In his job with Loblaws, Jeff Leger is responsible for 500 in-store pharmacies. He oversees pharmacy strategy and operations as well as brand and generic buying. He also runs Sanis, a Canadian-owned pharmaceutical manufacturer. “Quite simply,” says Leger, “I thrive on diversity.”
Education: Dalhousie University (BSc.Pharm.), Université de Moncton (M.B.A.)
Current role: Senior Vice President, Loblaw Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Partnerships
What intrigued you about being a pharmacist as a young person?
I was interested in being part of a healthcare-based profession, but one that also had elements of a business. I didn’t know much about pharmacy when I was applying to university, but my uncle was a pharmacist, and I spoke with him. He told me what I needed to hear: pharmacists get to help people and they get to hone their entrepreneurial spirit.
I’ve gone on to intertwine those two foundational interests. My first job was as a hospital pharmacist, and I also spent a brief period working in pharmaceutical management. Along the way, I completed my MBA.
What surprised you most about the profession since graduating from school?
Since I graduated in 1995, pharmacy has been an ever-changing landscape. There was a lot to look forward to. That motivated me. The idea that pharmacists could be used to a higher degree within the health system was beginning to emerge as I entered the profession. It was certainly on the radar, but it has exploded in the last five years, especially in community practice.
What challenges do pharmacies face today that they didn’t 20 years ago? Are we effectively meeting these challenges?
Change is not constant or consistent across Canada. Some provinces are taking longer to move the continuum of practice for pharmacists while others are well advanced. That can be challenging – and motivating – when you are a national chain. We need to bring everyone to the same page, otherwise great strides we make in one place will be limited for patients in another. I anticipate change will continue, as it always does, but the pace of change will steady.
As a profession, we are also becoming more confident. The provision of flu shots is a great example of this. We were apprehensive at first. Now we cannot remember a time when we were not providing this service. We’ve developed some self-assurance as a profession. Our new outlook and our expanded scope have led to the public viewing pharmacists in a very different way. That’s important as we continue to evolve. It means deeper satisfaction for pharmacists, greater convenience for the public, and enhanced healthcare for the country.
Why is advocacy so important for the profession?
Advocacy helps to spotlight the profession. You can’t just sit in the background and wait for things to happen. In particular, we need to be present with policy-makers. That requires good relationships with government. Those relationships are founded on advocacy.
How did you become involved in advocacy?
I became involved from my first foray into pharmacy. As a student, I was president of the student pharmacy association. It was important for me to be engaged, and that desire to effect change continued when I graduated. I served, for example, as president of the regulatory body in New Brunswick. All along I’ve been part of the dialogue that has shaped – and reshaped – our profession. It’s highly motivating when you are part of the solution.