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2009 Future of Pharmacy Award: Naila Lalani

Naila LalaniNaila Lalani
Clinical Pharmacist, Myros-Rexall Pharmacy

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First, work to understand; then, work to change.

Although it’s early in her life and career, this philosophy is already serving Naila Lalani well.

Naila is the first health care professional in her family. She has always thrived on interacting with people and had a passion for health care. When she saw members of her family go through illness, she wanted to be able to do more to help. In pharmacy, she found she could meld all her interests and strengths. “I also like that you can always expand your knowledge. There are always ways to think outside the box, find new challenges, and re-ignite that passion.”

Initially, Naila worked in a community retail setting. “This was a really good experience and quite an eye-opener after coming out of school. I had to take some time to understand how things worked. The days of having an hour to interview a patient were gone! I really had to learn to try and balance the patients’ sense of urgency with making sure the prescription was appropriate. Finding that balance is still one of the biggest challenges I see in my days.”

Eventually though, she settled into a routine. In fact, it got a little too settled for her liking. At about that time, the outreach pharmacist position at Myros-Rexall came up. Now her days are anything but settled!

Naila works two days a week in Edmonton’s inner city, checking in at a seven shelters and low-income housing facilities. She spends two more days per week providing care for residents at over 40 group homes. Finally, she spends one day per week in the pharmacy. “Yes, it’s busy, but I really love it. You can really see patients grow. You also see them fall, but you’re there to help them up. Now, you’re right there. The relationships aren’t forced. At my other job, I was often chasing people down for follow up, or it would be months between visits. Now, I see these patients more than I see some of my friends! I really get to know them. That makes the losses and challenges harder, but it is still worth it.

“A lot of these patients have mental health issues and not a lot of support. Their visit to the pharmacy is often their only human interaction of the day. At first, I didn’t know how to develop a comfortable relationship with the patients. But I watched other staff and saw how they just “noticed” these people. They noticed that they made the effort. I noticed the smallest compliments on their hair or their clothes made the patients’ day. With these patients, you have an extra purpose in life with them; you know why you’re there.”

In addition to her endless enthusiasm for pharmacy, Naila also seems to have an endless supply of energy. As if her work as a pharmacist doesn’t keep her busy enough, she also manages an extraordinary volunteer workload.

For the past four years, Naila has been the Chairperson of the Aga Khan Youth and Sports Board in Edmonton. “We run six hockey leagues for ages 5 to 45+, host tournaments, organize a summer camp for 6-14 year olds, have a Girl Guide troop, and run a number of youth development activities. We also have one program for youth who have gone astray. We use mentorship and make a contract with goals to help move them out of the cycle of trouble and poverty.”

One recent initiative Naila is particularly proud of is the CIVIC (Challenging Ismaili Volunteers in the Community) program work that the group organized with Habitat for Humanity. The CIVIC program instills the spirit of service and provides hands-on opportunities for youth to enhance the quality of life in local communities. This year, the CIVIC group raised money and built sheds for all the Habitat builds in Edmonton. “In one day, 300 youth got together and built 21 sheds. It was wild, but wonderful! Kids want to help, and it seems to mean even more when they can create something tangible. It really instills a sense of pride in them.”

In her role as Chairperson, Naila mentors many youth and helps them develop skills to succeed in future pursuits. “It’s nice to see youth involved in healthy things.” It’s even nicer to see that these youth get to work with such a superb role model.

Whether it is with her patients in the inner city, the other health professionals she works with, or the youth she volunteers with, Naila uses her passion and energy to understand their world and then change it for the better. As for the future of pharmacy, Naila offers reassurance that it will indeed be a bright one.