Getting back as much as you give

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Pruntha and Jackie smiling

Recipients of the Azita Darabian award reflect on the impact of outside-the-classroom experiences. Left: Pruntha Kanagasundaram, right: Jackie Nguyen. 

The Azita Darabian award was established by the Darabian family in memory of Azita, a pharmacist and avid runner who was passionate about her work in the community.  

For pharmacy students, extracurricular and community engagement complement what they learn in the classroom and on work terms. In this article, two recipients of the Darabian award share how their extracurricular activities have changed them for the better: 

Pruntha Kanagasundaram 

Pruntha holds many leadership roles as a pharmacy student. She is the president of the Mental Health in Pharmacy club and vice president of Community Action Now. She is a liaison with CHSP-OB, a research assistant, and class rep for the Pharmacy Journal Club. In the community, she has supported the Health Sciences Campus vaccine clinic and tutors new Canadians in English at the KW Multicultural Centre.  

UW: Why is it important for you to make time for these activities despite the busy workload of a pharmacy student? 

PK: Being able to go out in the community and hear the perspectives of what our patients truly care about is invaluable. I like to take those experiences and reflect on how I can better serve my patients out in practice as a pharmacy student on co-op or rotations, or even as a pharmacist after graduation. 

Being involved outside of academics gives me an opportunity to remain grounded and feel inspired by pharmacist leaders around me to keep expanding the boundaries on how we as students can best serve the patients we take care of.  

UW: What are some memorable moments from your extracurricular/volunteer activities? 

PK: Immunizing the Waterloo community at the Health Sciences Vaccine Clinic during the summer of 2021 was an amazing experience. It was an honour to work alongside faculty members, community pharmacists and my pharmacy student colleagues. Many patients had questions and hesitations towards getting the new COVID vaccine but left the clinic comfortable and confident in their decision to protect themselves and their community. It was a very rewarding experience to be a part of.  

I also remember planning my first event for the mental health club where we had a UW alumnus who works at CAMH come in and talk to students about her experiences with patients living with mental illness. I am especially interested in supporting those living with mental illness, and this motivated me to continue to host events with speakers who work in unique areas of practice so that other pharmacy students can find inspiration. 

Pruntha helping run a virtual event (screencap showing her face and slides from event)

Pruntha (top right in group shot) speaking at an educational event she helped organize

Jackie Nguyen 

Jackie has been the CAPSI Junior Competitions Coordinator since spring 2021 and will be the Senior Competitions Coordinator in spring 2022. She was on the planning committee for Pharmacist Appreciation Month and is the vice president of administration with White Coat Collaboration. She is also a Pharmacy Ambassador and has volunteered with various vulnerable populations.   

UW: Why is it important for you to make time for these activities despite the busy workload of a pharmacy student? 

JN: Volunteering and doing extracurriculars is a form of self-care for me. It feels very good to give back to my community, to help others who need it most and to make people smile. And I always feel like I get back as much as I give, if not more.  

UW: What are some memorable moments from your extracurricular/volunteer activities? 

JN: Anytime I connect with people. Doing one-on-one visits with seniors in long-term care homes and learning about their lives. Answering questions and helping patients who are about to go in for surgery feel more comfortable. Spending an afternoon creating art with people that come from a less privileged background than me. It’s very nice, meeting people who are different from me, helping them and learning from their diverse experiences.  

I feel like they help me see myself clearer – my strengths and vulnerabilities, my personal biases and assumptions. Just as I’m helping them to improve their quality of life through volunteering, they’re helping me to become a better person and healthcare practitioner.  

The Darabian award is offered once annually to a first-year student. Valued at $6,000, the award allows students like Pruntha and Jackie to experience less financial burden and therefore be able to make meaningful contributions to their community and to enrich the lives of others.  

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