Second career: Pharmacist has turned to the pursuit of a law degree

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Yan Ho Jonathan Leung’s original career in pharmacy was sparked by volunteer activities at a local hospital and supporting people with intellectual disabilities in assisted living during his high school and early undergraduate years.

“Also, I had an entrepreneurial spirit and once contemplated running my own pharmacy operation,” he says.

After graduating from pharmacy school at the University of Toronto, he launched his pharmacy career in 2012. The following year, while working for a national retail pharmacy chain, he felt a knowledge gap when it came to understanding the economics and market factors that affected the retail and pharmaceutical industry. Wanting to better appreciate the business strategies and decision making at the corporate level, he earned an MBA from the University of Fredericton in New Brunswick.

 As a pharmacist, Leung was always interested in the drug development process.

“Also, I always wondered what occurs behind the scenes when certain innovator drugs go off-patent and generics or biosimilars enter the market,” he says. “That stimulated my interest and curiosity in intellectual property law and pharmaceutical patents—and eventually, that led me to law school.”

Leung was drawn to the Dual JD program offered by the University of Detroit Mercy and University of Windsor, because of its comparative legal education.

“Given the interconnectedness between Canada and the United States’ economy, I was really interested only in comparative legal programs that would help me become well-versed in the legal systems of both countries,” he says.

A native of Hong Kong who immigrated to Canada at the age of 5, Leung enjoys the downtown vitality of Detroit Mercy Law’s Riverfront campus, with its proximity to the Renaissance Center, Detroit City Hall, and the courthouses for the Eastern District of Michigan and Wayne County Circuit Court.

“Downtown Detroit is a vibrant place to learn where there is a confluence of commerce, government, and the legal system,” he says. “I felt Detroit Mercy Law’s location enriched the overall law school experience.”

Along with fellow students, the Windsor resident has faced the challenge of pivoting to online learning during the pandemic.

“While online platforms don’t perfectly replicate the interactions that happen organically in the law school classroom between students and the professor, I think everyone is trying their best efforts to make the experience work,” he says.

After graduating in May, Leung will be articling in the Ottawa office of the Canadian law firm, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, where he previously was a summer associate—and hopes to integrate his pharmacy and business background with his legal training to pursue a career in litigation in the IP or life sciences sphere.

In order to keep abreast with the latest treatment guidelines, pharmacotherapy options, and to maintain competency in clinical skills, Leung continues to work as a part-time pharmacist whenever possible. 

“As a pharmacist, I most enjoy being able to work directly with patients,” he says. “It’s always a rewarding feeling when you see that your advice, assistance, or diligence in checking a patient’s medications ends up having a positive impact on a patient’s life.”

And along with his pharmacy colleagues, during this pandemic, Leung has been performing nasal swabs and screenings for COVID-19, and vaccinating patients.

“I believe we can all do our own part to help bring this pandemic to an end,” he says. “Therefore, whenever possible, I’m more than willing to apply my skills and training to service my community.”




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