Portrait of PharmD for Pharmacists Graduate Zahra Ali

Zahra Ali says programs have broadened career opportunities and enhanced her community practice

Zahra Ali grew up watching her father working as a pharmacist and always knew that she wanted to pursue pharmacy as a career. As a graduate of the International Pharmacy Graduate program and now the PharmD for Pharmacists program, both at U of T’s Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, Ali is broadening her career and taking on new roles.

“I was exposed to the profession from a very young age, and it always interested me. Pharmacy has always been the goal for me,” says Ali. “It draws from different aspects of health care, and you’re so involved in patient care. As a pharmacist, you see your patients often, and it’s a nice relationship with patients, which I really enjoy.”

Born in Iraq, Ali was a young child when she moved with her family to Jordan for several years. They then moved to Canada when she was around 11 years old, settling near Toronto. After high school, Ali earned a Bachelor of Science at U of T Scarborough, majoring in biochemistry and biology, and she decided to return to Jordan to pursue a Bachelor of Pharmacy at the University of Petra.

After completing her degree in Jordan, she returned to Canada and applied to the six-month IPG program at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, which prepares internationally educated pharmacists to meet entry-to-practice requirements and advance their skills. Having not practised pharmacy in Jordan, Ali says the program was helpful in learning to apply the clinical knowledge she had learned in her pharmacy degree.

“The IPG program really helped me to look at the bigger picture and learn how to take the clinical knowledge from my degree and apply it to patients to help with their care,” says Ali. “It was very focused on application, and that was really important for me because I had not practised in Jordan. The program was a great way to change how I thought about clinical knowledge and learn how to apply it.”

After finishing the IPG program in 2016, Ali became licensed in Ontario and worked as a community pharmacist in Pickering. In 2019, she opened a pharmacy with her father and brother, also a pharmacist, and worked as the pharmacy manager, and she enjoyed working in the community, but she continued to think about returning to school to advance her skills and expand her career options. The PharmD for Pharmacists program at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy seemed like the best option.

PharmD for Pharmacists program helped in branching out from current practice

With support from her father and brother, who took over more of the day-to-day work at the pharmacy, Ali started the program in September 2021, still working part-time at the pharmacy. Ali says the program has given her more experience in a wider range of practices and broadened her clinical knowledge.

“I see a difference in how I practice. I find myself applying a lot of what I learned without really thinking about it. I think that I’m a better pharmacist now, and it has helped me create better relationships with my patients,” she says. “As a pharmacist, when you take that extra step with counselling or making recommendations, patients do appreciate it and they trust you and will open up to you more.”

With her new degree, Ali is looking forward to expanding her career opportunities and taking on new roles. She has already been offered a part-time pharmacist role in a small hospital in Durham region, which will allow her to continue working in the community pharmacy.

“It feels very professionally rewarding to complete the PharmD for Pharmacists program. It has refreshed my knowledge and given me new perspectives. Our profession is always changing, and staying up-to-date is very important,” says Ali. “I think this program is so valuable for pharmacists, especially those who are thinking about branching out from their current practice. It was a great experience that I have greatly appreciated.”

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