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5 minutes with Parastou Donyai

Parastou Donyai is the new Head of the Department of Pharmacy in the Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences. Naturally, we had to borrow her for 5 minutes to ask her about her work in pharmaceuticals, what she's looking forward to doing at King's, and much more.

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Briefly, tell us about your background and career up to this point?

I obtained my pharmacy degree from King’s College London almost 30 years ago and after qualifying as a pharmacist, returned to King’s to obtain my PhD in pharmaceutical science. I then spent some time exploring alternative careers in the pharmaceutical industry, publishing, quality assurance and pharmacy practice before academia drew me back in almost 20 years ago. To help support my career, I’ve undertaken additional education and training including leadership courses run by Henley Business School, postgraduate qualifications in teaching, therapeutics and methods, and even another science degree in psychology!

I have held various administrative responsibilities in academia where I’m leading teams of people in addition to managing a multitude of research projects. I have published extensively on behavioural pharmacy, including medication beliefs, medicines prescribing and use, and public opinion and willingness to engage in medicines reuse. My work also examines how language plays a key role in communicating with patients and when teaching students. As well as my post in academia, I am currently Chief Scientist at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.

What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?

There are many paths to success and different ways of defining success. You won’t necessarily know where life is going to take you, and you or others might question some of your choices. But, as long as you continue to learn and work hard, you will be the master of your own destiny – try to have some fun along the way!

Do you have any current projects that you’d like to tell us about?

I’m working with colleagues at the University of Reading on ‘Medicines Reuse’. This is the idea that one day we might be able to take back people’s unused, unexpired medicines and dispense them to others after checking their quality and safety. Unused medicines are currently treated as waste and sent for incineration when returned to pharmacies. As well as costing money for the NHS, medicines carry a carbon footprint. Without a scheme to take back and reuse medicines, most people don’t have a reason to return their medicines to pharmacies. This means they dispose of them down the sink or in the bin, which can contaminate water and land. Our aim is to develop small sensors for use on medication packaging and trial these in a study to pave the way for medicines reuse in the future.

What do you do with your time outside academia/work?

Outside of academia I like to create toys, blankets and other quirky items by knitting, crochet, and other crafts. I love making things for Christmas; last year I made it my aim to make as many handmade ornaments as I could! I think I love making things because it keeps me busy while allowing me to learn and experiment with new ideas.

What are you most looking forward to this year?

I’m really looking forward to meeting all the staff working within the Pharmacy Department, the many students undertaking courses with us, and our pharmacy placement providers, who are key to making sure our courses are fit-for-purpose. There’s such a breadth of talent that I get to work with that’s amazing. 

We also have our pharmacy accreditation with the General Pharmaceutical Council coming up later in the year, so I’m looking forward to getting stuck in with plans and making sure we do ourselves justice during this process.

Who inspires you most and why?

I’m inspired by many strong, female role models including some I first met while I was undertaking my pharmacy degree here at King’s. One went on to become the first female Chief Scientist at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, and another is the current President of the RPS.


Favourite season: Spring – I love the idea of a new beginning!

Favourite London restaurant: Ave Mario in Covent Garden, London – I love the eclectic décor and the fun atmosphere!

Favourite book: Everything Under by Daisy Johnson – I loved how she brought the story all together at the end, slowly but completely!

Favourite cuisine: Persian – for me, there’s nothing better than the taste of home!

In this story

Parastou Donyai

Parastou Donyai

Head of Pharmacy

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