The pharmacist influencer

Mustafa Dhahir MPS combats misinformation using his TikTok account

By day, Mustafa Dhahir is a newly minted ECP at a community pharmacy in South Western Sydney. But to his 250,000 TikTok followers, he is ‘@pharmustafa’, a myth-busting influencer combating medical misinformation in style.

Why did you choose pharmacy? 

My passion for pharmacy was ignited by my family, primarily my father, who is a doctor, and my eldest brother, who is a pharmacist. I pursued pharmacy because I wanted to make a difference – like my role models do. 

What aspects of pharmacy are you passionate about?

My favourite thing is having a positive impact. Nothing feels better than providing recommendations that help a patient. I also enjoy compounding. Being able to provide this service can really help in managing a patient’s condition, and I love being a part of that. Compounding is also hands-on and requires skill, which is why I really enjoy it and take so much pride in my work.

Your TikTok videos have racked up more than 8 million ‘likes’. How did you get started?

It was during lockdown in mid-2020. Like most people, I was stuck at home and wanted some entertainment. I made my first video as a joke, but I noticed it was gaining attention and people genuinely enjoyed the content. I wanted to bring some positivity to the TikTok world and build a pharmacy-themed page that highlighted the crucial roles of pharmacists in healthcare.

What kind of videos do you create?

I create videos that demonstrate the role of the pharmacist, where I explain concepts like compounding, MedsChecks, medicine packs and other valuable services that show pharmacists do more than just ‘count pills’ or ‘stick a label on a box’. 

I also produce COVID-related videos that aim to provide up-to-date information regarding guidelines and vaccine availability in pharmacies, as well as busting misinformation and answering questions.

Some people falsely believe I get paid by the government to promote COVID-related content or to inform people about the safety and efficacy of vaccines. I use satire or metaphors in conjunction with studies green-screened in the background to simultaneously highlight how ridiculous the conspiracies are and how reliable my COVID-19 information is.

My approach to creating informative videos is very similar to the way I counsel patients in the pharmacy. I deliver information in simple terms so everyone can understand, including those with low health literacy. I also aim to avoid jargon, or explain the jargon when I do use it. This isn’t just to allow for easy comprehension of my content, but also so my audience can use my explanation and pass this knowledge on to others. 

I also do skits, jokes and other light-hearted content. This is to show that we aren’t all robots; we have a sense of humour and like to have fun. 

You are also pursuing a medical degree – why did you decide on further study?

My goal is to ‘be the change you want to see’. On several occasions I have seen prescriptions and thought that a pharmacist could have made better prescribing choices.

Sometimes it’s a simple error, such as not putting a safety net on a patient’s prescriptions on PBS despite them being eligible. In other cases, it’s a major error that could have been avoided with more attention to detail, like prescribing a patient diuretics for peripheral oedema from their calcium channel blockers that would lead to volume depletion and dehydration. 

People ask me why I’m leaving pharmacy for medicine, but my answer is that I’m not. I will continue to work in pharmacy while I’m completing my medical training, and I plan on maintaining a dual registration of pharmacy and medicine. I believe that the best doctors are pharmacists first.

What advice do you have for other early career pharmacists?

You can learn from anyone and everyone, so make sure to treat everyone with respect, have an open mind and a good attitude. You never know what you might learn. 

DAY IN THE LIFE of Mustafa Dhahir, TikTok star and intern pharmacist at TerryWhite Chemmart, Narellan Town Centre, New South Wales.

8.30 am – Morning fuel

Order usual breakfast (latte and banana bread) from the cafe next to the pharmacy. Pick up coffees for the manager, pharmacist in charge and dispense technician.

9.00 am – Shift starts

Check for any notes left behind from the previous shift and for app orders made overnight. The notes inform me there should be Xolair on the order for a patient
that should arrive today, so I keep an eye out for that.

11.30 am – Quality use of medicines

While packing a dose administration aid, I notice the pill burden can be reduced with some minor changes. The patient is taking paracetamol 2 tablets qid long term, which could be swapped to paracetamol MR 2 tablets TDS. This would have the same therapeutic effect, be more cost effective and reduce the pill burden. I also notice he is taking Avodart and Flomaxtra in separate tablets instead of taking Duodart, which contains the same medicines in the same capsule. I contact the doctor and organise a change of medicine regimen, new prescriptions and a medication chart.

2.00 pm – Vaccination station

I take over COVID-19 vaccinations while the pharmacist in charge has a break, and vaccinate 15–20 people. We currently offer Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines.

4.30 pm – Delivery duty

I prepare to hand over to the evening staff. I collect medicine deliveries, log them in our register and deliver medicines to patients who can’t afford to leave their homes due to COVID-19 infections.

7.30 pm – Study session

I study for a few hours, eat, make a TikTok video or two and prepare for the next day. Tomorrow, I have my weekly clinical day where I shadow doctors in
the hospital and learn clinical skills and procedures.

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