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Appreciating Canadian Pharmacy

Hear from Pharmacy Leaders Kelly Grindrod, James Morrison and Jaris Swidrovich

Appreciating Canadian Pharmacy
Appreciating Canadian Pharmacy

Mediaplanet connected with pharmacy leaders Dr. Kelly Grindrod, James Morrison, and Dr. Jaris Swidrovich to learn what their experience in the field has taught them, what changes we can expect to see, and the advice they have for the future of pharmacy.

Dr. Kelly Grindrod

DR. Kelly Grindrod

Professor in Pharmacy Innovation,
Ontario College of Pharmacists & Associate Professor, University of Waterloo School of Pharmacy

What is your biggest focus area in order to continue advancing the field of pharmacy?

My focus has long been on helping people understand medications a bit easier — from patients and pharmacists to other health care providers like physicians and nurses. My focus in the coming years will be to continue producing useful information that health care providers can learn from, alongside patients. I’m really enjoying making all the videos and infographics that we’ve done up over the years. Now with the pandemic and vaccine, it’s been great to see that information being used in real time and adopted in unexpected settings like long-term care homes or mass immunization clinics. It’s very rewarding work.

As a woman leader in the field, what message do you have for young women in pharmacy who are considering leadership positions?

Things are changing. There’s more room for women in leadership positions in pharmacy but there are still barriers that will pop up and catch you by surprise. You have to get comfortable putting yourself out there. Get a thick skin, persist until you’re heard, and push through the times people will underestimate you. Behind every award is a person who didn’t win other awards, or didn’t get that one job they wanted. The best leaders I know have been ones who pushed through until they found the place they fit.

How did it feel to be recognized as a thought-leader in the field the CPhA 2020 Pharmacist of the Year?

It felt wonderful to be recognized. I’ve been a pharmacist for almost 20 years now have worked in so many types of pharmacy settings. It’s been incredible to see all the impacts pharmacists have, no matter where they are.

What message do you have for the general public that you wish everyone knew about their pharmacy or pharmacist?

Pharmacists don’t want you to take a lot of medications and are really good at helping to stop treatments that are unnecessary or unsafe. This is the most underappreciated skill of pharmacists. If more people took the time to build a relationship with a single pharmacist or a single pharmacy, they’d learn a lot more about their medications.

Where do you see the field of pharmacy heading?

The pandemic has shone a light on the skills and strengths of pharmacists in all the settings they work in. Pharmacists have gone to work every day in this pandemic, even when they were taping up plastic shower curtains when they couldn’t get PPE, to make sure people had access to life-sustaining medications. We’ve seen scopes of practice expand to allow pharmacists more independence while the health care system was overwhelmed. After the pandemic, I think pharmacists will settle into this new, essential identity and push for their full scope of practice. Ten years from now, I’d like to see every Canadian pharmacist be able to prescribe, manage minor ailments, deprescribe or adapt therapies, and monitor drug therapy through physical assessments and lab work. Pharmacists are excellent at what they do. I hope we’ll let them do it.

James Morrison

James Morrison

Director of Pharmacy Excellence, Wholehealth Pharmacy Partners, Community Pharmacist, & Educator

What message would you give to members of the diverse field of pharmacy?

Lifelong learning is fundamental to providing optimal pharmacy care. I encourage pharmacy professionals, while assessing learning opportunities, to consider whether their training has prepared them to care for marginalized patient groups. My pharmacy education didn’t prepare me to care for gender and sexual minority patients, and recent pharmacy graduates have reported the same.

From your experience, how can pharmacists expand the services they offer, take on a more active role in helping patients manage their conditions and take better care of themselves?

Now is an incredibly exciting time to be a pharmacist. The profession is being called upon to enhance the health of their communities through new services such as COVID-19 vaccinations and prescribing for minor ailments. Pharmacists can expand their services by using every piece of scope enabled in their province. There is also a need to look at the composition of our pharmacy teams and partner with pharmacy technician peers to unlock the full potential of the pharmacy.

As a leader pushing boundaries in the access and quality of care for marginalized patients from gender and sexual minority communities, can you tell us about your biggest goal for the field?

Some gender and sexual minority patients have experienced negative encounters with health care providers — including pharmacy professionals — ranging from providers without the knowledge needed to deliver optimal care to outright refusal of care and discrimination. Some experiences stem from education curricula that haven’t included this diverse patient group. My biggest goal is to reshape pharmacy education to foster inclusive pharmacy spaces that welcome all types of patients to receive competent care. Pharmacists play a meaningful role in supporting these patients who are disproportionately burdened by certain conditions including anxiety, depression, substance use disorder, and some cancers.

With pharmacists being on the front-lines of the fight against the pandemic, what changes have you seen occur and what changes do you see eminent on the horizon?

I am immensely proud of how pharmacy teams have contributed to the pandemic response. Pharmacies remained open and available to their communities while other providers shuttered their clinics. Some pharmacies have adapted to offer important services including asymptomatic COVID-19 testing. Pharmacies are now answering the call to immunize the nation against COVID-19 in the world’s largest immunization campaign ever.

Jaris Swidrovich

DR. Jaris Swidrovich

Assistant Professor, University of Saskatchewan, College of Pharmacy & Nutrition, Yellow Quill First Nation

What are some of the biggest contributions pharmacists can make toward improving health outcomes that minoritized and Indigenous communities may not know about?

Considering there are very few pharmacies on reserve, people who live on reserve may not even have the opportunity at all to conceptualize the many roles pharmacists have. For example, for people with health coverage through Indigenous Services Canada, there are a number of prescription and over-the-counter medications that are fully covered and that don’t require a visit to a physician or nurse practitioner, which is often not well-advertised. Since pharmacists are the most accessible health professionals and are often ranked as the most trusted professionals of any kind, we have the opportunity and positionality to made important and meaningful contributions to the health and wellness of patients, families, and communities.

If you had one wish for the field of pharmacy that could be enacted straight away, what would it be?

If I had only one wish, it would be that every person in Canada has access to the medications they need at no charge under a national pharmacare plan. It’s a shame that there are so many restrictions and complexities when it comes to medication access and coverage, which leaves certain people without the ability to access or afford the medications they need.

You are Canada’s first self-identified First Nations Doctor of Pharmacy. Has this motivated your work and advocacy in a particular way?

Absolutely. I entered the profession of pharmacy with the intention to focus my work on mental health, substance use disorders, and HIV/AIDS. It quickly became clear that I needed to shift my focus to be Indigenous Peoples’ health. I never took an Indigenous studies course in my post-secondary education, so this meant self-directed learning while sharing personal and family stories, and honouring the truths of the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island (North America). There is great demand to integrate Indigenous content and perspectives into pre and post-licensure education for health professionals, so I felt motivated to learn about the study and practice of education and have now nearly completed a PhD in education to better enable me to assist with this kind of work.

What changes are needed in education, governance and corporations to increase the representation of Indigenous Peoples in pharmacy?

A lot needs to change, and it needs to start well before people even consider the profession of pharmacy. Pharmacy as a career option should be introduced to children and youth in K-12 and they need to be able to see themselves reflected in the profession of pharmacy. Educational institutions of pharmacy must include Indigenous representation in their recruitment materials and efforts and also utilize equitable admission processes that may look different from the general policies and processes we have seen thus far. Indigenous content must be included in the accreditation standards for pharmacy education in Canada, as well as differentiated and equitable assessment and evaluation practices that are culturally responsive. Additionally, even in 2021 there isn’t a single scholarship in Canada for Indigenous pharmacy students. On the practice, governance, and corporate side, continuing professional development must include Indigenous education, anti-racism and anti-oppressive education, and trauma-informed care education. Increasing the representation of Indigenous Peoples in pharmacy must be accompanied with sincere dedication, resources, and inclusion of Indigenous Peoples in such endeavours.

Where do you see the field of pharmacy heading?

I see the pharmacy profession heading in a direction where our true scope of practice is realized, honoured, and sought after. I also see the profession of pharmacy taking on more important roles in health and wellness maintenance and disease prevention.

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