Escaping the ashes of a terrible war, Dragana Skokovic-Sunjic came to Canada to start a new life as a pharmacist, helping patients not only receive their medication but understand it as well.
Skokovic-Sunjic, 45, completed a four-year degree in Pharmacy at the University of Sarajevo in the former Yugoslavia and her first job was as a teaching assistant in the medical faculty. She left Sarajevo, today’s capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the 1990s to escape the war that tore apart the former Yugoslavia and came to Canada to finally pursue a career as a pharmacist because she found the pharmacists she met inspiring.
“I was always impressed with the professionalism of pharmacists behind the counter, so that’s what inspired me,” she said.
Now a pharmacist at Dell Pharmacy in Beamsville, Ont., Skokovic-Sunjic says coming to Canada to start a new life wasn’t easy but she felt motivated to succeed in a field that she loved.
“Starting with a new country and a new language, it was a very challenging time but the challenge inspired me in a way,” she said.
Along with dispensing medication, most pharmacists also maintain knowledge of various drugs and medicines and their interactions within the body, monitor drug therapy and, most importantly for Skokovic-Sunjic, interact with patients on a personal level.
A mentor told her a long time ago that the secret to working with patients is to treat each one in the same way you would treat your own mother and Skokovic-Sunjic heartily agrees.
“Every patient is a person who has a history, preferences and story behind them. It’s important to recognize that and appreciate that — patients can feel when they’re appreciated,” she said.
A sense of purpose keeps Skokovic-Sunjic motivated in her job as well as an innate feeling of responsibility to patients.
“The biggest reward is knowing that I’m making a change in people’s lives and being recognized for playing a part in their health. You get to know patients and their families, so making a difference in their lives is very satisfying,” she said.
Skokovic-Sunjic teaches continuing education seminars and shares her experiences and knowledge whenever she can because she believes in giving back to the community.
She advises young pharmacists to “make sure that you’re comfortable connecting with patients because that’s what it all boils down to. Yes, you are there to handle medication but ultimately it’s the patients you’re dealing with, not the drugs,” she said.