Being a pharmacist is not just a job, it is my life – Ameenah Khan

By Lakhram Bhagirat

Landing your dream job and excelling at it is one of the greatest pleasures in life. It shows that dreams do come true if we work hard enough, if we just push a little more when we are close to quitting.

Not every day is going to be the best, but it is the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve impacted someone’s life that gives you the drive to go on. It is said that pharmacists are our friendly neighbours who have our best interest at heart. It is the community pharmacist who is there for us when we are ill and in need of care.

Pharmacist Ameenah Khan

It is this very need to give back and serve the community that led Ameenah Khan to choose the pharmacology field. She saw the need for more community pharmacists who have the best interest of those they are bound to serve at heart and she answered the call.

Ameenah runs her own pharmacy at La Jalousie on the West Coast of Demerara, but the journey to get where she is today has not been a smooth ride in the park. In fact, she has been preparing for a profession in the medical field for all her life. She knew that it was the only sector she would really be comfortable working in.

To understand Ameenah’s fascination with the medical sector, particularly pharmacology, one would need to venture back into her childhood growing up in La Jalousie near her grandparents. Being both the eldest child for her parents and the eldest grandchild meant that Ameenah was well-loved and afforded the opportunity to be with her grandparents quite often.

She had a particularly special bond with her grandmother, who had taken care of her when she was very young. Her childhood was filled with fond memories of her grandparents taking her and her two siblings on trips across the country and invoking the love of travelling in her.

Throughout her travels, she would see her grandparents and other persons with bags of medication, and it was then a curiosity about medication was birthed.

“As I was growing up, I saw the amount of medications my grandparents consumed and wondered as to why all these were needed and what was the purpose of taking them. Thus, my love for the profession emerged.  I always wanted to help my family first, as I believe they deserve to have the best of treatments, but in order for me to do so, I knew I needed to gain knowledge,” she said.

Thus began her educational journey. She never allowed herself to falter, because she knew that she needed to be on  top of her game to achieve her goals so she worked, and worked hard.

She attended the Windsor Forest Primary School, where she wrote the Secondary School Entrance Examination (SSEE) and was awarded a place at the West Demerara Secondary School. Throughout her school life at West Demerara Secondary, Ameenah was a high achiever. She worked hard to make herself the person to compete with.

However, in her final year at West Demerara Secondary, she left the school to complete her secondary education at a private institution. There she wrote the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations. She emerged as the top student with passes in eight subjects.

Ameenah had the ability to write and pass many more subjects, but she decided on the core subjects to propel her towards her end goal in the medical field. At 13, she decided that she wanted to be in the Sciences Class at  West Demerara Secondary School and worked towards achieving that.

After secondary school, she enrolled at the University of Guyana in 2009 and  graduated at the top of her class with distinction and an Associate Degree in Pharmacy in 2012. She would later return in 2018, after gaining some experience in the field, and read for her Bachelor of Science Degree in Pharmacy. Again, she graduated with distinction.

“I always knew I wanted to study pharmacology, as I love the pharmacist profession. My family always supported me in whatever I chose to do, but more so, I chose to be a pharmacist not because of any special person, but because I saw the need for patients who deserved to understand their medications and conditions. They should not just be told how to take their medication, but as to the explanation of why, when, and the necessary precaution they need to take when consuming prescription meds,” she notes.

After graduating from UG in 2012, she started to work at various hospitals in their pharmacies where she had interactions with patients. She says the satisfaction of knowing that she was able to explain the medications to her patients and have them understand the reason they were taking them was second to none. It was those interactions that led her to choose to become a Community Pharmacist.

However, she knew that she needed more knowledge and experience. During her experience-gaining phase, Ameenah was employed at the Suddie Hospital in Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam), where she moved from being a mere pharmacy staff to being a supervisor with the responsibility of managing the Hospital’s pharmacy along with the drug supplies for all of the Health Centres in the Region.

It was after she gained that experience she ventured into aiding in the setting-up of a number of Community Pharmacies.

“I hope to become a pharmacist who is not just a person that patients visit for their medication, but someone who will provide a listening ear, be a friend and a confidante. I hope to be someone who will make my community a better place and be there to provide excellent care and quality service to my patients,” Ameenah said.

For her, the goal was always starting her own pharmacy after gaining eight years of experience in the profession. In the year 2017, she helped to set up her uncle’s pharmacy and then decided that after completing her bachelor’s degree, the next step would be to open her own pharmacy and give back to the community.

“In January 2020, I officially opened my business under the name Ameenah’s Pharmacy and Variety Center at La Jalousie on the Public Road, West Coast Demerara. This has been a very rewarding journey as I believe everything happens in its own time.”

She sees her role as a pharmacist as especially important now that the world is battling the coronavirus pandemic. She explains to her customers the necessity of wearing a mask, washing or sanitising their hands frequently and using vitamin supplements to boost their immune systems to fight off any infection during the pandemic. At Ameenah’s Pharmacy, she also tries to ensure that her customers can have quality and affordable products.

“My advice to aspiring pharmacists is to strive to always love what you do, then it would not just be a job but a profession in which you will give your all to help patients in need. Medicine is ever-changing, so being a pharmacist means that there is always room for learning. This is not an easy profession. We have to be patient and empathetic towards our patients. I love my career choice. It enables me to reach out and help persons in many ways. So, for me being a pharmacist is not just a job, but it is my life,” she says.