I work as the Professional Affairs Advisor in the Pharmaceutical Group of the European Union (PGEU), the organisation representing the voice of community pharmacists at European level. I am a 4th-generation community pharmacist from Belgium, with a very strong passion for the profession.
In my work as the PGEU Professional Affairs Advisor, I am responsible for the organisation’s advocacy work in a number of relevant EU policy areas related with pharmacy practice and public health. These include for instance antimicrobial resistance, vaccination, medicine shortages and eHealth.
Since PGEU is a European umbrella organisation representing the voice of the national pharmacy organisations and chambers across 32 European countries, one of my key tasks is to provide intelligence and support to our members on professional related issues, including for instance on the development of pharmacy services across Europe. I am also closely liaising with our members to ensure that our common agreed positions continue to remain timely and relevant for the ongoing policy discussions at EU level.
In addition, in my position it is also key to build and develop relationships with European stakeholder organisations and the several EU institutions and agencies, such as the European Medicines Agency (EMA). This includes representing PGEU in several stakeholder fora, meetings and events at European level.
As a pharmacist working in European affairs and policy, it is necessary to be strongly communicative and to be very knowledgeable about the topics you are working on. This includes both knowledge on pharmacy practice/public health and the policy processes of the European Union, which you will need to adequately advocate for your organisations interests. It is also crucial to be able to establish strategic partnerships and analyse often complex political situations, including within your own organisation. Lastly, on a daily basis you will need to be able to build bridges and consensus both among your membership and stakeholders, which requires a certain level of diplomacy and emotional intelligence.
Much of the knowledge and skills required for working in this area are obviously not taught during pharmacy education, which might be one of the main initial challenges. However, from my personal experience I can tell you that actively engaging in (international) student organisations is probably the best possible preparation for such a role, as you are encountering often very similar challenges and learn how to deal with them. For the specific knowledge required, it is mainly important to be eager to learn and be interested in the policy topics and processes, whilst keeping closely connected to the pharmacy practice.
To conclude, working in (European) policy and advocacy and/or in an (international) pharmacy organisation is not your average job as a pharmacist. It is however an extremely rewarding role as you can make a vital contribution towards the sustainable advancement of your profession, whilst learning on a daily basis about the several developments, drivers and barriers influencing high-level change!