Tania Begum is a pharmacist, mother of three, and a Bangladeshi woman entrepreneur who co-owns Community Rx Pharmacy
in Warren, Mich. Begum was born in a middle-class family in Bangladesh. Her father was a pharmacist in Bangladesh who owned his own pharmacy, and her mother, a homemaker.
Her family moved to the United States in 1998 for educational opportunities.
“My father always emphasized going to school and finishing up our education,” she says.
Begum says she immersed herself in school and volunteering.
“Anything I could do with my time, I jumped in,” she says.
She was part of the Student Council, Key Club, a volunteering club, and National Honors Society at Hamtramck High School and volunteered every weekend at the Hamtramck Harvest food pantry.
Begum didn’t always know she was going to be a pharmacist. She wanted to do something in the medical field. She applied to Wayne State University Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences with encouragement from her mentors and reflecting on her father’s impact as a community pharmacist.
“Little did I know that I will be following his footsteps,” she says.
Begum volunteered and later worked at Save-Mor Pharmacy in Hamtramck, known for assisting newcomers.
“It was my first-hand experience (to see what) an independent pharmacy can do for the community,” she says.
Begum opened Community Rx Pharmacy in 2013 with co-owner Mahbubur Motlib
after seeing Bangladeshis were moving northward into Warren and Sterling Heights.
“We don't have a Bengali-speaking pharmacy in this location… we want to be with the people and be their support center, a resource center for them,” she says.
They started with 90 percent Bangladeshi patients but now serve 50 percent Bangladeshi, with the remaining patients coming from a mix of Pakistani, Middle Eastern, Chaldean, and other backgrounds.
“We have (people) in our pharmacy with people that speak different languages, Hindi, Urdu, Chaldean, and Arabic. So it's, you know, I'm proud to say that we serve a wide range of patients, and you know, they come because they saw the value in the service they receive and what they're able to get from the pharmacy,” she says.
She says being a community pharmacist is more than filling bottles with medications, from providing immunizations to medication therapy management and consultations. Before the pandemic, Begum was working on creating bilingual diabetic classes with pamphlets and educational materials.
“I found that passion where I want to be with people and the newcomers who don't understand the medication... who feel like they're lost... in the healthcare system,” she says.
Begum says the pharmacy had to start by gaining community trust. They attended social events, hosted health fairs, and gave educational lectures, “just letting people know that we are here to take care of them.”
Now the pharmacy has become a staple center for diverse communities in Metro Detroit.
“It's a doorstep for a lot of people to see what they're able to do what they're capable of doing; there is no limit, you know, as long as you put your mind and work to it, you can accomplish anything.”
Nargis Hakim Rahman interviewed Shamsun Nehar for the South Asian American Digital Archive as part of the Archival Creators Fellowship. Her project focuses on highlighting the stories of Bangladeshi women entrepreneurs in Metro Detroit. Learn more at saada.org.