Inspirational Old Girl: Eunice Fu, pharmacist
“Be inquisitive, proactive, persistent, forward thinking and do not forget to have fun. A positive attitude goes a long way, trust your instincts, work hard, make mistakes and learn from them, do your research, take initiative, be prepared to step out of your comfort zone and strive for opportunities that help you grow.” - Eunice Fu
Trailblazing pharmacist and Old Girl Eunice Fu says Erica McLean’s chemistry classes first drew her to a career in pharmacy – along with a love for “grape flavoured Dimetapp”.
“I was fascinated with chemical structures in Chemistry as I still remember the organic chemistry experiments in Mrs McLean’s class where we made an ester (ethyl butanoate) that smelled like pineapple, I nearly puked!” she says.
Eunice is currently a clinical pharmacist on the COVID-19 respiratory wards at Liverpool Hospital, covering both suspected and confirmed cases. She said the biggest challenge right now “is that pathogenesis of the coronavirus is poorly understood and social stigma associated with it”.
“Hopefully, we can gradually fine-tune our work processes, guidelines and clinical pharmacy services once we have a better understanding of the situation,” Eunice says.
After graduating from Somerville, Eunice attended the University of Queensland, completing pre-registration in community pharmacy.
Upon registration, she was the first pharmacist in Australia to undertake the Rural Generalist Program through James Cook University, which saw her work in the Atherton Tablelands for two years, under Queensland Health's Allied Health Rural Generalist Training Program initiative.
Eunice describes the trepidation and excitement with which she approached this new pathway, straight out of university.
“It was my first-time leaving home to live and work in a place with no support network or connections. I mainly grew up in Hong Kong and Brisbane so moving to rural was beyond my imagination, it seemed like another planet,” she says.
Rural Generalists need a broad skill set and a willingness to step into unchartered territory.
“As a new graduate, I wanted to build a solid foundation in my clinical skills, be constantly stimulated and learn how to adapt in different work environments with a broad skill set for future career progression, Eunice says.
“The work-integrated program enabled me to upskill and extend current knowledge and capabilities, enhance interprofessional skills, apply clinical judgement independently in complex situations, participate in a research project as Principal Investigator, and mentor undergraduate students.”
Being the only Asian health professional in the hospital, Eunice says her new position was a “culture shock” at the start, taking her nearly six months to adapt to the new environment.
“Learning how to entertain yourself and building a support network to overcome homesickness are important life skills that I discovered for my mental health. I made some close friends that I still keep in touch with, despite the geographical distances. We have a special bond and understand each other’s struggles,” she says.
With limited learning resources in regional and rural areas, Eunice tried to utilise whatever was available, applying for work experience placements in larger health facilities, attending professional development courses and connecting with other colleagues around the state.
“I gained the most when I was thrown into the deep end with minimal work supervision in situations that required applying independent clinical judgement in a timely manner. There were many times that I doubted myself but you really learn how to keep persevering and bounce back from failures despite all the obstacles involved!”
Outside of work, Eunice took advantage of all the attractions North Queensland had to offer, but she notes that her years of rural living did not cure her fear of wildlife, especially frogs!
Eunice's advice is: “to be inquisitive, proactive, persistent, forward thinking and do not forget to have fun”.
“Somerville gave me a well-rounded education and the confidence to be bold in trying times,” she says.
In Mackay, Eunice worked on the surgical ward; as a 300 bed regional hospital, it was a steep learning curve, giving her further exposure to a diverse patient population, managing increased workload and developing technical skills equipped her to later work at the Queensland Children’s Hospital (QCH).
“QCH is an incredible environment that fosters lifelong learning, creativity and innovation. I had the privilege to learn from some of the most passionate, knowledgeable, humble and experienced pharmacists in the profession,” she says.
Eunice’s recent move from QCH to NSW’s second largest hospital was a strategic move to enable her to recommence postgraduate studies and gain some work-life balance.
Of her time at Somerville, Eunice says Nina Walker’s “energy, eloquence, wit, talent, never ending humour, poise and grace” is one of the most powerful, enduring memories.
“Her entertaining bursts of frustration (in Chinese!) at malfunctioning technology and disapproval of exclusively reading SparkNotes made my English classes so memorable!”
“Failures are a part of life. If you don't fail, you will never learn. If you never learn, you will never change.”