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Common practice

First class of doctor of pharmacy graduates turn knowledge into caring

special feature: Class of 2021

The Gazette’s latest special feature celebrates Memorial’s newest alumni.

By Marcia Porter

Spring graduates and newly minted doctor of pharmacy degree holders Vanessa Power and Kara O’Keefe have plenty in common.

They’ve been good friends since their undergraduate days as B.Sc.(pharmacy) students and work in independent pharmacies that have long histories in their communities.

They’re also members of the first graduating class of the School of Pharmacy’s doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree program.

“As a pharmacist you need to continue to learn because everything is always changing,” said Ms. Power about her decision to enrol in the PharmD for Working Professionals program. “The more I can learn, the better I know that I can be as a pharmacist, and the more I’ll be able to help my patients.”

The century-old pharmacy where Ms. Power works in her hometown of Grand Falls-Windsor is like a close-knit family where seniors, their kids and grandkids are regular customer,  and those strong relationships “allow you to be more clinical when you are treating them,” she said.

‘Natural progression’

It’s a similar sort of environment for Ms. O’Keefe, who works at her father’s community pharmacy on Bell Island.

New PharmD graduate Kara O’Keefe
Photo: submitted photo

In an interesting coincidence, the two new graduates work at independent pharmacies owned by lifelong friends who also went to pharmacy school together.

Ms. O’Keefe says that she’s always wanted to “know more and be the best I can be” and that she gets her drive and commitment to her patients from her dad, Philip O’Keefe.

“Going back for my PharmD was a natural progression for me. Now I can offer my patients that skill set and it gives me the building blocks to learn more and continue to grow as a pharmacist.”

Ms. O’Keefe says that her patients have been going to that pharmacy since they were small children, and their children go there, and their parents go there.

And, due to the community’s small size, she has the opportunity to work closely with her patients’ other health-care professionals.

“We work well together and that allows you to have more of an impact when you have these good relationships.”

More resources to draw on

Earning a PharmD is just what the doctor … of pharmacy… ordered for these two friends who are now applying the knowledge, skills and experiences they gained during three years of coursework and clinical rotations to their everyday practice.

“It was so applicable and for that reason I’d recommend anyone to go back and do their PharmD,” said Ms. Power.

“When you look at individual patient cases, you’re able to integrate your knowledge so much more. As you were going through the topics you could go to work each day and apply the knowledge more readily.”

“I feel that the program has made me a better pharmacist.” — Kara O’Keefe

For example, thanks to a clinical rotation in oncology at Western Memorial Regional Hospital in Corner Brook, Ms. O’Keefe was able to recognize and resolve a medication issue for one of her patients who was undergoing treatment.

“I not only learned to appreciate the role of the pharmacist in the cancer clinic and how important they are in helping patients manage their chemotherapy,” she said.

“I also learned about being a health-care professional and a good person and helping people deal with the most difficult time in their lives.”

Ms. Power echoes her classmate and fellow spring graduate’s experience.

“I feel that the program has made me a better pharmacist, and the connections I’ve made will impact my practice a lot. When you work in community pharmacy, you’re so accessible that patients call you for literally everything. And now I know I have so many more resources to draw on. It’s great.”

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