“LP Stories” is a PSN-YPG Lagos series that spotlights unique experiences and views of Young Pharmacists in their areas of practice.

Irene Awa

Kindly introduce yourself

Okay, my name is Irene Awa. I am a pharmacist, a podcaster of the “Talks with Irene” podcast, a voiceover artist, an entrepreneur, and I also create content centered on personal development and personal growth.

Wow! Talk about versatility. I am in awe. What year did you finish pharmacy school?

I finished pharmacy school in 2019, but as COVID would have it, I was inducted in 2020. So, I guess, technically I finished in 2020 if you’re considering when I was inducted. Chai! Nigeria.

Lol! I can relate. What was your induction day like?

My induction day was very unique. First of all, my set had to fight to have a virtual induction done for us. Due to the COVID lockdown and every other thing which was delaying our induction from taking place, there was initial resistance to the idea. I and my classmates — we call ourselves; The Pacesetters — had to facilitate the virtual induction, first of its kind, which is now being replicated in different pharmacy schools across the nation today.

Against all odds, the induction happened, despite the fears that we would have to do it without our induction gowns and all the other ceremonial stuff that usually accompanies an induction. It was just us inductees present, but the ceremony was still beautiful. It felt very unique and special to me because it was something we fought for, something people thought would never happen, but still happened.

I was very happy to be a big part of that event happening, and I’m happy it happened the way it did, because it’s something that will forever be talked about.

I’m glad you didn’t settle for less. What were your expectations going into pharmacy school?

To be honest, I had no expectations. I chose pharmacy as an alternative, so I wouldn’t have to study medicine like my father wanted me to. I had already chosen medicine on my JAMB form, but after thinking about my life, I opted for pharmacy as the next best option to please my dad. I had wanted to read engineering, so my thoughts going in for pharmacy were that “I don’t really care, after I get my license, I’ll just hand it over to my dad then go do what I really want to do”. The only thing I knew about pharmacy at the time was selling drugs, and I never saw myself doing that. I had zero expectations from pharmacy. Even when people asked me what course I was studying, they’d look at me in awe when I replied Pharmacy, like I was one very brilliant person, when in reality I just wanted to be through with the course so I could go do what I really wanted.

Wow, I can relate a lot to some of those perceptions you mentioned. Now that you’re on the other side of pharmacy school, what are your thoughts of the profession?

Well, my thoughts now are very different obviously… lool. In my second year of pharmacy school, I realized that pharmacy is not just about selling drugs and having a pharmacy shop, and that I could still do what I’d wanted to do, as regards my motivation for wanting to study engineering. I could see traces of what I liked about engineering in the form of pharmaceutical industry, pharmaceutics, pharmaceutical technology, thus validating dreams that I could still go on and later have a company of my own.

I’m happy that I am a pharmacist, I’m happy I went to pharmacy school because it taught me a lot. It made me build myself and I wouldn’t have met all the amazing people that I know now if I hadn’t gone through that process.

The profession is a beautifully versatile one. A pharmacist can function anywhere and pharmacy prides itself in being “A multidisciplinary profession” because it cuts across a lot of areas. I just love the fact that I can grow in different things as a pharmacist, and not just limit myself to a pharmacy shop or a hospital. I would encourage anyone that wants to pursue a pharmacy degree, because I love it now.

It’s nice that you’ve grown to see it in a different way. What are some of your memorable experiences from your time in pharmacy school?

I have so many memorable experiences, and I feel like I’d be cheating the remaining experiences if I choose just one out of them.

First of them, is time spent with friends. I and some members of my class were part of this group that we called “Honour Row”. Our times together were filled with lots of jokes, learning, brainstorming, sharing of ideas and perspectives. A majority of my positive memorable moments that I cherish and carry with me are centered around or at least involve one or more members of the Honour Row.

Another good set of experiences that I have are the conventions, conferences and summits I got to attend while in pharmacy school: PANS convention, UNIZIK; NFCPS Convention; AfPS (African Pharmaceutical Symposium); all of which made me see life from another perspective. I got to see and learn from what pharmacy students in the country and Africa were doing, and this inspired me.

Another remarkable part of my journey was my academic growth, semester to semester. It was of personal importance to be a better version of myself at the end of each semester. I got to learn from my failures and mistakes, and see myself grow in a stepwise manner, and that’s made me who I am today. I am now more confident in myself & my decisions.

Give us a summary of your life after pharmacy school, so far. What have you been up to?

Hmmm, my life after pharmacy school can be summarized in one word: “OMO!!!

Adulting is so tough. No one prepares you for it. What makes it tougher for me is having an independent mindset, wanting to figure things out myself, and not have to rely on my parents every time. It makes me question myself at every turn, whilst also trying to carve a niche for myself.

I’m currently the host of “Talks with Irene” podcast and a voiceover artist. That’s a career in itself, which I don’t see as a side hustle. It’s a part of me because I want to use it as a form of expressing myself, while also making money from it.

I also have a lifestyle business called Luxescentric, where I retail perfume oils, scented candles and décor ornaments, so basically cutting across cosmetics and interior décor.

Also, I’m currently running my internship at the Air force Hospital, Ikeja, Lagos.

I find myself having to juggle things like creating content for my Instagram pages, producing, editing and releasing my podcasts, working on voiceover jobs alongside running my business with the zeal of a true entrepreneur and also showing up at my day job at the hospital Pharmacy.

I see all these as things I do to create value and impact as much as I can and create a trail for myself and others that come after me; a trail that is different from the norm.

Being a woman is also an extra factor that drives my actions, especially striving to deviate myself mentally from restrictive archaic societal norms, build myself, open myself to new opportunities everyday, build my brand, evolve as much as I can and put myself out there as much as I can, and see where it all leads.

Interesting! How did you get into podcasting?

I was just looking for a form of expression that was original to me, to aid in passing my views and message across in these current times where everyone, in one way or the other, is letting their voice be heard. I am not good at writing as a form of expression. I tried things like blogging and they didn’t work out for me. However, speaking is a strong spot for me. So, I thought why not speak? You don’t know who would listen to you or who will be blessed by a view or message that you express.

I didn’t know much about podcasting and online radio but started learning about it, and in the process, I discovered that I could also do voiceover artistry. I’m also currently learning to do animations and bring characters to life.

What does entrepreneurship and content creation entail for you?

Being a creative is a different ball game. Anybody that tells you that they’re a creative please cut cap for them, because it’s not easy. Content has to be relatable, presentable, and still convey the right message and emotion across. All these require being in the right frame of mind. It’s still a learning process for me, in which I keep trying, making my mistakes, learning from them, noting my failures and even though I’m just starting out in that aspect, I’m happy I took it on as a challenge. I can say it’s going well because I’m learning a lot from the whole process.

Business is hard! It can be mentally, physically and financially draining trying to grow a business. I decided I want to create value with my business as a lifestyle brand, by tailoring products that are personality-specific and cater to making people feel good about themselves. That is what drives me. Anybody that wants to do business should really decide if they’re ready to put their all into it. It’s not easy at all.

What’s a typical workday like for you?

A typical workday for me really varies; the only constant is my day job at the hospital.

My day involves going to work at the hospital in the morning. I close afternoon/evening time. As for other aspects of my day, sometimes I work on content for my IG page, work on a voiceover job if I have any, look at how my business is doing, talk with my distributor, and so on.

On other days, I just give myself rest because of mental exhaustion due to stress from constantly thinking about plans for all the things I’m doing like plans for the next podcast, the next content, the business operations and all.

Unlike most intern pharmacists, I’m not doing locum jobs. I’m using that time to infuse myself into my businesses and into improving on the things that I’m doing.

What are the things you like and don’t like about practicing pharmacy?

I like the fact that the profession helps save lives through drug therapy. Seeing a drug that you compounded or gave a patient, bring an ailing patient back to a state of wellness is fulfilling and makes you feel like an important part of that process. As a Christian, I know God gave us the knowledge to use, so the feeling of being God’s tool to facilitate healing is a beautiful feeling.

As for what I don’t like, now that I’m interning in the hospital practice, I don’t like the fact that the avenues to grow as an individual, career-wise in the hospital practice, are so limited and unchanging. There’s a static nature to things which I just feel I can’t fit into. I want a place where I can be valuable and my value is given back to me, the growth of the company is tangible and I can see that value myself, and of course be remunerated for it. I just feel there is no dynamic career growth in the hospital practice.

I’ve only had a few community practice experiences and am still learning about things on that front, so I can’t say much about the community practice.

If not Pharmacy, what would you have studied?

Definitely petroleum engineering, because I liked the idea of it and also, just the idea of succeeding in what is perceived to be a male-dominated field (as a child, I wanted to prove to society that a woman can excel in a man’s field).

Lastly, your social media pages so that our readers can follow you, podcast links too so that they can be touched by your words

Okay, so my podcast website is: https://talkswithirene.disha.page/

Podcast Email: Talkswithirene09@gmail.com

IG: @Irene.awa

LinkedIn: Irene Awa

Personal email: irene.awa3@gmail.com

Thank you so much for your time!

Mobolaji Uthman, a member of the Editorial Committee did this…

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