive tasks. However, pharmaceutical care requires many advanced hard and soft skills such as creativity, decision making, communication and empathy for instance. That is why AI will never be able to fully replace pharmacists. It is undeniable that technology will disrupt the pharmacy field. The role of the pharmacist will change with the introduction of AI pharmacy professionals should prepare for this. For instance, medication dispensing could be automated which will shift the focus of pharmacists toward providing a broader range of patient-care services.

World Pharmacist Day is coming up this September, what do you think should be done to increase the public’s awareness of the role of pharmacists?

Currently, pharmacists work in many settings. However, the pharmaceutical profession has not been recognized by society as a multidisciplinary discipline. We must improve the public perception of the role and function of pharmacists who intervene in many fields such as home care and critical care for instance and improve the public’s awareness of the importance of pharmacists.

This interview is part of our Pharmacy Leaders of Southeast Asia series showcasing pharmacy thought leaders, researchers and practitioners throughout the region. Click here to read our previous interview.