Smarta Healthcare Pharmacist Baljit Kaur shares her advice to aspiring scientists this International Day of Women and Girls in Science
Baljit Kaur, Co-Founder and Director of Pharmacy Services at Bedford-based Smarta Healthcare, began her career studying Pharmacy at the University of Nottingham. After completing her Masters Degree, Baljit moved to Bedford in 1999 and worked as a pharmacist for Boots and Lloyds pharmacies.
Recognising a need to provide pharmacy and health services for people isolated and unable to access local healthcare within Bedford, Baljit set up Smarta Healthcare with husband Harjinder in 2015 at Priory Business Park. It has grown to include a health clinic offering a range of services from travel vaccinations to corporate employee health and wellbeing services, and in June 2021, it became a Covid-19 vaccination centre.
To celebrate International Day of Women and Girls in Science (11th February), Baljit shares what inspired her to study pharmacy, and what advice she has for women and girls interested in a career in science.
What attracted you to a career in the pharmacy industry?
I always knew I wanted to pursue a career involving science. At school I loved learning about chemical reactions, molecular structure and bonding. The way the human body works astonished me and led me to become a pharmacist.
Meeting the health needs of the people we support is very rewarding work. It feels good to know that I’ve been able to make a positive impact on people’s lives through my chosen career.
Throughout my career, I’ve learnt so much and been able to help people of all ages with different needs. The role has certainly changed over the years from when I first qualified, evolving into a more patient-centric, clinical role.
What’s the best part of your job as a Pharmacist Superintendent?
As the Director of Pharmacy Services, I have a duty to ensure the safe and trusted supply of medications and services to patients. The needs of patients are always at the heart of all processes and decisions I make. From the choices around pharmacy premises layout, to the handing over of medication to the patient, each and every process has to be safe and minimise risk. This involves keeping up-to-date with, and implementing the latest and best standards of practice, as well as recognising and acting upon any limitations. When I set up new patient services, I need to make sure that they meet all the clinical compliance requirements, as well as creating the process and staff training that make it possible.
From the patient’s perspective, I need to ensure that the medication they receive optimises their health and improves their quality of life. What’s more, the services that patients receive need to be handled with care and compassion. As a female pharmacist, I feel the qualities required to fulfil this role are, to a certain degree, instinctive.
Being able to help people get better on a daily basis is a great feeling. I’ll never forget when my daughter was once ill, she said to me, ‘Mummy, I’m so glad you’re a pharmacist, because you know how to help me get better’. She’s now in her third year studying pharmacy also.
Who inspires you?
I continue to be inspired by many women in my life. One that comes to mind is British physician, Elizabeth Blackwell. She became the first women in the world to receive a medical degree in the United States, and the first woman on the Medical Register of the General Medical Council. She is one of the reasons I chose to study science and make a positive impact on people’s lives.
She believed that the natural, caring instinct of a woman helps lessen the suffering of those who are ill. Her contributions to creating social reform and promoting education for women in medicine are truly inspirational.
What advice do you have to women and girls that would like to pursue a career in science?
Embrace challenges. By doing so, you push yourself to become a better version of yourself. Opportunities don’t come to you – you have to decide for yourself what you want to accomplish, and then plan and work hard at achieving it. Learn from your setbacks, and persevere with your goals.
Build and nurture a support network – both professional and personal. When we were setting up Smarta Healthcare, my children were 10 and 13. I would have really struggled without the vital support from my family during such a busy time.
Whatever you do, have no fear and be proud of the work you do.