Pharmacy U

Pharmacy Leader profile: Dr. Catherine Duggan – “Change can bring success.”

Catherine Duggan CD photo 3

Dr. Catherine Duggan (Netherlands)




Bachelor of Pharmacy, University of London

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Pharmacy and Health Services Research, University of London


Current role:

Chief Executive Officer, International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP)


What excites you about being a pharmacist?
The impact we can have in direct patient care and support for family members, to policy development to education and research and the impact on societies and communities. 


When you graduated, what did you envision for your future?
When I graduated, I entered my training year in hospital and, while doing a community placement, I became passionate about how the same patients were in hospital one day and in the community the next and that there was such a need for pharmacists to communicate changes to medicines and new medicines to each other to avoid problems and mistakes and discrepancies. That started me on the path to a part time PhD while working in a community pharmacy half time. This gave me the best training in working while researching, which has stayed with me forever, but also the importance of being involved in patient care.


How has your career evolved since you first started in the profession?
Following my PhD, working part time, I was passionate to continue in practice, but also to support education and research in others. I worked in a hospital linked to the university, which also linked to community and for a decade. I had the best of all worlds – researching how to make patient care better with their medicines, educating pharmacists from students to doctorate level and working in clinical setting. This led me into leadership in the UK clinical pharmacy association and then to take up a position in the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, where I was Director for Professional Development and Support for nearly 9 years. I then took up the role of CEO at FIP – my ultimate dream role.

How would you describe a great day at work?
I believe that the best day at work is when you have been useful to your colleagues and the profession, some output has been delivered that you know our profession will benefit from across the world.

What is (or has been) your greatest challenge as a leader in pharmacy?
The biggest challenges remain the same in theory throughout your career- that is to negotiate change, to motivate others to change or to manage change. This is always difficult and the more experienced you are, the more you understand the need to get a win:win for all, not to win yourself. A great life lesson for all relationships.


How important was mentoring in your career?  
It is the top piece of advice I give to colleagues. Everyone needs a set of mentors and advisors who care about you but who are also objective and care about what you do so that they can advise you for the benefit fo more than you. Absolutely crucial you have colleagues and friends who can give you critical advice and support.


As a leader in pharmacy, what continues to drive you?
At this moment, I am super proud to be in my position, with the support of colleagues, boards and presidents to support me in a shared aim and deliver for our Federation and profession. I am also very aware that, as the first female CEO of the Federation, I need to be a role model for younger women AND men so that they see women in leadership roles as a positive factor, and not a one-off.


Looking at your career, what are you the proudest of? What have been some of the highlights of your career?
When you see the impact of your work on individuals in your immediate team and see them flourish, it’s super. Then, to see the impact of collaboration working to make a change and positive impact in a country, it’s fantastic. Then, at a global level, to facilitate change and positive impact is the highlight of my career. And I need to make sure more highlights lie ahead!


What legacy would you like to leave to the pharmacy profession?To have ensured the place of pharmacists and pharmacy as crucial and critical in the delivery of Primary Health Care to achieve Universal Health Coverage in the next 5 years will be the best legacy and thereafter to demonstrate impact against our FIP Global Development Goals by 2030, by supporting and enabling will be a great legacy for someone in my role.


Do you feel there is a glass ceiling for women in pharmacy?
There definitely is a glass ceiling. Whether this is by women in ‘leadership roles who ‘’pull up the ladder behind them,’’ by  recruitment panels being ‘’blind’’ to women as candidates, by women who do not see a role as relevant / available and never apply. The reasons are multiple and complex, but all contribute to a glass ceiling.


Women are making a big name for themselves in pharmacy. What does this mean to you professionally and personally?
To see so many women in our profession leading at many different ages and stages of their careers is amazing to see. Our profession is 70% female, so this should not be exciting to see in 2020, but it is. As I said earlier, when you find yourself in a leadership role, you have a responsibility to show others they can lead and, by so many women leading at stages and ages, shows other women they can too. It is empowering and powerful in equal measure. Our immediate past president, Dr Carmen Pena, has championed women in the profession and in societies as primary healthcare givers and, as the first female President of FIP, she leads by showing the art of the possible – a real role model!

What do you think needs to happen to have more women in executive roles across various sectors in the profession?
As Carmen would attest, we need national policies and legislation to promote and empower women to apply, achieve and deliver in senior management positions, boards of directors and presidencies.

How are women paving the way for changes in the pharmacy profession?
FIP is promoting different initiatives that address equity in terms of gender: we have established women’s platforms in Science, Education and Clinical Practice. 

In addition, our Young Pharmacists Group has set up mentoring platforms and career guides to support all at early stages of their careers – led by women.

What advice would you give to new female pharmacy graduates?
To take advice, to learn from mistakes, to surround yourself with friends and critiques so that you continue to learn. To take chances and opportunities and to understand, if it doesn’t work out, it’s not a failure, it is an opportunity to change again. And to remember, that CHANGE is the hardest thing, but that change can bring success.