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Celebrating commitment

Dr. Linda Hensman to receive School of Pharmacy's honorary white coat

By Heidi Wicks

Dr. Linda Hensman will receive the School of Pharmacy’s honorary white coat at the 2020 White Coat Ceremony.

Her outstanding professional and personal strength, perseverance, passion and dedication make her an inspirational choice.

A fierce and tireless advocate of the pharmacy profession, she is also a keen, respected, passionate community advocate and volunteer, a multiple award-winning health-care administrator and educator, and a natural born leader and doer.

Contribution to care

Dr. Hensman graduated with a bachelor of science (pharmacy) from the University of British Columbia in 1974, obtained a doctor of pharmacy from State University of New York at Buffalo in 1978 and a master of business administration from Memorial University in 1993.

She was dean of Memorial’s School of Pharmacy from 2003-14 and an associate professor until her retirement in 2016. Earlier in her career, she held clinical, academic and senior administrative positions in both health-care institutions and universities across the country.

She was a trailblazer in redefining the scope of hospital pharmacy practice in Newfoundland and Labrador. As director of the Pharmacy Department at St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital, she began moving pharmacists from the dispensary to more direct patient care roles on the medical floors.

“I never worried when we had Linda at the helm.” — Dr. Leslie Phillips

Dr. Hensman was pivotal in establishing a pharmacy degree program at Memorial. Dr. Leslie Phillips, a longtime colleague and friend, holds her in great respect.

“Out of all the managers I’ve worked with, Linda was a woman of action. She definitely walked the walk,” she said. “When she took on the role of director, and subsequently dean, we had received a conditional accreditation status.

“She rolled up her sleeves and we got full accreditation status at the next review,” Dr. Phillips continued. “I never worried when we had Linda at the helm. I knew that she would always have a plan to see us through.”

Widely recognized by pharmacy and community organizations, Dr. Hensman has received numerous awards for her extensive commitment to leadership roles in the profession, for introducing innovative practice models and advancing pharmacy practice.

Dr. Linda Hensman receives the University of British Columbia Alumni Award.
Dr. Linda Hensman receives the University of British Columbia Alumni Award.
Photo: Submitted

She was awarded the University of British Columbia’s 2019 Alumni Builder Award in recognition of her national leadership in pharmacy, philanthropy and commitment to volunteering, received an honorary life membership with the Pharmacists’ Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Newfoundland and Labrador Pharmacy Board certificate of recognition in recognition of registrants who have shown outstanding dedication and contribution to the board, the Association of Faculties of Pharmacy of Canada Woods-Hughes Special Service Award and the Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacists (N.L. Branch) Alfred G. Dawe Distinguished Service Award. She was named one of the 100 Top Newfoundland and Labrador Pharmacists recognized by the pharmacy board in 2010. She is also the recipient of the 2011 Bowl of Hygeia Award, in recognition of her service to the community.

Previous to her career with Memorial, she was a director of the planning transfer team, Health Care Corporation of St. John’s and assistant executive director and director of pharmacy at St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital. She was a board member of the National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities (NAPRA) and the Canadian Foundation for Pharmacy, she chaired NAPRA’s national committee on pharmacy technicians and was a member and chair of the Newfoundland and Labrador Pharmacy Board, as well as president of the N.L. branch of the Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacists, to name a few.

Community advocate

A long-time Rotarian, Dr. Hensman’s current passion is her work with the Rotary Club of Semiahmoo (White Rock) in British Columbia, where she now resides.

Boston Marathon, 2016
Photo: Submitted

“We have many projects relating to community, youth, international and health and wellness,” she said. “Rotary has played a key role to eradicate polio and in 2018 I went on a trip to India to participate in a National Immunization Day for polio, where our team spread out at different points in a village south of Delhi, and villagers come to get vaccinated. The next day we walked through the village and immunized children who had not been previously immunized.”

As the program administrator for her Rotary club, Dr. Hensman also helped fundraise $165,000 for a local food bank.

In her 50s, she took up running. She’s completed five Boston Marathons and enjoys competing in triathlons.

Honorary white coat

The honorary white coat tradition began in 2016 at the 10th anniversary of the ceremony. While the profession has evolved exponentially in recent years, it would not be where it is today without the trailblazers, who are celebrated with the honorary white coat recognition.

“They are just bursting with excitement and enthusiasm.” — Dr. Linda Hensman

For Dr. Hensman, the acknowledgement is somewhat full circle: she initiated the ceremony in 2006, following a meeting of associate deans when they discussed the increasing need to help students understand the professional obligations they face when entering the profession.

“There was a need to do something to get students to appreciate their professional roles and expected behaviours,” Dr. Hensman recalled. “The Memorial University Pharmacy Students president at the time, Nancy Drover, approached me with the idea of introducing our own white coat ceremony. She was really the impetus to move forward on the ceremony.

“Her affirmation that this was a beneficial ceremony was helpful for me to hear, and because she was the driver of the idea, I felt it was important to have student involvement in the ceremony,” Dr. Hensman continued. “Getting them to sign the pledge of professionalism and hanging it in the Professional Practice Lab were other ways to encourage their commitment to it. Holding the ceremony after the first semester of their study ensured students had some idea of what the profession was all about, as well as ensuring they committed to the pledge prior to their first practice rotation.”

Pride among students, parents, relatives and supporters is palpable during the ceremony, added Dr. Hensman.

“They are just bursting with excitement and enthusiasm.”

‘Elite group’

That same enthusiasm for health care is what has made Dr. Hensman such a change-maker and worthy recipient of the 2020 honorary white coat. When she received the news that she is this year’s recipient, she says she was overwhelmed and “truly honoured.”

“Recognition by those with whom you have worked is especially meaningful, so I thank the school most sincerely for distinguishing me with this prestigious award. To be included in the elite group of previous honorary white coat award recipients, whom I hold in high esteem, is indeed a privilege.”

Previous recipients include Premier Dwight Ball, the late David Collins, Don Rowe (who will present this year’s white coat) and Arlene Crane.

The 2020 White Coat Ceremony will take place on Jan. 16 at 5 p.m., in the main auditorium of the Health Sciences Centre in St. John’s. Please RSVP to Sharon Tucker by Jan. 10, if you plan to attend.

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