From her background as a community pharmacist and pharmacy executive and now as a healthcare consultant and chair of the Canadian Pharmacists Association, Jane Farnham views her profession from all angles. But whatever her role, she sees herself first and foremost as an advocate for the people she admires most – pharmacists.
By Jane Auster
Photography by Brandon Gray
With the role of pharmacy changing so profoundly and quickly, how is CPhA changing to keep up with its members?
I have the distinction of being the last president and the first chair of CPhA because of the new governance changeover, with new bylaws to support the changeover enacted on July 1, 2014.
I was involved in an exercise to design a new governance model, working with a team that was doing a lot of heavy lifting. The entire board was involved, and with the new governance changeover they had to resign this year. They had the courage essentially to vote themselves out of existence. You don’t see a lot of organizations with such courage, vision and commitment.
What is one of the biggest changes at the CPhA?
I think it’s fair to say that the CPhA is changing and gearing up to be at the forefront of all the changes in pharmacy.
We’ve really ramped up our advocacy function. We have a new VP of advocacy and public affairs, who, along with other team members supports our greater advocacy role. We are also supporting the provincial pharmacy advocacy bodies with tools and resources to help them with their advocacy efforts within their provinces. We are all one now, working in lockstep, and that is new for us.
How important is it for pharmacists to have a strong association behind them?
It’s more important than ever. A strong national association is essential in ensuring that pharmacists are at the table when critical healthcare discussions take place with such groups as the CMA (Canadian Medical Association), CNA (Canadian Nurses Association) and HEAL (The Health Action Lobby). We’ve had a positive response – recognition that pharmacists are among the most accessible healthcare advisors with a critical role to play in the primary healthcare system. Our relationship with these groups is growing, and there is a place at the table for all of us. The more we talk and the more we collaborate, the better for consumers of healthcare. At the end of the day, the patient has to be at the centre of it all, so we all have to do the right thing.
Has the CPhA’s focus changed?
Our focus really hasn’t changed: it is still all about ensuring that pharmacists have the tools, resources and skills to provide optimal patient-centred care in an ever-changing environment; to work even more closely with provincial and territorial pharmacy associations; and advance the interests of patients in key healthcare issues.
Many of the issues pharmacists face today transcend provincial boundaries and jurisdictions. We still have too many differences in terms of scope of practice across the country. We want to be the organization that takes the lessons learned and shares them at a national level.
Your career journey has taken you from community pharmacy to executive positions and now chair of the CPhA. How do you see your career evolving?
I see a nice blank canvas in front of me…; there is so much opportunity. I am having fun at CPhA. I’m also spending time as a healthcare consultant and enjoying working with some really great people. Where that will lead, we’ll see. Honestly, I see opportunity everywhere. It is huge and exciting.
In the world of pharmacy, what keeps you up at night?
(In pharmacy) there are a lot of moving parts right now and an important window of opportunity is available to us. It is important that we do the right things to open the door and walk through it. With CPhA there is a flow of positive energy with what we are doing, but I worry about under-delivering on the expectations, and that has led to some restless nights.
In a perfect world, what would pharmacy look like in Canada?
I really think we are heading in the right direction. We are definitely leading the global pack in terms of expanded scope. In a perfect world it would be perfectly implemented, with pharmacists able to use their skills and training to deliver patient-centred care, to work in collaboration with other healthcare providers, to offer seamless provision of care. We would all be electronically integrated, and pharmacists would be seen as the accessible, frontline healthcare practitioners focused on health promotion and chronic disease prevention. And ever the optimist, I believe that is achievable. We will get there.
We need to stop and take a breath and feel really good about where we are and keep moving forward.