International Day of Women and Girls in Science: Q & A with Tenional Adedeji, CEO of Pharmarun

In celebration of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we are honored to feature Teniola Adedeji, the pioneering winner of the Africa Young Innovators Award in October 2023 for ‘Pharmarun’. This year’s theme, ‘Inspire Inclusion,’ resonates through our column as we explore Teniola’s impactful journey, her contributions to science, and how her work exemplifies the critical need for women’s inclusion in scientific fields to forge a better world. The Q&A has been edited for conciseness and clarity.

  • The Spark of Genius: Teniola, what was the moment you realized you wanted to dedicate your life to science and innovation?

 I worked in a pharmacy for about 7 years before starting Pharmarun. During that period, I noticed how difficult it was for an average person to get all their medication in one pharmacy. People often had to visit multiple pharmacies and it was a chore. I realised that, as a pharmacist, I had the internal knowledge to easily leverage my colleagues to get medications faster. This realization sparked the idea for Pharmarun, a platform to streamline medication access and improve healthcare delivery for all.

  • The Winning Formula: Can you walk us through the innovation that led you to win the Africa Young Innovators Award?

Pharmarun is an on-demand platform that offers a convenient solution to fragmented access to essential medications. By aggregating a network of pharmacies, we provide the largest medication inventory and increase affordability, enabling users to access their medication when and where they need it. We also provide advanced pharmacy experience by enabling virtual consultations with licensed medical professionals, automated medication refills, laboratory test bookings and quick health checkers such as BMI, Calorie and ovulation checkers. 

Pharmarun saves people time and money spent in wandering from pharmacy to pharmacy and delaying treatments. People can access any of our services from medication purchases to consultations and pay conveniently via our finance partners immediately or in instalments. Pharmarun is helping to improve health outcomes and reduce preventable deaths.

  • Inspiration Unleashed: How do you hope your achievements will inspire and empower other young women and girls to pursue science?

I hope my achievements will serve as a source of inspiration and empowerment for other young women and girls to pursue careers in science. We’re not devoid of strong female role models. Often, what’s lacking is access to their true stories and the obstacles they faced along the way. Growing up in Nigeria, I’ve witnessed the incredible potential within our communities and the importance of sharing our journeys openly. By breaking down barriers and sharing my own experiences, I aim to show them that, despite the challenges, success is attainable. Through mentorship and support, I want to demonstrate that, with determination, hard work, and access to resources, they too can thrive in the field of science. I hope that my journey will encourage them to dream big, believe in themselves, and pursue their passions in science with confidence.

  • Overcoming Obstacles: Every innovator faces challenges. What were yours, as a woman, and how did you turn them into stepping stones?

As a female entrepreneur, I encountered the funding gap, a common challenge for women-led businesses due to perceptions of lower risk-taking. To overcome this, I focused on refining my pitch, exploring alternative funding sources, and seeking mentorship from successful female entrepreneurs. By turning this challenge into an opportunity to showcase the strength of women-led ventures, I transformed obstacles into stepping stones on my path to success.

  • A Vision for the Future: What’s next for you, Teniola? How do you plan to expand on your current success?

My vision for the future is to continue expanding Pharmarun’s impact and reach across Africa. I plan to further develop our platform, leveraging technology to improve medication access and healthcare delivery for communities in need. Additionally, I aim to foster more collaborations with pharmacies and healthcare providers to enhance our services and ensure universal health coverage. Ultimately, I am committed to driving positive change in the healthcare sector and empowering individuals to lead healthier lives.

  • A Message of Hope: On the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, this year under the theme ‘Inspire Inclusion’, what message would you like to share with aspiring female scientists around the world?

I want to share a message of encouragement and empowerment with aspiring female scientists around the world. To all the young women and girls who dream of pursuing careers in science: believe in yourself, your abilities, and your potential to make a difference. Don’t let anyone or anything hold you back from following your passion and achieving your goals. The world needs your creativity, intellect, and unique perspective now more than ever. Embrace your curiosity, embrace challenges as opportunities for growth, and never stop pushing the boundaries of what is possible. Together, we can create a future where women and girls are equally represented and celebrated in the field of science. So go ahead, dream big, aim high, and know that you have the power to change the world through science.

  • Championing Change: How important are platforms like the Africa Young Innovators for Health Award in changing the narrative for women in science?

Platforms like the Africa Young Innovators for Health Award play a crucial role in changing the narrative for women in science. For Pharmarun, winning this award has been an amazing opportunity to showcase the incredible work we’re doing, particularly as a business co-founded by two women. The decision to ensure both male and female winners not only promotes gender equality but also validates the significant contributions of women-led businesses like ours. Winning first prize further reinforces the message that women are driving innovation and making a positive impact in the healthcare sector. This recognition inspires us to continue our mission of improving healthcare access and amplifying the voices of women in science and innovation.