Pharmacist entrepreneur Sabrine Elkhodr, is something of a power house. In what many would consider to still be a very ‘young’ career her resume is varied and impressive. She’s completed a Masters of Philosophy, founded PharmHack, and worked with organisations like Beyond Blue and the Australian Department of Health amongst other non-pharmacy related start-ups.
We virtually sat down to chat pharmacy, her career, entrepreneurship and her top tips for young pharmacists.
What drove you to find opportunities outside of the traditional Pharmacist roles?
I’m an innovator by nature. I’m constantly on the lookout for fresh ideas and experiences and whilst I loved the clinical aspects of pharmacy and the interaction with patients, I didn’t feel that the actual work challenged me to the degree that I wanted it to. I’ve been starting projects on the side since high school and I realised soon after I registered as a pharmacist that my calling was going to be in the tech and entrepreneurial space.
You’re in Amsterdam now working as the Editor of a medical content start-up MedCrunch – tell us a bit about that and how it came about.
After launching PharmHack, there was one question that I kept getting asked over and over again by the pharmacists that got involved: how do I keep up to date with the latest tech and innovations in the pharmacy/medical world? I was planning to launch an online media platform to answer this need but soon found an existing online magazine called MedCrunch that did something similar. It’d been neglected for a while so I got in contact with the founders in Austria and asked if I could take it over. It’s still in its early stages but we’re focusing on creating Mashable-type videos for med-tech. I also recently launched a medical marketing platform called Medscriber which works with clinics/pharmacies, medical startups and pharma companies wanting to improve their online presence through creative messaging. We’re working with clients across Australia, the US and Europe so life is getting pretty hectic!
You’re clearly an entrepreneur at heart. What do you enjoy the most from the entrepreneurial journey?
All of it! I love the challenge, the thrill of a new idea, seeing things grow from nothing. I’m an idea junkie and can literally spit out dozens of new business ideas every day (I have a notebook filled with them. If you need an idea, hit me up!). I love the new people I get to meet, the businesses and companies I get to work with and being at the forefront of new, world-changing ideas. I love the flexibility of being able to work whenever and wherever I want to. I also love being a medical person in the startup space because we’re actually quite rare. It’s unusual to find a healthcare professional in the tech world which is actually quite sad. Healthcare is in desperate need of more innovators and entrepreneurial people.
What is your career highlight?
PharmHack. It was the first time I felt like I could combine my passion for tech and startups with my professional background. Seeing the pharmacists who’ve attended a PharmHack come out of it and go ” Woah. That was amazing. I think I want more of this startup stuff” is just so unbelievably satisfying.
What can other pharmacists do if they’re interested in moving into the tech/entrepreneur part of the pharmacy industry?
The first step is to stop rationalising everything you do. As pharmacists, we’re trained to analyse and overthink everything. We need to know every step of the journey before we begin. If you want to be an entrepreneur, you need to ditch that mentality asap. It took me a VERY long time to realise that my Pharmacist Brain and my Entrepreneur Brain were in perpetual conflict and I needed to find a way to make them play nice.
My advice to pharmacists wanting to move into the tech/startup space is to just do it. Take a chance. You’ll always have pharmacy to fall back on. Do an online course in web development, user experience or product management. Learn marketing. Academy Xi (one of the sponsors of PharmHack) have some really amazing courses you can do (for Sydney and Melbourne peeps) to get into the tech space. Start something, even if it’s just an online Shopify store selling socks from China.
Go to a PharmHack event! It will give you a crash-course in startups in 24 hours. You might even end up building something that lasts. The team that won this year’s PharmHack are still going strong and are about to officially launch. Like us on Facebook to find out when the next event is.
In the words of Nike, just do it.
What made you decide to study pharmacy?
I hate to admit it but like many who went into pharmacy, I was a med hopeful. I’d always dreamt of becoming a doctor and just before finishing my pharmacy degree, I did GAMSAT and had the marks to apply for medicine but something stopped me. I think deep down I knew medicine wasn’t going to do it for me. When I finished my internship, I thought research would give me that satisfaction so I enrolled and (3 years later) completed a Masters in Philosophy at USYD. Although I complained about it at the time, doing my Masters was an invaluable experience because it helped me discover my strengths as a writer and storyteller. Now I get to combine my professional expertise with my natural talents and I’m loving it.
What advice would you give to today’s pharmacy students, interns and early career pharmacists?
Spend time working out what your strengths are and use them. Pharmacy is a crowded industry and if you want to stand out, you need to work out how you can add value. If the thought of working in a community pharmacy for the rest of your life fills you with dread, just know that your skills as a pharmacist are highly sought after and you have many possible paths to choose from. Don’t be afraid to experiment and explore until you find what makes you jump out of bed every morning. If you have skills that you can pair with your pharmacist training, use them!! Freelance for a while and go explore the world. There’s so much to see and do. If you need inspiration, check out The Roaming Pharmacist and see the incredible things those guys get up to.
Finally – what is the best advice you’ve received (business or personal)?
That being normal is overrated. Why colour between the lines when you can draw new ones?