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Pharmacist Nafisa Merali’s 4 top tips to foster community outreach

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Born in Kenya, Nafisa Merali is a UBC pharmacy graduate (1991). In addition to being a Certified Diabetes Educator, she is the recipient of the CPhA Patient Care Achievement Award (2014) and the BCPhA’s Bowl of Hygeia Award (2013) for outstanding community service. She runs six busy pharmacies in Vancouver’s Lower Mainland.

By Nafisa Merali

Tip #1: Language should not be a barrier in a pharmacy’s mission to educate patients and empower them to manage their own health.

In my practice I learned to speak the language of the communities we serve Punjabi and Hindi. We also deliver services in Cantonese, Mandarin and English to reach as many people as possible in the community.

Tip #2: A cornerstone of our practice is community outreach.

We offer a free at-home service called the Medication Monitoring Program, where we visit the homes of patients who are either immobile or unable to leave their home, providing medication management in terms of medication compliance, support and education in diabetic management and support in mental health needs.

Tip #3: Take community outreach to where the people are.

We hold outreach clinics held at community centres, temples and seniors’ residences, bringing such clinical services as a portable bone sonometer for non-invasive bone density scans to detect early osteoporosis, and a COPD screening device that identifies those at risk of the disease. We find out about cutting-edge technologies by attending Pharmacy U conferences and other industry events.

Tip #4: Never stop learning.

I believe it is very important for all pharmacists to continually learn. We ensure that the key individuals who design and execute our patient-centred programs attend these sessions. Pharmacy events are a valuable resource as they let us know what is available in new healthcare technologies and offer opportunities to discuss the innovative solutions our colleagues have found in their operations. It is our focus on service that differentiates us and keeps our customers and patients loyal. This is how we stay ahead of the curve. The ability to make a real difference in the community and in our patients’ lives is what I find most rewarding.