tbb talks to … award-winning pharmacisT, Ade Williams

Ade Williams is an award-winning pharmacist who features in an exclusive Rankin portrait series.

Ade Williams features alongside 11 NHS workers who have played a crucial role during COVI-19 in the NHS England. World-renowned photographer Rankin’s portrait series coincided with the NHS’ 72nd birthday on Sunday 5th July.

Ade’s accolades include receiving both the Community Pharmacist and Pharmacy of the year awards. Additionally, being an ambassador for The Pancreatic Cancer Action Charity. To add to his credits in the pharmaceutical world he presents a morning show on BBC Radio Bristol and has had regular appearances on the BBC and ITV.  We got the opportunity to find out more…

Hello, please introduce yourself and what you do. 

My Name is Ade Williams. I am the Superintendent Pharmacist at Bedminster Pharmacy in  Bristol, also part of the prescribing clinical team at Broadmead Medical Practice, a local GP surgery and the Associate Non-Executive Director of the North  Bristol Trust. 

How does it feel to be selected and represented as a pharmacist in this exhibition to mark the 72nd anniversary of the NHS, and what was it like to work with Rankin? 

I found it fun and a privilege –that is after gaining a better understanding of what the project was about. My instinct reaction was to shy away – the NHS is all about teamwork and collective effort.  We are no heroes, and our ethos of the shared values binds us. In this project, Rankin wanted to tell the story of the diversity of roles and people, give the country a glimpse of faces that are custodians of the values that are protecting our Nation. Pharmacy especially is notorious for working hard away at the background, removed from the spotlight – It was good to see us brought out to stand alongside our other NHS colleagues. 

What motivated your journey into the pharmacy profession? 

When I moved to the UK as a teenager, I was awestruck by the work of the NHS.  A few years earlier my art teacher persuaded me to make better use of my empathetic nature and good science grades. So in Hove, a quintessential English seaside town, my twice-daily walk past a pharmacy drew me in to see the role and how it cared for the community. I loved it and was sold on it. I do, however, retain my love for the palette. 

Ade Williams’ image projected in London’s Piccadilly Circus

You have been widely acknowledged as an advocate to champion a Healthy Living Pharmacy ethos and pioneer cost-effective, pharmacy-based community health solutions through collaborative partnerships. What was the incentive behind this notion, and what has been the barriers in doing so?  

I have always believed that health inequality is a form of injustice. Sometimes the means and will to address this injustice requires complex solutions and efforts – however, the NHS value offers us unique strengths. Health inequalities have blighted my South Bristol community like many others in the country. Yet, I am surrounded by life-transforming generosity and community spirit. My role is to lock arms with them and use my skills and expertise to tackle local barriers. In our mostly homogenous area, my team and I have been embraced and supported to run health campaigns, provide cardiovascular risk checks in local pubs, increase disease education and promote early diagnosis of bowel and pancreatic cancer and tackle period poverty. I am a small part of a collective effort to build a better community. I am, however, their local accessible NHS outpost.  

Do you find there are many challenges and struggles being a black man in the pharmacy profession? And do you think black pharmacists are represented enough in the profession?  

The pharmacy profession prides itself rightly on the ideals of dignity and equality. I have received uncommon kindness and generosity throughout my career. Still, I know from accounts of black colleagues that as most of society is now increasingly more aware, there is still much work to do. The Pharmacy profession is facing up to barriers unfairly faced by black colleagues, not least because of the impact of #BlackLivesMatters campaign. Representation, academic attainment and career progression are some of the critical issues. The speed and commitment to tackling them are now viewed as a test to our shared professional values but more important is key to harnessing the potential we have to deliver the best for our patients and communities.  

How has it been for you during COVID-19 to maintain your passion for the profession as well as maintaining your safety and that of your family?  

Like everyone else in the country, Covid-19 has meant making sacrifices for the common good. My wife and I are both pharmacists and work patient-facing roles that we could not step aside from. It has been very exhaustive. Our colleagues and community have been awe-inspiring. On our worst days, the show of love, encouragement and support redeems hope, fuelling your drive to carry on. We could not let them down. The pharmacy profession has come together across roles and sectors to stand together. Many senior professional colleagues have put themselves in the frontline, volunteering to perform tasks and stand alongside colleagues. This is why I became a pharmacist. 

What are your thoughts on the reported disproportionate deaths of non-white people during this pandemic?  

My heart goes out to their families, loved ones and colleagues. The NHS family shares the same values it knits us together tightly. There is real pain across our fold – it is not just the non-white communities. We never fail our patients, and we most certainly never abandon each other. The steps taking to better protect those colleagues at greater risk are right and welcome. We will always remember them we have lost – I will never forget. That is my promise to their legacy and sacrifice.  

You are a renowned Pharmacist now located in Bedminster Pharmacy in Bristol. Still, you additionally have a Canadian Pharmacist qualification – what initiated that transition and how does pharmacy in Canada differ to the UK? 

During my undergraduate studies, I spent a summer doing a pharmacy placement exchange in Richmond, Virginia. It was a very enlightening experience to see how the US and UK systems healthcare systems contrasted. I also saw how intractable health inequalities are if systems are not in place to foster equity. The lure of Canada was my admiration of Tommy Douglas’ architect of their single-payer universal health care program. However, two things drew me back to the UK – we have in the NHS an even better system that just needs to work better, and secondly, my wife did not find the Canadian winters appealing.  

You have won many awards including,  NHS Parliamentary Award for Excellence in Primary Care, Pharmacist of the Year 2018 For your work, what has been the most personal highlight? 

Awards tell a story. Our Bedminster team has collectively received 30 Awards in the last four years, a lot more than any other UK Pharmacy Team. So firstly, I work with a highly dedicated team. Our richness of diversity – nations of origin and ethnicity is something I take great pride in. Very reflective of the NHS. For a personal highlight – three of my trainees have themselves won the Trainee Pharmacist of the Year Awards. Being a tutor and mentor to them reassures me, I am building people “bigger” and better equipped than I am. That is a privilege and an honour.  

What would you like to see change in the pharmacy profession in the next few years, and how would you like to help irradiate this?  

I would like to see the pharmacy profession expertise and skills used to build a healthier, more inclusive society. Community Pharmacy is best placed to be a local health and wellbeing hub, using clinical expertise and working in partnership with all community assets to provide tailored solutions into local needs. This must be championed and funded. A pharmacy profession that is widely regarded as the epitome of diversity, inclusion and equality reflective of our image and the relationships we offer and have with others. 

 What is the next goal you would like to achieve in your career? 

April 2020, I took on the role of Associate Non-Executive Director of the North Bristol Trust. I now hope to learn and develop myself so that I can become a conduit for NHS integration, partnership and system-wide change. Innovation has allowed me to survive – I have mild dyslexic challenges, so my never-ending quest to make things easier for me sometimes means I help make things easier and more accessible for everyone too. This is a goal I am will forever be entwined to.  

See the NHS Rankin portrait series here.


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