2013 Pfizer Consumer Healthcare Bowl of Hygeia: Abdul Kanji
Owner, The Corner Drug Store
Abdul Kanji owns and manages a busy pharmacy in Calgary’s East Village. While he has achieved success as a pharmacist and a businessman, things weren’t always so rosy. Originally from East Africa and trained as a pharmacist in England, Abdul needed to secure an internship as part of the licensing process to practise pharmacy in Alberta. He visited every drugstore, in every town, from Calgary to Red Deer, but could not secure a placement. Desperate, Abdul pleaded with a pharmacy in Calgary which agreed to let him volunteer in order to earn his internship hours.
Over 30 years later, Abdul has not forgotten what it was like to be new to the country and hard-pressed for a chance. As the owner of The Corner Drug Store, he has always ensured that his pharmacy provides opportunities and mentorship for those new to the country, students, and other pharmacists.
Abdul’s commitment to helping newcomers extends far beyond his pharmacy. An avid and experienced volunteer within both the Shia Ismaili Muslim and greater Calgary volunteer communities, Abdul was assigned to Project Omeed (omeed means “hope” in Farsi). As part of the project, he has volunteered about three hours daily to help settle newly arrived refugees. Project Omeed has also afforded Abdul the opportunity to work closely with several organizations, including United Way, the Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association, and the Centre for Newcomers in Calgary.
Having gone through the process of settling himself, Abdul is very motivated to help others take their first steps towards a new life in a new country. The rewards of this type of volunteerism are clearly visible to him. “You can see the difference you make first-hand, right away,” he says. “When you engage a newcomer in language training, a job search, take care of them, and help them settle in, the results are right in front of you—you’ve made a difference in someone’s life. The small things you do have a huge impact.”
Abdul recalls recently receiving a phone call from a woman he once assisted. She was seeking a reference—she had taken a course to become a healthcare aide and was applying for a position in a nursing home. In the recent past, she had been let go from a service job for not being able to read a computer screen. Abdul was touched by her progress.
Owning a pharmacy and working in the East Village area of Calgary gives Abdul a great sense of satisfaction. The area features a very senior and often marginalized population. Over the years, Abdul has gotten to know the community members personally, and has helped his patients by communicating with their physicians, taking full medical histories and profiles, providing home visits, and managing their often complex medication needs. He notes that his volunteer experiences have helped him greatly in his work with patients.
“Empowerment is important,” says Abdul. “You can empower both your patients and the newcomers, and ensure that both groups know how to take care of themselves.”
Abdul cites his 25 years of experience with pharmacy clientele as a great help to his volunteer work. As a head lay minister within the Shia Ismaili Muslim community, one of Abdul’s duties was to visit ailing patients in hospitals and provide them with moral and spiritual support. His experience with his pharmacy patients helped him to understand and communicate with the hospital patients. He stresses the importance of cultivating a non-judgmental attitude and respect for diversity—this has served him well in both his volunteerism and his pharmacy practice.
“Everyone is culturally different, and we need to respect that,” says Abdul.
When asked if he has a personal motto or code, Abdul speaks passionately about respect, integrity, and compassion. “Do the best you can without compromising your values,” he says. “Everyone has different abilities; do the best that you can with these abilities, and don’t compromise. Always be compassionate in your care—spiritual or pharmaceutical.”