On Monday morning, Ayub Chishti walks around his pharmacy preparing prescriptions and paperwork. A student drops by minutes before opening and asks for advice on a skin infection.
This is common practice for Chishti. He is used to students stopping by since he opened the Campus Pharmacy in 2016 on the University of New Brunswick’s campus. The independent pharmacy shares a building with the campus bookstore and is a short walk from St. Thomas University.
In his shop, students can find everything from cold medicine to pregnancy tests on the shelves. He tries to keep prices low and makes his own chapstick to sell in-house.
“When [people] see this pharmacy, they see a very small pharmacy, but we have everything that a big pharmacy has — and actually we might even have more,” said Chishti.
Behind the counter, Chishti and his team can diagnose students, do check-ups and fill prescriptions.
The province recognized the Campus Pharmacy as a primary caregiver on Sept. 1, a change that Chishti said, “is really quite historical.”
In New Brunswick, pharmacists are allowed to prescribe certain medications. Chishti said he prescribes mainly for urinary tract infections, eye infections and skin infections. He also offers consultations, vaccinations for travel and booster doses for COVID-19.
Apart from physical ailments, people will also come in to talk about their mental health. They will tell Chishti how they are doing or if their medication is working.
“It makes you feel very humble knowing that people are asking questions, that it’s about a very intimate part of their life,” he said. “It makes you feel good that they feel comfortable enough to come to you.”
In terms of prescription drugs, the Campus Pharmacy carries more than the average pharmacy because of its diverse clientele. Chishti sees staff, faculty, students and customers from his previous work come into the store.
“We don’t really do a lot of advertising, it’s just by word of mouth,” said Chishti. “Everyone is welcome at this pharmacy.”
Born in Pakistan, Chishti moved to England when he was 11, where he grew up and completed his degree. He joined his parents in Prince Edward Island before making a permanent home in Fredericton.
The Campus Pharmacy is Chishti’s fourth pharmacy to open in Fredericton. He specializes in diabetes, sports medicine and travel vaccines.
“I just try to utilize all the knowledge that [I] have to try and provide the best service that [I] can,” said Chishti.
When the Campus Pharmacy received doses of the COVID-19 vaccine last summer, Chishti had people coming in from all over Fredericton. His team of six administered thousands of vaccines.
Word spread fast about the efficiency of the clinics at the Campus Pharmacy.
“There was a day where the phone rang every two seconds,” said Chishti. “I remember one of my staff saying, ‘can we just unhook the phone for 10 minutes?’”
In the days after the vaccine was first released, people were booking shots at multiple pharmacies, then calling back to cancel. The constant stream of COVID-19 calls created tension for employees.
“I’m really very proud of the people who work with me,” said Chishti. “They did a fantastic job of remaining calm.”
Rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine was different from other vaccines. Unlike with vaccines that have been around for the past 100 years, pharmacists were getting new information and updated mandates daily.
But like other vaccines, there were a set of provincial and federal regulations they had to follow.
“For example, the flu vaccine is good for a month in the fridge,” said Chishti. “The Pfizer vaccine is only good for six hours.”
The public’s perception of the vaccine proved challenging for Chishti and his team. He said all the information being shared was not given by Health Canada.
Sometimes it was hard to convince people. One patron threatened Chishti when he told him he had to wait until the next day to get his vaccine.
One customer thought the pharmacy gave them the wrong vaccine because the medical name for the vaccine, Tozinameran, was written on the label instead of Pfizer, the manufacturing company.
“Another girl, she claimed that we gave her the wrong vaccine again and we didn’t do it right. The reason was because she saw on television that there was an orange flap attached to the needle and we didn’t have the orange flap,” said Chishti.
After 30 years working in the field, Chishti said the stress doesn’t bother him. He said if he pleases 99 per cent of customers 100 per cent of the time, he is doing all right.
His favourite part of his job as a campus pharmacist is the people, “you’ve got to love people.”
STU gave the Campus Pharmacy an award for providing excellent service in 2019. This past March, the pharmacy received another award from the UNB Students’ Union.
“That makes us feel good,” said Chishti. “That we’re doing something right.”
Kenzie Acheson is a STU student who thinks Chishti is doing something right. In their first year, they came into the pharmacy and Chishti diagnosed them with a chest infection. He told Acheson what they needed to do and explained the medication they were given. Later, Acheson got a call from Chishti checking if the medication was working.
“It just warmed my heart a little bit,” said Acheson. “He’s just so nice.”
They said it seems like Chishti remembers who all his patients are, despite seeing many students throughout the day. First going to the pharmacy out of convenience, they return despite living off-campus.
Acheson said having a pharmacy on campus is important for students. For many, it is their first time dealing with medical challenges alone. In university, there is no mom to make chicken soup or a fully-stocked medicine drawer in the bathroom.
Acheson said having a kind medical professional nearby helps make the transition easier.
“Campus would be lost without him.”