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Pharmacy Leader Ghada Gabr: "Being a pharmacist has taught me humility, patience, and empathy."

a person standing in front of a store
Women in Leadership's Ghada Gabr


The Associate Owner of 3 Shoppers Drug Mart stores in the Halifax Regional Municipality (147, 136 & 2008).

Coach and mentor to new Associate Owners and Managers, offering guidance and resources for successful growth

Atlantic region representative for the Diversity & Inclusion Associate Led Working Group

When you graduated, what did you envision for your future?

I believe I manifested my life in this profession. I had always wanted to be a community leader, spearheading new projects and developing new ways that pharmacists could be an integral part of the community, and society, at large. I have always been a firm believer in teamwork, and I have built a strong team around me that strives for perfection every single day. 

How would you describe a great day at work? 

A great day for me at work is arriving and seeing all of my wonderful employees shining and thriving in their positions. I’m always greeted with big smiles and hugs, which for me is a great confirmation that they enjoy their work and the atmosphere. It’s also knowing that I am contributing to making a real difference in my community, and seeing the effects of that through my patients and visitors. I have been told time and time again that my staff goes above and beyond to make sure our customers leave satisfied – and that we make the effort to establish relationships with them. I am happy to say that I can always greet my customers by name. I also encourage my team to constantly think outside the box. I am truly proud of the team, and this family, we have created at my three Shoppers Drug Mart locations in the Halifax Regional Municipality. I started working with the government in the START program; through this program I was able to work alongside 20 pharmacy graduates who have now become full-time pharmacists in my stores – or have even moved on to other cities as licensed pharmacists.

What excites you about being a pharmacist? 

What excites me about being a pharmacist is that every day is a new adventure and a new learning experience. Even when you think you have learned or seen it all – a new matter arises and teaches you a new lesson. Being a pharmacist has taught me humility, patience, and empathy – and has heightened my awareness of the human experience.

What is (or has been) your greatest challenge as a leader in pharmacy?

One of my greatest challenges as a leader in pharmacy has been confronting the notion that the industry in Atlantic Canada is not as diverse as I had imagined it to be after arriving from Ontario. I had started in a very multicultural store back in Ottawa. Now, I am ecstatic to say that I have over 10 languages spoken in my pharmacies; this in turn helps us to assist more patients, as we can easily address everyone’s needs.

Furthermore, I had started in Nova Scotia when there was an influx of Syrian refugees. I felt as though I needed to be there for these individuals to help guide and navigate them in their new home. I know they were comforted when they saw someone who resembled them and spoke their language; it made them feel at ease. The Syrian families came with a lot of health issues. I ended up making my cellphone number public for them to reach me whenever they needed.

What legacy would you like to leave to the pharmacy profession?

I would like my legacy to be that I have opened new pathways and doors for not only immigrants and minorities, but especially for women in leading roles in healthcare. We are so much more capable than we think, and much braver than we believe. I truly embrace every aspect of my profession – the good, the bad and the upsetting. We are faced with many circumstances within our day, and pharmacists are kind-hearted, sympathetic individuals who at the same time have a tough, informative, and thorough side to them. 

How important was mentoring in your career?

Mentoring is extremely important to me and has been throughout my career, both as the student and the teacher. I believe great mentorship can transform your life, as many times our mentors see qualities in us that we often do not see in ourselves. 

Do you feel there is a glass ceiling for women in pharmacy?

With time my opinion of this idea has changed. I felt a few years ago that I was limited, being a woman, being an immigrant pharmacy owner – the leader with the ‘foreign name.’ I heard a lot of chatter, ‘Who is she? What is she doing or trying to accomplish?’ However, I feel that over time, I have proven myself to be an intelligent, hard-working, driven, passionate and kind leader who sets a great example of: If I can do it, so can you!

Women are making a big name for themselves in pharmacy. What does this mean to you professionally and personally?

It makes me proud and honoured to share a title with these women. We have fought so hard to mark our place in society, and especially in the workplace, for so long. It feels incredible to finally be recognized for our accomplishments and attributions to healthcare and beyond!

How are women paving the way for changes in the pharmacy profession? What advice would you give to new female pharmacy graduates?

One piece of advice I would give to encourage any woman graduating in pharmacy would be to join as many boards, associations, community groups and organizations relating to your field as possible.

Being a part of your community in a big way makes a difference, especially if you can shed light on your profession and what you can do to assist those living in your area.

Building relationships with other changemakers in your community also helps to make lifelong connections that will benefit society as a whole, and it simply shows people you care about them – and their loved ones. Establishing community groups and creating events as a team with your neighbours, colleagues and peers, and the lessons learned in those circles, is truly not something that can be taught in a classroom; sometimes (and often) we learn by doing.

Personally, I am involved in many boards, such as the pharmacy association, the International Pharmacy Group at ISANS. I also am part of WILA (Women in Leadership for Shoppers Drug Mart).

As pharmacists, we should embrace our full scope of practice in terms of prescribing and injecting. All of my pharmacists are leaders in tackling minor ailments, vaccines, injections; they are also part of the INR program, A1C testing, as well as leaders in dealing with diabetic patients.

With the current shortage of family doctors, pharmacists are relieving stress, not only for the amazing doctors we have, but the families who need assistance. When the Pharmacy Technician Program started in Nova Scotia, we went full throttle. I am very passionate about being an advocate for pharmacists, and I will always reaffirm our importance because I know firsthand how much we care about people – and how much we do in the health sector. This was heavily noted and witnessed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, as many of us were frontline workers, showing up day-in and day-out to educate individuals on this new, foreign time and to keep our patients healthy and safe.

The final piece of advice I would give would be to enter the profession with an open mind. Be an advocate for your colleagues. Be involved in your community. Be kind to others. Be helpful. This is the true meaning of being a pharmacist.


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