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I studied pharmacy to make a local impact

This article appears in:
Student Stories, Health, Alumni, Research and Opinion

Samuel Keitaanpaa has spent the last few years studying pharmacy, but hasn’t waited until completing his studies to start creating positive change and making plans to shape a better future for healthcare in the Northern Territory. Here's his story...

I’ve been a Darwin boy my whole life. I was born in Nhulunbuy, NT and grew up out at Yirrkala. After high school, I spent a year in England and another in Tasmania.

I initially undertook a pharmacy unit when I was planning to study dentistry. I recall the head of pharmacy discussing what you can do outside of pharmacy; things like running a hospital or advising government, and I suddenly realised that’s what really what I wanted to do. It wasn’t so much the work; it was to have that changing effect. So when I looked at what degrees could do that, I ended up sticking with pharmacy.


After living in the Territory for so long, you do appreciate the differences. What I like most about Darwin is that it’s multicultural; you have so much exposure to different groups.

Looking at how the southern states manage their health, you can learn from it, but also look at how some things would just never apply here in the NT. Our population groups and geographical distances really shape the way healthcare should be delivered.

I’ve completed my Bachelor of Pharmacy with First Class Honours, and am currently working on my PhD with Menzies School of Health Research. I’m researching prescribing behaviours in relation to smoke cessation; looking at why doctors do and do not prescribe Nicotine Replacement Therapy, such as patches, to Indigenous patients and how pharmacists may be able to work with services and clinics in remote areas to improve usage rates and consequently reduce tobacco smoking.

It’s the Territory spirit; you see something that’s wrong and say "alright, well I’ll go fix it"

Long-term, I’m interested in a role that allows for ministerial advising on pharmacy. I think that a lot of politicians, because they’re not necessarily experts in their field, will rely on experts to give them the information. I’ve seen the way we use medicines in the NT, and I don’t think all the right information is getting through so I want to advise the government on interpreting all the current literature on medicines or certain events and then giving them what that looks like through a pharmacy’s eye; more so on the ground rather than from Australian Public Service point of view. It’s the Territory spirit; you see something that’s wrong and say ‘all right, well I’ll go fix it”.

Are you ready to make change for the better? Follow in Samuel’s footsteps with a degree in Pharmacy or Health.


This article appears in:
Student Stories, Health, Alumni, Research and Opinion

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