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Reena Barai: comfy shoes, having no regrets and living la dolce vita

A minute in the company of the pharmacy owner and National Pharmacy Association board member.

Reena Barai, pharmacist, montage

Who is Reena Barai?

  • Newly elected National Pharmacy Association board member — the first female appointee for four years
  • Independent community pharmacy contractor and pharmacy owner in Sutton, Surrey, since 2003
  • Previously a hospital and primary care pharmacist, and Centre for Pharmacy Postgraduate Education tutor

What was your earliest ambition?

To be a pharmacist, like my father.

What is special about the place you grew up?

I grew up above the pharmacy I now run. Since I was a one-year-old, I always wanted to be downstairs talking to people.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a pharmacist?

Either a chef or an events organiser.

What was your best career move?

After 10 years of being in my comfort zone, I decided on a whim to apply for a job at the Centre for Pharmacy Postgraduate Education, and got the job!

Outside of work, when people come to you for help, what do they usually want help with?

Ideas or personal problems — I’m quite a good listener.

What have you only recently formed an opinion about?

Diversity. I have always thought people should be hired because of merit. Only recently have my eyes been opened to the need for diversity.

What are some things you have had to unlearn?

The need to talk. A wise person once said to me: “You have two ears and one mouth. Use them in that measure.”

To whom would you most like to apologise?

No one. I live life with a clear conscience.

Who has impressed you most with what they have accomplished?

My mum. She was widowed at a young age but raised my brother and I single handedly, and did it with a smile on her face the whole way through.

What’s the best way to start the day?

With a positive attitude. Whatever attitude you choose to have, you spread that message to people around you too.

What question would you most like to know the answer to?

My staff and I wish we all knew when we were going to die, to remind us to live life to the full.

What small gesture from a stranger made a big impact on you?

A woman came up to me at a conference and said, “I can tell you are a very special person, but I can also tell you need to look after yourself.” She gave me a book, ‘Who are the flowers in your garden?’ I balled my eyes out while reading it. The woman was the author, Julie New.

What personality trait do you value most and which do you dislike the most?

I value empathy and dislike jealousy.

When people look at you, what do you think they see?

They see a very assured, confident person. Someone very different to who I think I am.

What can you not get right, no matter how many times you try?

Ice skating, roller skating, any kind of skating. I just can’t.

What do you take for granted?

My health, we just assume we are healthy all of the time.

Where do you usually go when you have time off?

Every school holiday my family and I open a map of England, and we have a “Premier Inn” holiday for a night or two. Every holiday we discover a new place.

How different was your life one year ago?

Last year was incredible, I turned 40. I took several short breaks and travelled around Italy and lived ‘la dolce vita’. I switched off from pharmacy and social media. It was very purposeful and mindful.

What’s worth spending more on to get the best?

Comfortable shoes.

What single innovation in pharmacy has made the most difference in your field?

The introduction of consultation rooms.

If you had the chance to do it all again, what would you change?

Nothing. I live my life with no regrets. You have to learn from your mistakes and grow.

If you were a drug, what drug would you be and why?

Domperidone — it sounds like a fancy champagne, makes things easier to swallow, and sometimes has an effect on people’s hearts.

Know an interesting pharmacist?

Let us know if there is anyone you think The Pharmaceutical Journal should feature. Email with their name and contact details.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2018.20204789

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