Meet the new president of the BPSA: Q&A with Raymond Otieno

Raymond Otieno looks to increase Black representation in pharmacy and help provide a supportive environment for racialized students both in the classroom and during hands-on rotations.

New president Raymond Otieno (PharmD 2024) is a second-year pharmacy student at the University of Alberta and president-elect of the Black Pharmacy Students’ Association (BPSA). Otieno, who is also a co-founder of the BPSA, is a passionate advocate for dismantling health inequities. 

Below, Otieno shares his vision and goals as incoming president.

What is your vision as the new president? 

My vision for the association is to increase the representation and engagement of Black pharmacists in the profession. I want to see increased representation of Black pharmacy students and pharmacists in leadership positions. This representation is imperative because the addition of the Black voice in environments that have historically excluded Black leaders ensures that the Black community is not sidelined or disproportionately affected when new initiatives and practices are proposed.   

What are your goals for the BPSA in the coming year? 

I am looking forward to implementing another initiative that will benefit the health of the Black community. Ideally, this event would be similar to our previous “Let’s Talk COVID-19 Vaccines” webinar which addressed vaccine hesitancy within the Black community in a culturally competent manner. I would like to ensure that Black pharmacy students engage in more leadership-building activities and professional development. Whether this be attending conferences or engaging in mentorship, I want to provide sufficient resources to BPSA members so that they are cognizant of these opportunities and are utilizing them for their career growth.

What are some things you will tackle as an association? 

As an association, the BPSA will continue to advocate for Black pharmacy students in the program. We want to ensure the faculty provides support for racialized students while they are on rotations, especially those who go to rural locations. We want to ensure that any racist rhetoric is shut down immediately and that students and staff are aware of the ramifications of engaging in such behaviour, as well as the safe reporting processes available.  

Where do you see the BPSA making the biggest impact? 

I see the BPSA making the biggest impact when it comes to increasing the number of future Black pharmacists. A lot of our initiatives are centred around that goal, such as:

  • our Pharmacy School 101 webinars
  • our career series that highlights Black pharmacists and their journeys
  • our mentorship program, which pairs pharmacy students with an undergraduate student to mentor as well as a practising pharmacist to be mentored by 

These initiatives show Black students that there is a space for them in the profession and allow them to network and draw inspiration from those who look like them. 

How do you lead with purpose? 

Leadership is a huge responsibility and it is quite easy to get overwhelmed with the work or despondent when things do not go as planned. However, having mission and vision statements and centring those statements in the implementation of new initiatives allows all group members to feel like they are working towards accomplishing the bigger picture. By utilizing the roles of my team members to accomplish the intended goals of the BPSA, there is added emphasis on the importance of their roles and the BPSA doesn’t derail from its intended purpose.

Why or what inspired you to become the president? 

I’ve been inspired by many leaders throughout my life and have found it to be an admirable role. Being a co-founder of the BPSA and seeing how much the association has grown and accomplished inspired me to play a more instrumental role in optimizing its trajectory. I have a number of long-term plans for the BPSA and by being president, I can start planting those seeds now and let these initiatives come to fruition in subsequent years.