In 2017, Dr. Suzanne Soliman, known to fans as “Bergen County’s Pharma Mama,” was raising five children and had no plans to leave a career she loved and worked hard to build. Yet she struggled with balance and needed support to manage it all. She scoured Facebook for other women pharmacists raising families like herself, and when she couldn’t find a group to join, she decided to start her own. Today, the Pharmacist Moms Group (PhMG) has moved beyond Facebook into a network of over 45,000 pharmacist moms and is the official advocacy organization for pharmacy women in the U.S., offering continuing education, content, and events. And while Suzanne is an advocate for her industry, she’s also helping others with health decisions on her monthly Instagram Live show, where she dispenses advice and news about the latest OTC and RX drugs to the general public. We caught up with this Norwood mom of 5 to discover how she was inspired to have a career as a pharmacist, her rules for juggling a career and family, and her kids’ favorite entertainment spot not too far from their home.
Dr. Suzanne Soliman, Bergen County’s Pharma Mama and our NJ Mompreneur of the Week.
Please share a bit about your family and background. My husband, William Soliman, and I have been married since 2010, and we share five children, Noah, 19; Lucas, 17; Jonah, 14; Jude, 11; and Sarah, 9. I was born and raised in Chicago but ended up in NJ mainly because it’s the main hub and home to Pharma. We chose to live in Norwood, in Bergen County, a beautiful town with a well-knit, small community, and I love it so much here that I can’t imagine myself anywhere else. In 2017, I felt very stressed between balancing my career and raising five children of varying ages. When I couldn’t find a Facebook support group of women pharmacists raising families, I started one independently. I found out that all these other women went to school and got doctorate degrees and became mothers and were trying to balance career and family, too, and struggling. We’re now 45 thousand strong, and I recently launched weekly Instagram Live shows, using my expertise as a mom and pharmacist to help others.
Why add a monthly Instagram Live show now? I cover many subjects–everything from how people can improve their immune system to educating them on non-prescription medicine and the different things that can happen (like certain vitamin deficiencies) when you take specific medications. I’ve always wanted to help people, and this is a way for me to address particular questions and reach so many on a more personal level. People share my professional advice with their friends and others struggling, and it’s comforting to realize that even when someone is alone in their own home, they can reach out on social media and get their questions answered by an expert.
Dr. Suzanne Soliman, with her husband, William, and children, Noah, 19; Lucas, 17; Jonah, 14; Jude, 11; and Sarah, 9.
When you were young, what did you think you’d be doing when you grew up? I had thought about being a teacher, yet when I was a teen, my dad passed away from cancer. During that time, I was fascinated with how medications can make a big difference in health and quality of life. His loss also taught me to care about all patients and to have compassion for those struggling, whether for themselves or someone they love. Though I’m fully immersed in all avenues of the pharmaceutical field, being able to help educate others is so fulfilling, too, and satisfies the “teacher” in me.
What are your top tips for achieving a work-life balance? I wrote the book A Pharmacist Parent’s Guide to Work-Life Balance, which is full of advice on addressing different challenges, but here are some tips everyone can benefit from. First, to free up time, order everything you can online—if I can help it, I don’t go to the grocery store or the mall, which are huge time wasters for me. Secondly, make sure you surround yourself with a supportive family. Of course, family comes first, but at the same time, my career also matters very much to me. Know that it’s okay to have other things that are very important to you. Also, outsource when you can—for me, having an au pair and cleaning crew allows me to spend more time with my kids and husband and work on my career—there’s no shame in outsourcing. And finally, don’t feel guilty if for whatever reason, your family has to come first or if your job has to come first. Once you’re past whatever is going on, you can reevaluate your situation and make new and different decisions moving forward.
There’s a perception that OTC medicines are less dangerous than prescribed ones. What is your take on this? In general, people think that over-the-counter means safer. That isn’t necessarily true. For example, Tylenol alone is the leading cause of intentional overdoses nationwide. And it’s important to note that taking aspirin and ibuprofen for long periods isn’t safe and can cause stomach bleeds. Also, you no longer need a prescription for PPI medicines to help prevent acid reflux and treat stomach ulcers, like Prilosec, Nexium, and Prevacid, but these medicines can mask stomach cancer. The best tip I can offer is to err on the side of caution and play it safe if you need to take an OTC medicine for more than two weeks, you should see your healthcare provider to see if something more serious is going on.
Finding a work-life balance is key to Dr. Suzanne Soliman’s success. She credits meditation as helpful in managing stress and a busy schedule.
What’s your favorite way to unwind on a particularly stressful day? My favorite way is to spend time with my kids. We’ll hang out at the table playing chess or another game and enjoy each other’s company. I also find meditation very helpful in managing stress and anxiety. I’ll head to my room, where I can sit quietly, maybe play music in the background, and focus on breathing, which improves the cardiovascular system. When I feel I need it, I can step away for a few minutes, walk back in, and feel like a completely different person. Sometimes, as little as 5 minutes can get the job done.
What are some of your favorite NJ businesses? I’m good at science but not doing hair, so I get my hair blown out a lot—Birch Hair Studio is my favorite place! For a great meal, I love Verana. Their pasta is made fresh and is to die for—you can’t get it anywhere else.
Please share some places in NJ that you and your family enjoy. Long Branch is our summer go-to. We love Ocean Place Resort & Spa, and for conferences that are held there, they seamlessly handle everything. And American Dream is my family’s go-to spot. We’ve celebrated birthday parties there, and there’s so much to love—the water park, ice skating, and the aquarium.
What’s your best piece of advice for a mompreneur just starting? My number one piece of advice is don’t give up. When you start, it might seem like things aren’t taking off fast enough, but realize that everything takes time—keep going, and don’t give up on your dream. That being said, it’s also important to be flexible enough to realize you might have to change your original vision.