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Transformative learning

First doctor of pharmacy graduate gains 'invaluable' experience

Campus and Community

By Danielle Burns

I recently received a parchment from Memorial University that marked 11.5 years of post-secondary education . . . so far.

During Memorial’s February in absentia convocation, I was granted the first doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree to be awarded by the School of Pharmacy. It was a proud moment for me.

Growing up in Cape Breton, N.S., my parents (both teachers) instilled in me the importance of a good education. I received a B.Sc. in biology (honours) from Mount Allison University, completed a year of genetics research at Dalhousie University and graduated from the Dalhousie College of Pharmacy in 2009.

I worked for seven years in community pharmacy before moving to the IWK Regional Poison Centre in Halifax in 2016, where I work today.

A family of four, plus a white dog, pose for the camera with silly faces in front of a Christmas tree.
With two young children, a husband and a little pooch, Danielle Burns’ life is busy.
Photo: Submitted

Pursuing a PharmD for working professionals (WPPD) degree was not an easy decision.

I’m married with two small daughters, and a little white puff-ball bichon frise. Our family leads a busy life. A co-worker once said to me: “If you need something done, give it to a busy person.”

These words certainly rang true for me as I began my PharmD journey in September 2018.

Flexible learning

The PharmD offered me the opportunity to improve upon my pharmacy skill-set while still working at the Poison Centre, and will help me to be more competitive for future career advancements.

Memorial’s PharmD program was the most accessible for me. As a working mother, I liked that I was able to carry out many projects in my work place and that clinical rotations were reasonable in duration and could be completed in the city and practice setting of my choice.

Hear from Ms. Burns herself as she discusses her PharmD experienc in the video below.

These clinical rotations proved to be very beneficial.

I completed rotations in both the ICU and Emergency Department, where I gained invaluable skills and experience that will allow me to practice at a much higher level at the Poison Centre.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, my cohort only met in person for one weekend at the start of the program. Despite this, the virtual connections felt anything but virtual and the bonds and friendships formed with my classmates will be lifelong.

The class shared successes and struggles, births of family members and great losses of others. Every class member is a different person now than they were at the beginning of the program.

In addition to the friendships, the program left me with greater confidence to manage complex patients, a greater empathy for patients and workers in the health-care system and an enhanced ability to continue my role as a specialist in poison information.

The PharmD for Working Professionals degree program is an award-winning, innovative and accessible part-time program for practising pharmacists in Canada who would like to achieve the doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) credential. The application deadline is Feb. 1 each year. If you’d like to learn more, please visit the website

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