Murray Dykeman Mentorship Award: Ryan Kullar

The Tablet

There was never a question in Ryan Kullar’s mind that he would become a pharmacist. Growing up in the small northern Vancouver Island community of Port Alberni, Kullar regularly spent his weekends and school breaks working alongside his father, who owned and managed an independent pharmacy for 20 years.

“When I left [Port Alberni] at 18, I knew I wanted to do pharmacy because I already knew so much about it,” he says. “My biggest mentor was my own dad.” Kullar, however, knew he wanted to forge his own path and while different from his father’s experience, was drawn to a more corporate model of community pharmacy, through Shoppers Drug Mart.

As a student intern at the national company throughout his pharmacy education, Kullar advanced quickly with Shoppers Drug Mart, taking on the role of associate owner of several locations, in Burnaby, Langley and North Vancouver, at just 24.

“When I became an associate owner in 2008, I was one of the youngest people in Canada in the role,” says Kullar, who notes that the company has since shifted its model, offering advancement opportunities to pharmacists of all ages. “A lot of people look at me as a trailblazer in the company – it’s what I’m known for and a lot of people now benefit from that.”

Through that experience of inspiring his pharmacy colleagues to take on new professional challenges, Kullar sought a new opportunity in 2012 to expand his reach as one of two pharmacy operations specialists in BC and the Yukon. Overseeing 82 stores across the province, Kullar works with franchise owners to achieve key performance goals, identify and monitor opportunities for future franchisees and ensure regulation compliance.

“I love a challenge, and I wanted to affect the broader scope of pharmacy,” Kullar says. “Developing and mentoring talent, not just in my store, but in the company as a whole, I can have an even greater impact – helping associate owners achieve more than they could ever think they could achieve.”

As a self-described “guy in the trenches,” you won’t often find Kullar in his office. Instead he’s travelling throughout his designated area – from Vancouver Island to northern BC, the Yukon, and many communities throughout the Lower Mainland – meeting with associate owners, leading workshops, providing feedback and problem solving, in an effort to expand the role of pharmacy care across BC.

Known for his approachable, authentic management style, Kullar’s one-on-one meetings have often led to new opportunities, expanded services and increased confidence for pharmacists looking to move up within the company.

“Ryan always makes the time to sit down with his fellow pharmacists and has a genuine interest in their story,” says Chidi Nwaogwugwu, a pharmacy manager with the company. “He goes above and beyond to ensure they feel comfortable with their current progress. His mentoring has helped me become more focused in my career and helped me become a better leader and mentor to others.”

Kullar is a passionate advocate for continuing education and certification training, in an effort to further customer service through services such as medication adaptations and vaccination consultations. “I hope to help change the lives of British Columbians,” he says. “Every professional service we offer, that’s how we convince people that pharmacists are more than just pill pushers.”

At just 32, Kullar is widely respected by his many pharmacy colleagues across the province, many of which are young, new associate owners themselves, navigating the challenges, pitfalls and opportunities of juggling both pharmacy and business management.

“I had not been a pharmacist for a very long time, however, I was becoming somewhat disillusioned with what we had learned our role was in pharmacy school and what it was shaping up to be in practice,” says Kiran Basran, a Shoppers Drug Mart associate owner in Burnaby. “Ryan became a mentor to me and has helped me greatly to understand that the field is only going to change and become more advanced with our hard work and activism. He pushes the envelope on what we as pharmacists believe our role should be.”

“Ryan is a person who always thinks about how to make things better and easier for everyone,” adds Jason Wong, a pharmacy manager with Shoppers in Vancouver. “I have come a long way since I first started practicing pharmacy in 2013 and Ryan was instrumental to my success.”

Although his career path has taken a decidedly different bent to his own father’s, Kullar says his dad is proud of what he has accomplished on behalf of pharmacy practice. “I think of all of the people I’ve mentored over the years, and it makes me really proud of myself for helping people to achieve the best we can achieve,” says Kullar. “I’m proud to be a good citizen.”

Kullar lives in Richmond with his family and says he is grateful for the support of his wife Kiran and two sons, Kalan and Javan.

This article is featured in The Tablet. The Tablet features pharmacy and industry news, profiles on B.C. pharmacists, information on research developments and new products.