Rachel's blog - My first year: a personal reflection

Published: 22 Feb 2021
Category: Your Society

When I joined the Society as CEO a year ago, I knew it would be a challenge stepping into my first CEO role and at the time was conscious of the unfolding global pandemic. However, I never anticipated the rollercoaster that 2020 would become, nor the myriad of challenges to be faced. I have told the story of how my first day ended in the closure of our Angel Gate offices in response to the Government mandated restrictions, and as I write this blog, we remain closed with all interactions taking place in a virtual environment. This was just the first indication that any plans I had when I joined the Society would be quickly thrown out of the window while we adapted to the changing circumstances and came to terms with a year that many would quite frankly like to forget.

2020 would become a year that changed the way we live, work, communicate, and connect with one another, and I will reflect on it and carry it with me for a very long time. Over the year I had to lean into the ever-changing circumstances, often rely on instinct, and trust that those around me - both our staff and members - would point me in the right direction if I veered off course. I am truly grateful for the support and feedback you have given me during this time. I have tried to listen carefully and to understand the challenges you are facing, and to make sure that the BPS has kept its membership at the very heart of everything it does.

Many lessons have been learned along the way, which will guide me and the Society as we move forward. I have highlighted some below and commented on how this will inform the next year at the Society.


Duty of care to our members

The Society is a membership body with a mission to promote and advance the whole spectrum of pharmacology and duty of care to our members, our staff and our community is our primary focus.  Meetings play a crucial role in delivering on this mission, but during 2020 we had to postpone or cancel most of our events calendar as it was not safe to bring large groups of individuals together.  We also didn’t have the platforms in place to immediately convert meetings to the virtual environment. However I was delighted that we were able to run two inaugural meetings towards the end of 2020. Firstly, in partnership with BJP and BJCP, we launched our BPS Live series with a focus on the pharmacology of COVID-19. Then thanks to the hard work of our meetings committee and meetings team, we reimagined Pharmacology 2020 into an online event and saw over 1,000 pharmacologists join us from around the globe over five days in December. We will learn from these successes, continuing initially with a programme of virtual meetings and restarting our training programme. We are committed to providing a safe environment to bring you together to share your work, network, and building connections despite the ongoing restrictions. Once it is safe to do so we will restart our face-to-face meetings and events, whilst maintaining our virtual and hybrid offer.

Pharmacologists on the frontline

Pharmacologists have been at the centre of the response and recovery during the pandemic, from basic scientists to those in clinical and frontline roles or working in industrial and regulatory settings. Two notable examples are our Honorary Fellow and Chief Scientific Advisor Professor Sir Patrick Vallance, who has advised the Prime Minister on all aspects of the scientific response to COVID-19, and our President Professor Sir Munir Pirmohamed who has guided the Medicines Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) on recent COVID-19 vaccine approvals. We have seen - and the public has seen - pharmacologists at the very heart of the advisory process. I hope that this will inspire the next generation of scientists to aspire to a career in pharmacology. Our revamped career pages and the exciting live interview initiative with AstraZeneca at Pharmacology 2020 are just two ways in which the Society continues to communicate the vast and exciting opportunities that a pharmacology education provides.

Voices heard

Finally, it would be remiss of me to reflect on 2020 without acknowledging the #BlackLivesMatter protests that took place during the summer months. These protests ignited again the national and global discussion on equality, inclusion and diversity and we recognise that we have a part to play in dismantling systemic barriers and building an equitable future in the areas where we can make a difference. We are clear that this is the start of a process and we are keen to ensure all voices can be heard within the Society and that everyone can benefit from the outcomes of pharmacology research and training. We recognise that achieving our ambitions will be an extensive, long-term piece of work that will require a flexible approach and that we need to continue to hold ourselves to account. I ask that you continue to raise your voices and bring your different perspectives, ensuring the Society supports the full breadth of our community.

Becoming CEO of the BPS has been the proudest moment of my career and despite the challenges of 2020, it has been an absolute pleasure to get to know you, our members, a little better. I would like to express my deepest thanks and gratitude to our incredible members; your work is so important. As I enter year two at the helm, I also want to say thank you to our amazing employees, whose resilience and perseverance during this year have been astounding. With the vaccination programme underway, and recent announcements on how the government intends to lift restrictions I have hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel, but whatever happens, we are here to support you in whatever way we can.

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S Niru Nirthanan
Congratulations on completing your first year at the helm of BPS in an year of unprecedented challenges and uncertainty. Despite the devastating impact of Covid-19, from the perspective of an international member, I would say that 2020 had in fact been an year of tremendous achievement culminating in a ground-breaking first fully virtual international meeting (P20). It has also been without any doubt, the year where I have stayed the most engaged with BPS. Thank you to you and the amazing team at BPS for this remarkable year.
23/02/2021 00:06:51

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