Pharmacy Leader Manjiri Sandeep Gharat: "...a pharmacist in different roles can be an agent of change for the patient."
By Pharmacy U
Education: Master of Pharmacy (Pharmacology) Mumbai University in 1990
InCharge Principal, K M Kundnani Pharmacy Polytechnic., Ulhasnagar, India
Vice-President, International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP)
Vice-President, Indian Pharmaceutical Association and Chairperson, Community Pharmacy Division
What excites you about being a pharmacist?
I love the fact that pharmacy is all about making medicines to make medicines work. It is such a whole range of work that pharmacists are responsible for and contribute to, from the birth of a medicine to its journey to bring out the effective therapeutic outcomes for the end user, the patient. Such an inspiration in itself that a pharmacist in different roles can be an agent of change for the patient and can help patients to bring back their smiles and energy. It is said that the power of the molecule is released by the hands of a pharmacist. Always, excited and happy to contribute indirectly or directly to the health of the society.
When you graduated, what did you envision for your future?
It was nothing special and was very common as most would. Our education was more inclined towards product (industry-centric) than the patients, and I grew up in an exam- oriented system than practice relevant skill and knowledge-building systems. I am talking of the late 1980s. So, post-graduation, I had plans for a job in industry/academia or was planning for a Ph.D. and nothing special or different envisioned for my future.
How has your career evolved since you first started in the profession?What have been some of the highlights of your career?
In my professional journey, I started my career as an academician in a pharmacy college in the year 1996 and for the first five years, I fully focused on my college and my school-aged child. But I had something going on in my mind. The social aim of our profession has always attracted me. My perspective towards the pharmacy profession had changed when I lived in the United States for three years after marriage in the early 1990s. I had realised that the community pharmacy practice in our country was much behind the developed nations, and health literacy levels were also low. These realizations had somewhere created positive restlessness in me and were driving me to do something, but I was not clear where and how to start. I am most grateful to life, which brought some opportunities my way; also I met some mentors and like-minded colleagues and this steered my future professional path.
I took every opportunity which came my way, devoted myself fully to it, built strong networks, spent the majority of my free time, and it has always been voluntary work and slowly without even realizing it, I had started working locally, nationally and internationally as well. In 2012, I became the first woman vice-president of IPA in its 75-plus years of history and also won the election to be on the executive committee of FIP Community Pharmacy Section. And in 2020 got elected as vice-president of FIP. It's amazing and humbling that I could work with so many outstanding pharmacy professionals. I am really very happy to have such a global family – rather, "pharmily." I see and work with many inspiring leaders in FIP and in India.
I had never looked at myself or dreamt of leadership roles in the beginning of my career. Gratitude towards every mentor and colleague who facilitated me to reach this level. Blessed to have a family who support me, understand the social value of my work.
What is (or has been) your greatest challenge as a leader in pharmacy?
Changing the mindset of pharmacists or policy makers. Making your voice heard especially in a huge country like India is not always easy. Advocacy for the pharmacy profession with the politicians is needed and should be a continuous process.
As a leader in pharmacy, what continues to drive you?
In a country like India, I can see so much work remains undone, which never permits me to go in the comfort zone, stay relaxed or complacent. I want to keep working to enhance the role of pharmacists and for the welfare of the pharmacist.
Of course, satisfaction of any positive outcomes, small or big, or any form of recognition also helps to focus your energy and enthusiasm to keep working. It is not that you do the work to get recognition. But if you do get it, it is a booster to your work and also adds more responsibility to you. I am really grateful for all the awards, recognition which different social and professional organisations gave at the local and global level.
In the early stages of my career, a national newspaper featured me in its Spirit of Mumbai series, as a “Woman on a Mission.” This title is engraved on my brain and at every weak moment or at every obstacle, I am reminded of it, and it tells me, "Well, there is so much more work to do, you are on a mission...keep going….”
Looking at your career, what are you the proudest of?
I am really thankful to the Almighty that I can keep working with the self-motivation and can carve a path less travelled. Also, the fact that I make an effort to do only meaningful work and don’t lose connection with the ground realities. Any of my colleagues or friends whom I meet after a long gap, they spontaneously say, Manjiri , you are always on the go, no matter what!
Also, I like the fact that I easily work with so many stakeholders: students, pharmacists, professional organisations, the corporate sector, trade associations, media, consumer organizations. It is really an enriching journey.
What legacy would you like to leave to the pharmacy profession?
Again, I do not think that I have reached those heights that I would think of leaving behind a legacy. But I can say one thing for sure, one should have perseverance and persistence and keep in mind “patient first” and then think about what and how you can work through your professional role to build healthier societies and advance the pharmacy profession.
Women are making a big name for themselves in pharmacy. What does this mean to you professionally and personally?
Feel super proud and truly happy to see how women are climbing the ladders in pharmacy and wish to see more of it.
What advice would you give to new female pharmacy graduates?
I have enjoyed my womanhood. Women must believe in themselves, must be courageous to take and look for opportunities. Where there is a will, there is a way. My belief has been that our sincerity, purity of purpose and hard work speak for us, which takes us beyond gender. There is no shortcut to success. Staying focused, utilizing time effectively and staying connected to the ground is very important.