NHS Highland Scientist Heading to Antarctica

An NHS Highland scientist will follow in the footsteps of the 1901 Discovery Expedition to the Antarctic after being selected for a prestigious international leadership initiative.

Sharon Pfleger (pictured), a Consultant in Pharmaceutical Public Health with NHS Highland, has been selected via a rigorous application process from nearly 400 women across the world to take part in the Homeward Bound 6 initiative. 

At present Sharon is helping to lead the rollout of the COVID vaccination programme across NHS Highland and is joining 99 other female scientists in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine) in the unique global leadership programme.

It will culminate in a meeting of all 100 participants in Ushuaia, Argentina, before they embark on a life-changing voyage to Antarctica, one of the most ecologically sensitive areas on Earth where the effects of climate change can be seen up close.

Her personal journey will see her follow in the footsteps of Royal Navy Officer Robert Falcon Scott and polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton more than 100 years on from their famous journey.

Homeward Bound aims to equip women in STEMM with the skills to demonstrate a new model of leadership to lead for the greater good; managing the planet as our home.

The scheme includes an online learning and coaching programme to promote strategic capability, visibility and collaboration.

Selectors noted that Sharon’s expertise in the area of the impact of medicines on the environment and her potential to lead and enact change across organisations made her a natural choice for the highly sought-after leadership programme.

Sharon said:

“I feel really honoured to have been selected for this programme and I intend to share my learning widely so that as many people as possible can benefit and feel empowered to help save our planet.

“We all need to tackle the climate crisis head on and my specific focus will be trying to raise awareness of, and reduce, the impact of the healthcare we provide on our planet. 

“It’s about 16,000km from Inverness to Antarctica and I, along with seven UK team colleagues, will be walking, running and cycling that distance as many times as we can before we depart on our journey in an attempt to raise awareness and also funds.”

Professor Boyd Robertson, Chair of NHS Highland, said:

“Sharon’s success in being chosen from a large field of applicants for the acclaimed Homeward Bound international leadership programme is hugely significant and testifies to her expertise, skills and personal attributes.

“We are indeed fortunate to have someone of such calibre and repute working in healthcare in the Highlands and playing a leading role in the public health field. 

“The fact that Sharon is the first and only NHS employee in the UK, the first pharmacist and the first public health specialist to be selected for this esteemed programme demonstrates what an accolade it is and why we are so proud of her achievement. 

“The experience she gains from the expedition to the Antarctica Peninsula, visiting the scientific research stations and seeing climate change up close, will enable NHS Highland and NHS Scotland to build global collaborations around sustainable healthcare and will help inform and shape what we do to reverse the climate emergency, locally and nationally.”

You can follow their journey, read blogs and listen to their podcasts at www.uk2antarctica.com and read more about Sharon and her vision at https://www.chuffed.org/project/sharonpfleger.