Pharm. Ayodele Veronica Achi is the managing director of Confirm Pharmacy Limited, Iba, Lagos State. In this interview with ADEBAYO OLADEJO, the young and vibrant entrepreneur bares her mind on her reasons for choosing for community pharmacy, the peculiar challenges facing the practice in the state and other issues. Excerpts:
Briefly give us a glimpse into your pharmacy journey.
Pharmacy is indeed a journey and trying to make the journey an honourable one, makes it even more challenging. I gained admission into Madonna University, Elele, Rivers State, to study Pharmacy in the 2005, and graduated in 2011. I started practising as a community pharmacist in 2012; so the journey for the past 10 years has been exciting and quite adventurous.
The first five years post-graduation was dedicated to looking for better-paying jobs, more money, and a lot of childish things. The next five years became real, as I started seeking valuable knowledge, self-development and improvement, moving and working with people with vision, and trying to solve human problems. My value for humans became higher than searching for money, and others.
Tell us about your pharmacy – the philosophy behind the enterprise and the challenges encountered at the initial stage.
After my graduation in 2011, I started practising as a community pharmacist in 2012, and I have worked for different community pharmacies. These include Teo Pharmacy, Egbeda; Bernados Pharmacy, Ojuelegba and Idi-Araba, Lagos; and many others.
All the knowledge and experience gathered gave birth to my own pharmacy called Confirm Pharmacy Limited, Iba, Lagos State, in 2021. Although we are still at the teething stage – as we are just planning to open a second branch – we are not doing badly either.
The challenges however are not exhaustive, because getting a good location for business was very difficult. Rents for a good location were also very expensive, and money to stock up the pharmacy was also another challenge. However, we thank God for the ACPN collaboration with Polaris Bank which is giving us good loan offers.
How has it been combining your duties as a community pharmacist with your responsibilities as a wife?
Family and pharmacy practice are two very key aspects of my life. My family comes first before pharmacy but the two are very dear to me. The Association of Lady Pharmacists (ALPs) has taught me a lot on how to manage both without any issue. We were taught that we can employ a helping hand to support at the pharmacy so that one can close on time to attend to the home. If not, one may lose both.
The business should not be located too far from the home, so that one can have both activities taken care of. However, no matter the situation, the family must supersede because, in all decisions and considerations, the training of the children and care for one’s spouse should not be relegated because of the profession or left in the hands of strangers to handle.
As a young pharmacist, faced with a lot of options and opportunities, how did you arrive at the decision to practice at the community level?
My decision to practice at the community level was tough, as it took a lot of sleepless nights to find out what I wanted to do and the platform to fulfil my dreams. After much personal and senior colleague’s consultations, as well as teachings and mentoring from seminars and lectures, I finally knew that to impact the world, you must start from the home, the community, and then the world. I have no regret taking the decision.
Some people, especially the charlatans, see community pharmacy practice as mere buying and selling. As a trained pharmacist, what can you say about this?
Yes, they are called charlatans in practice because they have little or no knowledge; so I don’t blame their short-sightedness. It is a belief system and vision that differentiates a charlatan from a professional. A professional has a trained mind, and the right belief system that does not operate with making profit alone but solving real-life problems; so community pharmacy practice is much more than buying and selling.
Tell us about your relationship with the people of this community and the most common health conditions that bring them to your pharmacy.
I have a good relationship with the people of this community because I care for other aspects of their lives – their career, business, family, academics – and not just their health. This gives them an open mind to tell me anything bothering them. The majority of them relate to me as if I were a member of their family.
The most familiar health problem that brings them to the pharmacy is pain, which is the mother and the first symptom of most disease conditions.
What is your assessment of community pharmacy practice in Lagos State?
Community pharmacy practice in Lagos state is thriving well, compared to other neighbouring states but can do better, especially as it is in the developed countries. Lagos is the commercial hub of the country, so the state should do better than it is doing presently.
If you were not a pharmacist, what other profession would you have opted for?
If not for Pharmacy, I would have opted for journalism. Just like Pharmacy, journalism also deals with humanity, and you can express yourself, and solve problems anywhere in the world. No matter what happens, man must communicate. Without communication, the world cannot exist.