Komal George is a pharmacist and entrepreneur who started her own business Amala Pure Health, which produces turmeric capsules.
She is also a payment accuracy manager at the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC). Her previous positions include hospital and community pharmacist and information pharmacist at the National Pharmacy Association (NPA).
She talks to Léa Legraien about her successes, challenges and love for the profession.
Q Why did you become a pharmacist?
A It happened by accident. I used to work in a community pharmacy when I was a teenager as a Saturday girl.
At that time, I wasn’t really interested in becoming a pharmacist and wanted to become a microbiologist. I met a pharmacist who was studying pharmacy at King’s College and it turned out that he was the son of the owner of [pharmaceutical wholesaler] Sigma Pharmaceutical Plc.
He was the one who planted the seed for me. Then I went on this mission to become a pharmacist.
Q What is the key to your success?
Curiosity. I get bored quite easily so I like to explore different areas and parts of my sector. That’s what drives me, this desire to learn all the time.
Putting myself in challenges areas is also where I thrive. It’s important to put yourself slightly out of your comfort zone because that’s when you learn and can test your own resilience.
Q What are your biggest achievements?
A Working for the negotiator [PSNC]. I never imagined when I started out as a pharmacist that it was what I would end up doing. It’s been an incredible journey to get there.
Also, starting my own business, after having been through all of that experience of pharmacy. Coming out at the other end to create a new business entirely was such a huge step change away from my day-to-day job.
Q What challenges have you faced along the way?
A It’s always a challenge to balance your personal life and work, trying to juggle all the different hats you’ve got.
It’s challenging being a woman trying to set up a business.
Q What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned?
A You can do anything you want to as a pharmacist as long as you put your mind to it.
The most valuable lesson I’ve learned in terms of setting up my own business was that we put all these barriers in place and have preconceptions about ourselves and what we’re able to achieve.
We pigeonhole ourselves. Many community pharmacists might think, ‘I’ll never be able to work for the NPA or the industry or set up my own business’. The truth is, you can do all of that.
Q What are the key qualities of a good leader?
A Listening with intent, being able to collaborate and always having the development of your team at the forefront.
Q What advice would you give to women who want to be leaders?
A Go for it! I don’t consider myself to be more extraordinary than anyone else. We all have the ability to be leaders within us. We’re not born leaders but can learn to be one. Leading is something that you do in your own way.
Q What makes you happy at work?
A Helping people and connecting with them.
Q What it is like to be a payment accuracy manager at PSNC?
A I manage PSNC’s audit work. We audit a selection of the prescriptions that the NHS pays pharmacies on a monthly basis. We do that to ensure that the NHS is paying pharmacies are per the drug tariff rules.
We work on a national level and have a really close working relationship with the NHS Business Authority (NHSBSA), getting involved with different projects such as the digitalisation of prescription payment claims.
Q How would you describe the current state of pharmacy?
A I don’t think anyone can dispute that it’s challenging and that there are pressures hitting pharmacy from lots of different angles.
There are funding pressures but also pressures hitting other businesses on the high street, such as the business rate and shops shutting down, which affects your footfall. All of these have an impact on pharmacy.
I think that pharmacy does have a bright future but it’s got to change the way it views itself.
Q What changes would you like to see?
A Pharmacy needs to move into the realm of helping people with their long-term health. We can argue that they’re already doing that in some respects, but it definitely needs to have a much more holistic focus.
There are always going to be some pharmacies that struggle but I think we’ve got a real sense of wanting change from the younger generation of pharmacists that are coming through now.
They are the future so there’s absolutely every reason for pharmacy to move in the right direction.