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There for Canadians

Celebrating pharmacy's extraordinary effort in an extraordinary year

By Marcia Porter

Pharmacists’ Awareness Month has a new name for 2021: Pharmacy Appreciation Month (PAM).

It’s a timely name change for this annual March event. One that has everything to do with the pharmacy community’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and how it’s become a lifeline for many Canadians trying to stay healthy and safe in an extraordinary year.

A portrait of a man in an office wearing a name tag
Omar Shogan
Photo: Submitted

Omar Shogan of Gander, a third-year doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) student at Memorial’s School of Pharmacy, says he knew that pharmacists are the most readily available health-care professionals, but didn’t realize what that “actually meant” until this year.

“One thing that stands out to me is that I know some patients call to speak to the pharmacist just to get peace of mind,” said Mr. Shogan, who works part-time at Drugstore Pharmacy in St. John’s, where he says the phone and fax never stop.

“These patients have been getting their prescriptions for years and have built a solid relationship with the pharmacist and staff, so they really value the pharmacist’s opinion and support.”

It’s something that third-year PharmD student Erin Matthews of St. John’s also experiences in her part-time job at a Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacy in the city.

She says the pandemic has shaped her view of the pharmacy profession.

Erin Matthews
Photo: Submitted

“When faced with patient and staff worries, extremely hectic workplaces and the spread of misinformation about drug shortages, pharmacists didn’t step aside,” said Ms. Matthews, a member of this year’s PAM organizing committee.

“They banded together to correct false claims, advocate for their patients and show up every single day to get the work done.”

In spite of a challenging year, the two students say they are excited about working in the profession – and grateful to be working during the pandemic.

‘Triage point of care’

A portrait of a woman standing in front of a stone wall
Stephanie Burden
Photo: Submitted

Stephanie Burden is a Memorial School of Pharmacy alumna (Class of 2009).

Ms. Burden lives and works in Rocky Harbour, where she has her own pharmacy practice, Complete Care Pharmacy.

“Newfoundlanders and Labradorians thoroughly appreciate their pharmacists as their most accessible health-care provider, and it’s heartwarming to have such a connection with your patients,” she said. “We’re often almost like a triage point of care.”

Ms. Burden, who’s currently enrolled in the Working Professionals PharmD program, has also found time to preceptor students, calling it one of the highlights of her career.

In fact, she was named the School of Pharmacy’s 2020 Preceptor of the Year (Community).

“Being a preceptor during Covid gave me both purpose to push onward, and a colleague to talk through ideas and experiences,” she said. “Although we weren’t able to do as much hands-on patient care as I normally do with students, I was able to teach the most important lesson of all: dependability.”

Integral role

Samantha Gabriel is a School of Pharmacy alumna (Class of 2015) and a clinical pharmacist at Sir Thomas Roddick Hospital in her hometown of Stephenville.

Portrait of a woman wearing a mask in a pharmacy
Samantha Gabriel
Photo: Submitted

“I think being a pharmacy student through the pandemic, and even through Snowmageddon, has reinforced the front-line nature of their chosen profession,” she said of the current cohort of pharmacy students.

“They’re getting to see first-hand how their chosen profession is growing and changing in response to challenges and hopefully it is giving them a lot to be proud of.”

Ms. Gabriel was named Preceptor of the Year (Hospital) for 2020 by the School of Pharmacy. She points out that hospital pharmacists are an integral part of the health-care team, with knowledge and skills that go well beyond dispensing drugs.

“Hospital pharmacists work with your doctor to choose the best medication to treat your condition at the right dose, answer your nurse’s questions about medications and work with allied health professionals such as social workers, physiotherapists and occupational therapists to ensure you are ready for discharge.”

Check out the calendar of activities created by the School of Pharmacy’s PAM organizing committee by following them on Facebook at MUN PAM 2021!

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