Tathra's Linda Badewitz-Dodd who practices at Merimbula's Dodd and Dwyer Amcal Pharmacy has won the prestigious Pharmaceutical Society of Australia's Pharmacist of the year award for 2021.
Ms Badewitz-Dodd co-owns the pharmacy with business partner Tania Dwyer and offers a wide range of professional services.
She said the response from her friends, family and the community has been "overwhelming" and has received a number of messages since the announcement this morning, September 25.
"I'm just doing what I do and it could have been so many other people recognised too, so I don't know why it was me over someone else but anyway."
She received the award for her work in the community as a pharmacist and advocate for the health and well-being of those she provides a service to.
During the Black Summer bushfires, the pharmacy stayed open and supplied face masks, essential medicines and emergency support to the community.
"Even though Tathra was spared this time around [during the Black Summer bushfires] we didn't know whether it was going to be or not.
"It was just so traumatic and people were obviously upset, so we just thought, we need to be here and we need to stay open and support everybody who is doing things pretty tough," she said.
Ms Badewitz-Dodd and her team have also been instrumental in administering a number of COVID-19 vaccines in the Bega Valley Shire.
"In the Far South Coast region, our pharmacy is the only one that has the capacity to do the COVID vaccinations and that's just that we're fortunate that our practice has more than one pharmacist, we've got six people who can actually vaccinate," she said.
She said the flow of people coming to get vaccinated has been inconsistent and that the changing messaging around the vaccines has been hard to communicate with patients, but they continue to be advocates for informing their patients.
The practice is fairly innovative in terms of the scope of services offered.
In addition to COVID vaccinations, they administer other injectable medications, provide sleep apnoea services, wound dressing, and screening for diabetes and cholesterol- to name a few.
Ms Badewitz-Dodd said she became a pharmacist because, "I'm a people person and I thought science was pretty cool."
She grew up in Bombala, but moved to Sydney to study and work. After graduating from the University of Sydney she worked as a clinical pharmacist at Sydney's Royal Prince Alfred Hospital where she spent time in the intensive care, neurosurgery and neurosurgical intensive care units.
After a number of different roles in the city, she and her late husband David Dodd moved to Tathra and worked for local pharmacist Warren Seeto. She has now worked at the pharmacy for 21 years.
The business underwent management changes over the years but what has remained unchanged are the community connections and relationships she has formed in the area.
"It's a very special role being a pharmacist in a regional area, just because your customers aren't just customers, they're your neighbours, they're your friends, they're your relatives.
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"The relationships we have with GPs and allied health practitioners is better because we all live, work and socialise in the same community- so you develop more personal relationships which overlay the professional relationship and that results in more respect and enhances communication between us," she said.
Her professional goals into the future would be to extend the professional services provided at the pharmacy and look into how legislative change could assist her to provide additional services.
"I'm hoping to get approval to go and do some outreach COVID vaccinating with the Moderna vaccine for the younger kids."
That would involve Ms Badewitz-Dodd and a number of her team going out to schools or businesses in over to provide the vaccinations, rather than people having to come in to the pharmacy.
"The legislation in pharmacy doesn't allow us to do that, so I'm trying to get that sorted so we could go and do that because it would be a lot easier and more efficient in a situation like a school.
"At the moment there isn't the scope for it, but I'm working on it!"
"We as a pharmacy feel very strongly about doing our part to help us get out of this situation so we can get back some of our freedoms, and I can go on a holiday," she said.