THEY are also frontliners, with roles comparable to doctors, and they play a no lesser important role in ensuring patients recover and come back stronger.
Yes, they are none other than our compassionate groups of pharmacists.
More often than not, pharmacists are viewed as least important, but this misconception must be dispelled, especially here in Malaysia, because they are usually the last line of defence before patients are prescribed their medications.
Here in Penang, we have our very own pharmacist, Gina Koay Wan Lee, 46, who founded the City Wellness Pharmacy in Island Glades.
What sets her apart is that she doesn’t run a conventional, retail pharmacy but rather a community pharmacy, which is quite rare in Malaysia.
Comparatively, a community and a retail pharmacy don’t differ much, but a community pharmacy provides treatment for emergency cases and serves more like a primary service care provider.
During an interview with Buletin Mutiara on Feb 6 at her pharmacy, Koay recalled a couple of emergency cases she had to deal with in the past, one of which involved attending to an individual with severe hand injury and profuse bleeding.
“I still clearly remember this incident when a distressed woman on a motorcycle urgently pulled up at my pharmacy to seek immediate medical assistance for her friend who had sustained a cut.
“She told me to hop on the motorcycle with her to get to a place nearby. Without thinking twice, I quickly grabbed everything that was needed.
“The individual was at a nearby school, where I administered treatment to stop the bleeding. I then advised the person to visit the nearest clinic for further care.
“So, this was one good example of an incident that I can recall instantly, despite having encountered various other cases too.
“We (community pharmacy) are more like a primary care service provider as we try our best to prevent further damage, provide remedies and advise individuals to clinics or hospitals, if necessary, for further diagnosis and treatment,” Koay said.
Koay earned her Bachelor of Pharmacy degree from Curtin University of Technology in Australia and served as the chairman of the Malaysian Pharmacists Society (MPS) Penang branch for six years before stepping down last year.
She is the former chairman of WomenBIZSens, a local networking group dedicated to helping women entrepreneurs learn and connect with business leaders.
Being a people person, Koay shared that in her youth, she aspired to become a doctor. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, she opted to become a pharmacist. She is happy that she is still able to serve the people and educate them about the importance of public health.
Koay, who started her pharmacy practice in Penang in 2007 when she returned from Australia, experienced culture shock concerning the role of pharmacists in the country.
Last year, Koay bagged the Federation of Asian Pharmaceutical Association (FAPA) award at the 29th FAPA Congress held at the Taipei International Convention Centre in Taiwan last October.
Asked about her future plans, Koay said she wants to set up a diabetes club. This initiative aims to educate individuals diagnosed with diabetes, organise relevant activities to uplift them and instil hope that life is more than what it seems.
According to her, the subject of diabetes management has always been her favourite area of research and study.
Koay is also a speaker and an accredited HRDCorp trainer under the Human Resource Development Corporation.
She was also approached to be the mentor to the Asian Young Pharmacists Group.
Apart from serving the community through her profession, Koay is also a writer (contributor) crafting articles on community pharmacy. She has collaborated with non-governmental organisations to assist at Orang Asli settlements in the past.
As a trained speaker, she has conducted numerous health talks at educational institutions and companies in the past.
Story by Kevin Vimal
Pix by Law Suun Ting