• Aston Reflects on Pharmacy Through a Century
    Pictured (l to r): Chris Langley, Deputy Dean, College of Health and Life Sciences at Aston University, Mark Koziol, Chairman of the Pharmacists Defence Association, Antony Hilton, Executive Dean, College of Health and Life Sciences at Aston University, Richard Cattell, NHS England Deputy Chief Pharmaceutical Officer and Joe Bush, Head of Pharmacy at Aston University.
  • Professor Ian Wong has been appointed as Regius Professor of Pharmacy at Aston University

News & Views

Aston Reflects on Pharmacy Through a Century

Jul 31 2023

Celebrating its 100th anniversary during July, Aston University’s Head of Pharmacy Joe Bush welcomed 100 invited guests to a reception with a brief history of the School’s origins which traced its roots back to the 1890’s, until in 1923, the then-Birmingham Municipal Technical School started to offer pharmacy courses to the general public.

Richard Cattell, NHS England Deputy Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, along with current student and athlete David Boakye addressed those gathered on their experiences of studying at Aston University, the importance of pharmacy as a sector and their hopes for the future.The first degrees were formally awarded by the University of London, then in 1966, Birmingham Municipal Technical School received its charter, becoming Aston University and therefore able to award its own degrees. The MPharm degree, introduced in 1997, has seen almost 3,000 students as graduates of this programme and in 1985, Malcolm Stevens led research that ultimately resulted in the discovery of the $2 billion blockbuster drug Temozolomide, the leading treatment for brain tumours. The Pharmacy School has maintained high standards of teaching and research and in 2016 was awarded the UK’s only Regius Professor of Pharmacy by the late Queen Elizabeth II. The first of these professors was Keith Wilson, and pharmacoepidemiologist Ian Wong will join Aston University as the second.

The Pharmacy 100 event coincided with the 75th birthday of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), which Aston University also marked by lighting the library up in blue. Medicine is a key area for Aston University, and the first cohort of doctors from the newly General Medical Council-approved Aston Medical School will graduate this year. In his speech, Richard pointed out the importance of pharmacy to the NHS. Each year, 1.2 billion prescriptions are dispensed, from more than 11,000 sites across the country. Medicines cost the NHS around £20 billion per year, making them the NHS’s second biggest cost. Institutes like Aston University are vital to training the professionals who will keep the NHS at the forefront of medicine, particularly in the era of genomics, AI, and big data, where Aston in particular is “making great strides”.

“It was a privilege to attend the Pharmacy 100 celebratory luncheon. It was great to discuss with recent graduates, academic colleagues, local employers and professional leaders, the unique place Aston School of Pharmacy has in the future of pharmacy education. Its history of education, innovation and research putting it in a great position to lead the way over the next 100 years. I wish all associated with Aston School of Pharmacy all the very best in the future,” said Richard.

Aston University continues to champion diversity and its widening participation programme, and the Pharmacy School is no exception. Student David, who came to the UK from Italy in 2012, benefitted from a scholarship. He is only the second person in his family to go to university (the first being his older brother), and praised the blend of cultures at Aston University, as well as the opportunities to meet influential people and for personal development. Alongside his studies, David trains as a 100m and 200m sprinter, competing on an international level, and has set up the Germenate platform, to encourage and support black men in STEM subjects.

Mark Koziol, Chairman of the Pharmacists' Defence Association (PDA), an Aston University graduate and one of the invited guests, said: “The real expert role for pharmacists is to get patients to understand what to do with their medicines and the effect their medicines have on them. Now we’re moving towards genomics, so those medicines are going to be even more interesting and more complex, so that role for pharmacists continues to grow, and continues to be important and influential. The exciting horizon for pharmacists today is that in three years’ time, for the first time, just like doctors, pharmacists are going to be writing prescriptions. That’s a transformation of the entire profession.

“Aston University produces a lot of people who ultimately go on to leadership positions in the profession, and there are quite a few examples of that here today. I’m delighted to have been invited.”

More information online