Making a difference in the community with the Black Pharmacy Students’ Association

Jeremy interviews pharmacy students Aisha and Camala about their leadership of an upcoming community health event.



YouAlberta is written by students for students.

Jeremy (he/him) is in his final year of a MA in Communications and Technology (MACT) at the U of A. When he's not writing a paper or reading a book, you can find him on some of Edmonton's river valley trails, or trying to get sendy on his skis.

Aisha Ibrahim (fourth-year PharmD) and Camala Soliman (third-year PharmD) are U of A students and leaders of the Black Pharmacy Students’ Association (BPSA). 

This weekend (April 6 from 3 - 6 p.m.), they are organizing a Community Health Expo in Partnership with L’Oreal Dermatological Beauty at the Castle Downs YMCA in north Edmonton. Organized in partnership with Black Pharmacy Professionals of Canada (BPPC), this event will bring health information and access to health professionals to an often underserved community. 

I was able to interview both students to learn more about the impactful work they are doing as well as their collaboration with the Dean of Students and U of A faculty members.



What motivated you to bring care to the community with this event?

Aisha: We were driven to organize this community health event because we recognized the pressing need for accessible health education and resources, particularly in addressing minor ailments, dermatological conditions and chronic illnesses. 

Drawing from my experiences as a pharmacy student, I’ve observed the challenges patients face in accessing necessary resources, thus, our goal with this event was to bridge this care gap. While this event is inclusive and open to everyone, we also recognize the many health issues that disproportionately affect the Black community. We wanted to create an event tailored to raising awareness and providing support within this community. 

Camala: Last year, we hosted a community event similar to this one, where the focus was on dermatological conditions. After taking time to reflect on ways to make this year's event even more beneficial for attendees, we decided to feature topics such as minor ailments and chronic conditions in addition to dermatology. There is a great deal of misinformation in regards to these topics, so we felt that this event would be an amazing opportunity to provide education on a variety of topics that impact many people. 

The Black Pharmacy Students' Association (BPSA)

How does organizing and participating in an event like this help with your future careers as health-care professionals?

Aisha: This event aligns perfectly with my long-standing passion for promoting health equity and community empowerment. It not only allows me to actively address these issues, but it also enhances my communication skills through engagement with attendees and various health-care providers. Moreover, it presents an opportunity for me to engage with individuals from diverse backgrounds. I recognize that being able to tailor health care approaches to meet the unique needs of various populations is crucial for providing culturally competent care. This event not only benefits the communities I serve but also provides me with invaluable learning experiences that I see contributing to my personal and professional growth as a health-care professional. 

Camala: Pharmacists are the most accessible health-care professionals, and we are often the first point of contact for many patients. 

As someone who is incredibly passionate about advocating for the provision of culturally competent care to further reduce barriers to accessing care, this event is a great opportunity to provide education as a means of addressing health inequities, which disproportionately impact racialized and ethnic minorities. This event will be a great opportunity to provide education on topics such as chronic disease management, preventative health and lifestyle factors to community members, and will help address the underlying social determinants of health. Additionally. as a future health-care professional, this event allows me to interact with various community members and develop my communication and leadership skills, which will allow me to serve as an advocate for the populations I serve. 

You will be collaborating with Dr. Ravina Sanghera (Dean of Students and clinical associate professor) as well as Dr. Parbeer (Perry) Grewal (associate clinical professor) at this event. How did this collaboration come about and how has it shaped your perspective on student-faculty collaboration?

Aisha: The collaboration with Dr. Ravina Sanghera and Dr. Parbeer Grewal stemmed from a mutual commitment to community engagement and addressing diverse health care needs. Dr. Sanghera and Dr. Grewal were also involved in last year’s event, which focused on dermatological conditions in richly-pigmented skin tones. This year’s event builds upon that foundation and expands its scope. Through this collaboration, I’ve gained insights into the significance of interdisciplinary teamwork in advancing health care initiatives. 

Camala:  Both this year and last year’s events stress the importance of student-faculty collaboration as a way to address underlying health inequities to improve health outcomes for racialized and ethnic minority communities. 

The event poster

What do you hope attendees can gain from this event?

Aisha: My hope is that attendees will gain valuable knowledge and resources to help them manage their health effectively. By increasing awareness about common health issues and highlighting available resources for management, we hope they feel equipped with the tools they need when it comes to taking preventive measures and making lifestyle choices that can positively impact their health. We hope that this event increases attendees' health literacy so that they can become active participants in their own healthcare journey, and can make informed decisions about their health. 

Camala: My hope is that attendees will walk away from this event with an increased understanding regarding the management of various health conditions and preventative health measures. Additionally, I hope they feel more empowered to take on a more active role in making informed decisions about their health and adopting positive lifestyle changes. Lastly, I hope attendees are able to walk away with a greater understanding of the various resources and health services that are available to them.

What is one piece of advice you’d give to students organizing an event like this in the future?

Aisha: One piece of advice I would give students organizing an event like this in the future is to prioritize collaboration. This event would not be what it is today without the help of a range of partners and sponsors, including L’Oreal, Sobeys, the Alberta Pharmacists’ Association (RxA), the U of A pharmacy faculty, and various health-care professionals. Organizing this event in conjunction with the Black Pharmacy Professionals of Canada (BPPC) has truly been crucial and allowed this event to evolve to what it is currently

Camala: One piece of advice I would give to students looking to organize an event like this is to focus on collaboration, especially with organizations with a shared vision. Collaborating with the BPPC has been the key driving force in bringing about this event. Having the opportunity to collaborate with other organizations to bring about positive social change has been instrumental.