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The ‘truly inspirational’ pharmacist who always puts the community first

Girish Desai’s family and colleagues wanted his astounding 50-year career in community pharmacy to be recognised, so nominated him for a C+D Award

The team at Landys Chemist on Finchley Road, north London are no stranger to the C+D Awards stage, having won the Independent Pharmacy of the Year Award at 2021's event. But it is now the turn of the pharmacy's managing director Girish Desai to take a starring role after he was named Community Pharmacist of the Year at the C+D Awards 2022.

Girish bought the pharmacy from its previous owner, Tony Landy, in 1982 and it has expanded to cover more than 3,000 square feet since that time. With an ultra-modern look and feel, it has become a focal point for the north west London community it serves.

Read more: They’re back! C+D Awards officially return for 2023 with two new categories

But the longevity of the pharmacy itself is not the only thing keeping patients coming back. After a career spanning five decades, such is his reputation with the local community that if talk turns to health issues in the local coffee shop, you will hear, “Well, what did Girish say?” Even patients who have have moved away still frequently call to seek his advice advice and guidance.

Last year, Girish's hard work and stellar reputation reputation motivated his friends and family to nominate him for the C+D Awards 2022. His nomination caught the eyes of the judges, who lauded this "truly inspirational" pharmacist for "demonstrating the true value an individual can play over a long period of time in the health of others".

Following his awards success, Girish talks to C+D about his long career in pharmacy and what he's planning next.


Tell us more about you


I have been a pharmacist for the last 50 years. I worked for Boots from 1972 to 1978. Then I bought my first business in Hendon [in north west London]. From there on, I bought three or four more shops. I have sold them in the last 20 years so now we've ended up with just one big shop.

I was born in Uganda and my uncle always insisted that I should become a pharmacist. The reason for that was in Uganda, the best smelling shops were the pharmacies. [He was] someone who always put it in my mind that I should become a pharmacist, and I did.

Read more: A ‘true diamond’: The assistant manager who goes the extra mile 

I came to the UK to do my A-levels. I did my A-levels in Paddington College and from there I went to Brighton to do my pharmacy [course].

My uncle inspired me. I personally wanted to become a pilot and got a place to study in Scotland. But the fees were very expensive and we were three of us studying here. I felt a little bit sorry for my dad, having spent so much money, so I chose pharmacy instead.


Tell us about your career highs


My best moment in pharmacy was when I bought my first shop. When we were expelled from Uganda in 1972, we left with nothing. We had to leave everything behind and start afresh. That inspired me that I should really do something in terms of business to become something big, and I did.

I have never regretted my profession. I've always loved it – I love talking to people. I feel very honoured when they come to me when they are ill. I treat them, they get better and they come to thank me. It’s very fulfilling.

Read more: Could you win a C+D Award? Top tips to make your entry sparkle

I'm very lucky that my two daughters are pharmacists as well. So I'm always in the front, talking to people, advising people.

During my career, I didn't just want to be a pharmacist alone; I wanted to do other things. So in between, I studied homeopathy for two years and I passed with distinction.

I also studied phytotherapy, the study of plants, and I passed that as well, with distinction. I then studied nutrition and I will also become a nutritionist. So I can cover most of the things where people need treatment.

Winning the Community Pharmacist of the Year C+D Award has made me feel very proud. I exhibit it in the front of the shop and a majority of customers say it was deserved and that makes me very, very proud.


What's next?


As far as my career is concerned, I think I've done 50 years. Maybe I’ve overdone it. It’s time for me to think [about retirement] in the next few years.


And what does retirement look like?


More travelling. More playing golf. Playing with the grandchildren. I've got four grandchildren and I don't think I spend enough time with them, [so retirement] will give me more time [to do that].


The C+D Awards 2023 will take place at The Brewery in London on September 6. Could you or one of your colleagues be crowned as a C+D Award winner? Check out all the categories for the 2023 awards and enter today.

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