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PharmD student Heather Wren is passionate about the profession

005_Gray_PB July 2014_Change Makers
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I want to become a strong advocate for our profession, especially in terms of helping patients understand what pharmacists can do for them.

005_Gray_PB July 2014_Change Makers
By Heather Wren

Photography by Brandon Gray

I feel passionate about helping our profession overcome decades of the public perceiving pharmacists in more traditional, dispensing roles.

I predict that many years down the road, pharmacists will be much closer to being in their true element, and will be relied upon for their drug therapy knowledge and cognitive skills. As with any profession, it makes sense that we continue to push toward being valued and paid for providing our professional services.

Because I envision pharmacists playing a key role in chronic disease management, particularly those disease states that are costly to our healthcare system (diabetes, COPD, asthma, cardiovascular diseases), I feel one should be well prepared for making significant changes.

On a personal level, I  served as first year class representative for the local chapter of the Canadian Association of Pharmacy Students and Interns (CAPSI). And I was elected Pharmacist Awareness Month chair on the CAPSI council.

My role is to plan out events and community activities for our pharmacy school to participate in during Pharmacist Awareness Month in March 2015. I am also highly involved as a mentor in a student-led organization called RxPRN, or Pharmacy Peer Relief Network. RxPRN focuses on offering mentoring and social support services to pharmacy students who need someone to talk to regarding life stresses and mental health.

In addition, I participated as a delegate to the student conference, the Ontario Pharmacy Student Integrative Summit (OPSIS). We had a great opportunity to discuss and debate pharmacy practice changes with students from across the province, and participate in brainstorming and patient case-based activities

I want to make my mark in the profession by flourishing in my desired niche of pharmacy practice – mental health and psychiatric pharmacy. The mental health of our patients is often under-addressed. As well, mental health concerns can affect (and be affected by) a patient’s other comorbidities, their medications, and the quality of care and support they receive. I believe that pharmacists are in a unique position to help patients living with mental illnesses by thoroughly counselling patients on their medications, monitoring for drug therapy problems, following up with patients regularly, and optimizing therapeutic plans alongside other care providers.

At every opportunity, I love talking with other pharmacists to see how they feel about the profession, and what their ideas are for improving it. Pharmacists, interns, and pharmacy students who want to see positive changes happen to our practice need to voice their concerns, share their ideas, and encourage others in the profession to follow suit. I firmly believe our next steps as a profession, in light of the changing scope of practice, are to advocate to as many people as possible about our abilities, address aspects of our profession we want to improve, and partake in pharmacy practice research to show our value to stakeholders.

Heather Wren of Maple, Ont., north of Toronto, holds a BSc degree in Biomedical Science from the University of Guelph, and is currently a PharmD student at the University of Waterloo, where she will be part of its 2016 graduating class.