Alumna and Pharmacist Reena Lavji is making a positive impact on the health of patients across Canada
After graduating from Keele in 2011, Reena has been the medical lead for new medications that are helping people living with diabetes and obesity in her current position as Associate Medical Director at Novo Nordisk Canada Inc.
Pharmacist Reena Lavji is making a positive impact on the health of patients across Canada. After graduating from Keele in 2011, Reena has been the medical lead for new medications that are helping people living with diabetes and obesity. In her current position as Associate Medical Director at Novo Nordisk Canada Inc, a multinational pharmaceutical company that employs more than 53,000 people globally, Reena is now helping to guide and nurture the next generation of pharmacists, helped by the skills and knowledge she picked up while studying her Master’s in Pharmacy in Staffordshire.
Reena, who was born and grew-up in Canada, said: “After graduating, I went from working in retail pharmacy to being a consultant pharmacist in long-term-care, servicing several nursing and retirement homes. In this position, I was able to use my skills as a pharmacist to help patients who were facing many different medical conditions and was able to work alongside many knowledgeable physicians and nurses.
“After this, I wanted to take on a new challenge, so I began exploring work as a pharmacist in the pharmaceutical industry. Novo Nordisk was hiring for a medical affairs project manager to assist the medical advisor with a launch of a medication in the obesity space. In this position, I took on the challenge of not only being an expert in a therapeutic area that was new to me, but also to learn and become a medical expert in the pharmaceutical industry, particularly in medical affairs.
“Since then, I have had the opportunity to work on, as well as be the medical lead for, the launch of new medications in diabetes as well as obesity as a senior medical advisor and now, as an associate medical director. I am now able to make an impact on patients' lives nationwide. I do this by working with key opinion leaders and medical associations in Canada. I also have the opportunity to generate real world evidence, and work closely with and provide medical guidance to my cross-functional colleagues, including medical science liaisons, strategic operations, clinical development, marketing, regulatory affairs, patient access, and sales.”
Before finishing her Bachelor of Science, Psychology degree at University of Guelph, in Canada, Reena had decided she wanted to carry on her studies overseas to experience living abroad. After being accepted onto several courses, she did her research and picked Keele – a decision she has never regretted.
“The biggest positive about studying at Keele was the practical element of the course. With an undergraduate degree you can do a lot of reading and learning but come away from it asking yourself ‘how can I apply what I actually learned’? When I looked at Keele and saw the hands-on elements of the course and the placements offered, it was exactly what I knew I needed. I was able to learn how to consult with patients, dispense and counsel on medications, and learn from hospital and community pharmacy placements. At Keele, I felt like I could jump out of the course and apply the skills into an actual job in the real world.”
Reena admits living outside of Canada for the first time took some getting used to. But after settling in, she became an active member of the University’s community, including co-founding the Hindu Society. And Reena says the support she received from her lecturers at Keele made a massive difference.
She said: “I was away from my family and friends. I decided to get involved in societies wherever I could, and that introduced me to so many new people. I also became a Mentor and tour guide where I used to take future students and their families on campus tours. I just did as much as I could to be involved in the University and connect with new people, and that really helped. I ended up feeling part of Keele and loved all the relationships and connections I made. The campus at Keele is beautiful and I cherish the memories I made there.
“I also had such supportive, understanding professors during my time at Keele, who treated me like a friend and peer rather than just a student. Knowing I had that support network behind me made such a big difference with being away from home.”
Reena now has a young family in Canada, and hopes to visit Keele again in the future so she can show her two children around the campus. When asked about her advice to Keele’s current crop of students, she said: “Keep an open mind to new opportunities, even those which are out of your comfort zone. Look for a mentor early on in your career, find those who have walked similar paths to where you want to be and learn from them. Finally, know that it may take time to find your ‘niche’ and a career that you’re passionate about, but don’t give up, it will come.”