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Pharmacy Leader Shelita Dattani: "I have never been more proud of being a pharmacist than in this pandemic year."


Shelita Dattani will be presenting at Pharmacy U Toronto on April 2, 2022.



Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy from Northeastern University

Doctor of Pharmacy from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 

Current Role

Vice President, Pharmacy Affairs

Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association of Canada 

What excites you about being a pharmacist?

It's easy for me to be excited about this profession that I love! But what really energizes me is getting out of the echo chamber and energizing others about the impact that we can make. In every role that I have had, whether it's with the patient in front of me, at a committee level, or in advocacy with governments, there is always a patient need at the heart of the conversation.  Framing our advocacy for scope, services and remuneration in a patient centred way is essential to making sustainable change happen. 

How has your career evolved since you first started the profession?

I’ve explored many opportunities in my career and with hard work, a little courage and good timing, I have been very fortunate to be able to take advantage of some very diverse roles.

I was raised in community pharmacy as the daughter of an immigrant who opened his own pharmacy which he owned for 31 years - he was, in so many ways a primary healthcare provider and the "first stop for care" in his community, decades before we started using that language to describe pharmacists and pharmacy. I worked at the pharmacy through high school and much of university. After starting clinical rotations in pharmacy school and then going on to complete my Pharm.D., I got the hospital pharmacy bug and spent a large part of my career as a clinical specialist and then in various management roles in the hospital environment. 

Although I was always involved with my professional association, I did not realize that my journey would take me to leadership roles in pharmacy associations, mid-career, which was a bit of a happy accident initially. My role now aligns very much with my passion for making a contribution towards moving the profession and the sector forward in the health care conversation.   

I still continue to work as a front-line pharmacist, educator and speaker and try to bring my whole self to my role working in advocacy at a national pharmacy association. The diversity and the richness of our profession offers many paths - don’t be afraid to explore and be open to a new opportunity or an empowering side hustle - at any time in your career! 

How would you describe a great day at work?

Making a contribution to someone else or something else and learning something in the process. If I can contribute every day, and learn something every day, it has been a good day.   

Women are making a big name for themselves - what does this mean to you both professionally and personally?

My mother raised me while working and completing a medical residency, in the days where female professionals were few and far between. Both of my parents raised me to believe I could do anything - gender didn’t even seem to be an issue. In my years in the hospital environment, I was surrounded by great female leaders. In my current role, I find myself surrounded by a strong and supportive team of women - the positive and nurturing work culture that we foster together means everything.  

As a South Asian woman and the daughter of a female professional who experienced explicit bias throughout her career, I am acutely aware of the unconscious biases that still exist in the workplace and in our society - even more so for those who have lived the impact of intersectionality. My personal goal is to teach and inspire my two teenage daughters and my son to learn from our experiences - and practise leadership that is inclusive, intentional and values what diversity brings to every table. 

It is energizing and affirming, as a leader, a pharmacist, and a mother to see so many other female peers and leaders in our sector being celebrated for their accomplishments. Initiatives like this one are engaging - and motivate me to grow a little bit every day.  

As a leader, what continues to drive you?

Our unrealized potential and the work that we need to do collectively to reach it, is my single biggest driver. I try to bring and pass on some of that purpose and energy to interactions with students and young pharmacists. 

I have never been more proud of being a pharmacist than in this pandemic year. If there was any doubt before, the impact that we have made in the health care system this year is palpable, even to the non-believers.  We need to build on this momentum though.  We have to keep telling our stories and sharing the evidence that we bring real value as essential health care providers and partners. There is still a lot of work to do.  

What advice would you give to a new female graduate?

This is such an exciting time for our profession, but we need to use our voices and work together. Stay engaged and get involved with your professional and pharmacy associations - they need your contributions and your perspective - you can help set direction to consciously shape your professional future.  

Many female pharmacists feel a sense of imposter syndrome and question their value. Be open to taking risks and foster your own strong sense of professional identify. Carry that with you everywhere, and let it ground you, no matter which path your career takes. Find your people and build your community of mentors and cheerleaders - we will encircle you and lift you up! 


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