As far as turning points go, Abdennour’s couldn’t be clearer. at the age of 17 his exam scores were among the highest in the country. An achievement that didn’t go unnoticed, he was offered a scholarship to further his education overseas, his decision shaped the rest of his story…
Your scholarship meant leaving your home country Algeria at the age of 17, can you describe the emotions you went through?
It was exciting! But I was conscious of the fact that I’d be responsible for myself for the first time in my life. At the time, I didn’t think it would be a long term move so didn’t over-think it. For me, I was simply going to discover a new country. My parents on the other hand were very apprehensive, it was difficult for them and my brother and sister as well. That was the first time the family was separated.
Could you speak English when you left?
My English was very limited and this was a big challenge. I was communicating through hand gestures which only added to the emotions I was going through. I couldn’t express myself but this fuelled my desire to progress. It took me a good couple of months before I could hold a decent conversation, a little longer to understand certain accents. Later I enrolled at Cambridge University to perfect my English before applying to study pharmacy.
Where did you study pharmacy?
I studied at the University of Nottingham as it’s an esteemed faculty in the field of pharmaceuticals, which is where I obtained two degrees; the first in 2007 when I became a pharmacist and the second, a PhD in biophysics and surface analysis courtesy of two scholarships from the university and BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Reseach Council, UK).
How do the two countries compare in terms of education?
Comparing both academically is difficult as I experienced the two systems at different stages of my education. However, in terms of higher education, the two countries have different levels of investment, technology and means.
How have both countries shaped you?
Both countries have their own particularities and both are dear to my heart for different reasons. My childhood was spent in Algeria, my childhood friends are there and my background was defined by my upbringing there. My time in England defines another side of me, it’s where I grew into adulthood and had an enormous influence over my adult values, and for the most part, the personality I have today.
What have you learnt along the way?
Growing up and living in three different countries is a real blessing. It’s allowed me to be myself, understand where I come from and ultimately where I want to be. I’ve been able to keep my own values which is a mixture of three countries. I’ve seen the world differently and am open to the world and the cultures I encounter. Algeria, England and France are culturally, socially and economically very different, the standard of living, the relationship to religion and the openness to the world varies. I like to think I’ve adopted the best of each country in my own personality and values.
Where has it all led? What are you doing in Paris?
I am working at Pierre Fabre Dermatology as a Regulatory Affairs Pharmacist. My work consists of obtaining marketing authorisation of medicines worldwide and bringing the product into the market through product lifecycle management. I make sure that the quality, safety and effectiveness of the products we put into market are well within the current standards and respect the local regulation for each country the product is commercialised in.
As a pharmacist, what differences have you noticed between France and England?
One of the major differences is the length of study to become a pharmacist. In England it’s 4 years, here in France it’s 6! In England you have to register with a governing body (General Pharmaceutical Council) and pass an exam to begin practicing in the field. The content of the degree in England is much more oriented to the profession, compared to France where its very theoretical and less clinical, until you specialise.
And how about in the work domain?
I’ve worked as a community pharmacist in both countries. The role of the pharmacist is quite similar, however they function in a completely different manner. Community pharmacies in France are independent whilst in England they are chains belonging to large multinational companies. The actual role of a pharmacist is more clinically oriented in England where many more services are offered, such as travel and flu vaccination, there is also much more patient contact. A pharmacist in England can also prescribe medicine, usually working with a GP (general practitioner) who issues the prescription. This doesn’t happen in France.
The field of pharmacy follows slightly different legislations in both countries. For example, there’s a continual debate in France over certain medicines being sold in supermarkets. In England, buying medicine from a supermarket is the norm and very well regulated. However the industry as a whole is very similar as it follows the harmonised EU regulations and therefore the same job undertaken in England is exactly the same in France, although this is not the case for community and hospital pharmacies.
Is one system better than another?
Each system has its advantages and inconvieniences. Both are well oriented towards patient access to medicine and maintaining a high level of healthcare. However there is an ongoing debate. Patient access to certain medicines from the general list is slightly hindered in France, mostly in my opinion due to the fear of losing the pharmacy monopoly… What’s important is patient safety and the patient’s access to medicine at the time of need. The ultimate question is whether it matters if medicines are sold from a supermarket pharmacy or a high street pharmacy.