Jean Thiffault currently owns two pharmacies in Laval. (In Quebec, you must be a pharmacist to own a store.) He is also the president of the Association québécoise des pharmaciens propriétaires. “We are the negotiating body that helps to set fees for pharmacists,” explains Thiffault. “There is pressure on us to get the best possible deal even in an environment of government cuts.”
Education: University of Montreal (Pharmacy degree)
University of Montreal (Master’s in Pharmacokinetics)
Current role: President, Association québécoise des pharmaciens propriétaires (AQPP) and pharmacy owner at Jean Coutu Group (PJC) Inc.
Why did you become involved with the Association québécoise des pharmaciens propriétaires?
I was elected president in 2012 when the profession was actively exploring a change in practice. Traditionally we had been paid for dispensing medication, but scope was expanding. Being at the forefront of this new face of pharmacy was my main motivation for becoming involved with the association.
There is a disconnect between public expectations and government objectives. Our first step is to explain how services can be offered effectively and safely by pharmacists. Then we need to convince the government these services are essential. There is a shortage of general practitioners in Quebec with upwards of 30 per cent of people without a family doctor. Pharmacists are often the first line of access. Our role is more important than ever before.
Have you always considered yourself an entrepreneur?
I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I started as a hired pharmacist, but I wanted to build a pharmacy that mirrored my approaches and values. I like the two hats a pharmacy owner wears: one for patient care and one for running a business.
What qualities are needed to operate a successful pharmacy?
You must like people. You don’t treat cases or illnesses, you treat people. I’ve discovered that a successful business is built on putting the right processes in place and developing strong personal relationships. People are very appreciative of what we do. That is very rewarding.
What are the important lessons you’ve learned as a business owner? Has this helped you to be a better pharmacist?
I learned to better understand what other professionals do and why they do it. This helps me translate best practices to pharmacy, to my patients and to my business. We also need to have more discussions with our patients. They are often overlooked in the healthcare process. It is a shame and it is unnecessary. The first question our pharmacists ask patients is, “Do you know what this medication is for?” This lets us start an important conversation.
I have also come to appreciate that the pharmacy and the business are interconnected. Once you put your white coat on the rack, you still have to pay your bills. Business is not a bad word. Patients need to understand this.
Why is it important to you to be involved as an advocate for the profession?
Pharmacists are amazing at many different things, but not advocacy. Sometimes communication with the public sector is tough. We don’t speak the same language; there is a cultural barrier. Also, we tend to be very humble as a profession. It’s hard for us to take our place in the health system. We need to be more present.
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