Maria Kwari: Award-winning qualities you should seek when hiring a pharmacist

January 31, 2023 The Tablet

Maria Kwari graduated from the University of B.C.’s Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences in 2002 and owned her first pharmacy in 2006. Both her parents were pharmacists and pharmacy owners. Kwari’s family owns seven locations, among them traditional community pharmacies and smaller health centre stores. Today, Kwari oversees approximately 100 employees, including pharmacists, nurses and assistants. 

Here are the award-winning qualities she seeks when interviewing potential team members for her business.

By Maria Kwari, BSc(Pharm)

Patient Care

When I'm hiring for patient care I am looking for somebody who sincerely cares about their patients and has an extensive knowledgebase. These quality traits are what will separate someone who is excellent in patient care from other pharmacists, and will enable them to provide elevated level of care for our patients. 

As a business owner, I want my pharmacies to become a destination for patients when they need medical advice, and for my pharmacist to be that person in the health-care team who can make a difference for the patient. That’s especially important in this day and age where getting in touch with a doctor is so difficult, but the patient will always be able to access their pharmacist.


Innovation within pharmacy is thinking outside of the box. We all have the same training coming from university, to be innovative means you take that training to the next level and apply that knowledge in different ways that will help your practice and help your patients. 

This is important, because if you have the passion for a particular field of pharmacy and you can be innovative with it, you're going to try to find different ways to help others. As a business owner, I would like somebody to think outside of the box, who will bring different services to our patients, and who will help our business differentiate ourselves. For example, my most recent hire came up with a migraine consultation, which is something new. In pharmacy I’ve regularly seen asthma consults and diabetes consults, so migraine consults became this great new service that our pharmacy has been able to provide. It’s been very successful.


We're not taught business ownership in school. So mentorship for me is to have someone who can teach the practical part of pharmacy, of business ownership and of things that you just don't learn from the books. Personally, I definitely have experienced the benefit of learning from my parents who mentored me. It’s guidance and learning along the way. By having a mentor, whether or not the mentor is somebody from the pharmacy industry or not, you learn experiences the mentor has had, that you can gain from and apply to pharmacy.


A leader ensures things are done properly from start to finish. For example, if I'm looking to hire a pharmacy manager I'm looking for great communication skills and interpersonal skills. They have to be able to follow the pharmacy manager guidelines, but also have the soft skills, such as dealing with people whether it’s customers or handling human resources. This means being able read cues from the staff to see what their needs are and the ability to help them with their needs.


Pharmacy is only one branch of health and it's our responsibility to become more in tune with how other health-care providers are working with our patients. If we understand what message they’re receiving from their physician, the patient will probably listen more to our advice to hopefully improve their health outcomes. Having relationships with physicians who knows and trusts that they can send their patients to you can be important. When a physician trusts you, they will often be more open to your recommendations, since they know you and understand where you are coming from.

New Practitioner

It can be difficult coming just out of school. You’re in a graduating class of 200-plus students who all have the same skills and the same degrees. What we would look for is someone who differentiates themselves and sets themselves apart from others. I would look for somebody who is well-spoken, who has good interpersonal skills, is motivated in what they do, and is somebody who is keen and willing to learn. 

Community Involvement

Community service is important for the pharmacist to have because it shows they care about their community. Having empathy for those around you is really important and your patients will feel that. If there were two equal candidates in front of me, but one had volunteer experience and the other didn’t, I would pick the one with volunteer experience. It shows they have taken the initiative to help their community, and that they’ve given their time to help others.

As a business owner, I am very thankful to have pharmacists within my teams who have these traits. It has made our teams stronger and has provided inspiration to other pharmacists and staff within our teams. These traits also help foster that sense of community that we look for within our stores. Patients notice it too. They see that the level of care we bring stands apart from many others, and is a big reason why we have a loyal customer base that follows us. 

Maria Kwari has been a pharmacist since 2002 and owns seven pharmacies in the Vancouver Island and Lower Mainland regions. When not at work, she enjoys spending time with her family. 

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.