When a School of Pharmacy alumna found out recently that she’d been named the school’s honorary white coat recipient for 2022, she was more than a little surprised.
“My first reaction was one of disbelief,” said Christina Tulk (B.Sc.(Pharm.)’02). “There are so many deserving pharmacists out there, and I am so proud to be recognized for my contributions to our school and our profession thus far. It’s truly an honour.”
What’s especially satisfying to Ms. Tulk is that she’s the first School of Pharmacy graduate to be named an honorary white coat recipient.
“That in itself is humbling. It gives me a huge sense of pride and career satisfaction to be recognized like this.”
The honorary white coat tradition began in 2016 as a way to mark the 10th anniversary of the White Coat Ceremony and celebrate trailblazing pharmacists who have helped shape the profession.
Ms. Tulk wears a lot of hats, or, more accurately, a lot of white coats. She is also chair of the Canadian Pharmacist’s Association (CPhA) and the owner of the Shoppers Drug Mart at Millbrook Mall in Corner Brook.
Among her best career moments to date, she counts taking on the CPhA chair role in a tumultuous 2020 as a career highlight.
Accepting a national leadership position when the COVID-19 pandemic was forcing worldwide lockdowns and putting the pharmacy community at the forefront of keeping people and communities safe in uncertain times was not for the faint of heart.
“The pandemic has fundamentally changed how we go about our day and routines,” she said. “There’s certainly more recognition of how we serve health care and serve patients and there is a renewed focus on a common scope of practice for all pharmacists in Canada. There is one scope and we all need to practice that scope.”
Ensuring that pharmacists across the country share that common scope of practice has been an important part of her work as CPhA chair.
“It’s still so different depending on where you practice. In some provinces, you can prescribe for urinary tract infection. It doesn’t matter where you practise in Canada, you should have the ability to do that. You shouldn’t be limited by what the province has determined our scope to be.”
Ms. Tulk was also active in provincial organizations such as the Pharmacy Association of Newfoundland and Labrador before getting involved at the national level.
She credits her education at Memorial’s School of Pharmacy with getting her ready for pharmacy practice in good times and bad, and also for opening doors to possibilities.
“There were so many opportunities for leadership in the school. That’s where it really started for me. I was class representative for three years and student representative on the Newfoundland and Labrador Pharmacy Board.”
She attributes those early experiences, along with the school’s small class sizes and accessible faculty, as key to fostering student leadership and engagement.
“That conversation helped shape where I ended up.”
One of her favourite memories is of a presentation by local pharmacist Brian Healey, who met with students to talk about independent pharmacy ownership.
“I was really taken by what he said, and I felt from that moment, community practice was where I belonged and ownership is what I would work towards in my career,” she said. “That conversation helped shape where I ended up.”
‘Second to none’
Ms. Tulk has been with Shoppers Drug Mart since graduation, and became a store owner in 2006, after completing the in-house training program.
“I am proud of our school. It is an institution that is second to none with some of the best faculty and staff in the country. I am so happy to call so many of them friends, as well as colleagues. I can’t imagine receiving my degree anywhere else.”
Ms. Tulk will receive her honorary white coat on April 5 during the School of Pharmacy’s Annual White Coat Ceremony at 5 p.m. in the Health Sciences Library, the first in-person ceremony for students in two years.
Because of university health precautions, the event will be webcast for family, friends and special guests. A link to the ceremony will be posted 30 minutes prior to the start of the event.