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Future of Pharmacy

Dr. Danielle Paes Discusses How the Role of Pharmacy is Growing To Meet Our Health-Care Needs

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Dr. Danielle Paes

Chief Pharmacist Officer, Canadian Pharmacists Association

Mediaplanet sat down with Dr. Danielle Paes, the Chief Pharmacist Officer (CPO) at the Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA), where she’s helping to support and advance the pharmacy profession. 

Can you tell us about your role as the CPO at the CPhA?  

As the CPO and as a pharmacist, one of my goals is to help provide Canadians with a national perspective on matters related to pharmacy. This includes anything from offering health advice to sharing tips on how to navigate a drug shortage or get the most out of your pharmacy experience.  

I’m also here to support and showcase the full potential of pharmacists and to advocate on their behalf on the national stage. I help connect pharmacists from coast to coast to coast so we can share experiences, learn from each other, and address emerging needs as we evolve as a profession. Part of that is acknowledging the toll these last few years have taken on us and helping to develop a collaborative plan to ensure a healthy and sustainable future for our workforce.  

In this role, it’s important to me that pharmacists are recognized and celebrated for their dedication to the health and well-being of the patients we serve. 

What inspired you to pursue a role in pharmacy?  

The pharmacy sector is so broad and touches many areas of our health care system. Pharmacists work in hospitals, community pharmacies, academia, industry, research, and everywhere in between. No matter which area of the sector your interests lie, a pharmacy education offers a strong foundation for a rich and rewarding career. Essentially, I knew that I would never be bored in this field. It’s a dynamic profession that brings people and science together — it enables you to help others and to make a meaningful contribution to their health.  

How is the growing role of pharmacists evolving Canada’s health care system?  

Our health care system is currently under significant strain and we’re all looking for solutions. This conversation is playing out right now with federal and provincial/territorial governments on health funding. Governments are looking to improve access to care and to take pressure off specific areas of our health system. As a result, pharmacy is becoming increasingly relevant to our vision for health care transformation in Canada. As more and more new authorities and funding for pharmacy services become available, pharmacists are growing in their roles — as immunizers, as prescribers, and as the first point of contact to the health care system for patients across the country. It’s an exciting time to be a pharmacist.    

Pharmacists are playing a greater role in assessing minor illnesses and administering vaccines. Why should patients consider consulting their local pharmacist? 

Pharmacists are highly educated and skilled health care professionals, so it’s natural and appropriate that we be allowed to use our knowledge to play a greater role in supporting care in our communities. As medication experts, we provide advice and recommendations to patients, physicians, and other members of the health care team every single day. In times of crisis, we have the ability to problem-solve and to use creativity to find solutions under pressure. My message for patients is that there are now more reasons than ever to visit your pharmacy and to find a pharmacy team to support you on your health care journey. You should consider your pharmacist as your advocate and ally and should actively seek to have them as part of your care team.   

As the national voice of Canadian pharmacists, what key areas are you focused on growing and improving?  

A key focus for the CPhA is supporting and strengthening our workforce to ensure pharmacists can meet the growing needs of our patients in a healthy and sustainable way. Some elements of that include increasing mental health and wellness supports, advocating for more public funding for pharmacy services, and making efforts to support new pharmacy grads and internationally trained pharmacy professionals.     

In addition to this, most recently we’ve been dedicated to helping patients navigate a series of drug shortages. Although this is an issue that pharmacists have been managing behind the scenes for years, the nature and extent of the recent supply issues with common pain relievers and antibiotics is a real wake-up call to everyone that this problem needs to be addressed. We’re working closely with the government and key stakeholders on longer-term solutions to prevent shortages from happening and to support our frontline to manage them when they do occur.  

What do you want to see in the future of Canadian pharmacy?  

There’s strong momentum for our profession right now — we’re in a period where the pharmacy practice is evolving and expanding as a key pillar for community access to public health care. I’m hopeful that we’ll soon see pharmacists in every corner of the country practising to their full scope so that everyone has access to the same level of care and service no matter what province they live in.  

I also see a future where pharmacists are fully integrated into health care spaces — leveraging technology, operating outside the walls of traditional brick-and-mortar settings, and working collaboratively with other health care providers to improve the lives of patients in Canada. I’m looking forward to new and innovative models of care — like the pharmacist-led walk-in clinics that are seeing success in Alberta and Nova Scotia.

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