Ensuring all aspects of the company’s operations meet – or exceed – regulatory requirements is Elaine Akers’ primary responsibility. Although Elaine has been with the company for 25 years, this role is new to her and to the organization. It was created in 2014 to support the overall growth and expansion of the company. Originally located in Ontario with retail and long-term care focused pharmacies, the company was expanding nationally and moving into Specialty and Home Care markets.
Education: University of Toronto (Pharmacy)
Current role: Vice President, Regulatory Affairs, Medical Pharmacies Group Limited, Markham, Ontario
What has been a highlight of your career?
Diversity has been a cornerstone of my career. I’ve been able to work in different settings with Medical Pharmacies for 25 years. I started as a pharmacy manager, then regional director, then vice president of operations. I enjoyed all these roles – and I enjoyed being involved in the larger pharmacy community. One of the things I’m most proud of is my work with the Ontario College of Pharmacists when it was embarking on regulating pharmacy technicians. I always felt pharmacists had a bigger role to play, but we could not do that until we were able to focus more on the patient.
How do you keep a focus on patients as your leadership role has grown?
I went into pharmacy like so many others: to help people. As my career has evolved, I was concerned I might lose this connection. I haven’t. Now I help other pharmacists help patients, but I never lose sight of why we all do what we do as pharmacists regardless of our particular job.
What advice would you give new pharmacists to help them in the years ahead?
Embrace what you are passionate about. Discover what interests you the most. This will enable you to make the greatest contribution. There will be hiccups along the way, but persevere and you will derive the greatest job satisfaction.
Is forging strong partnerships during changing times an integral part of the work you do?
Partnerships are built on strong relationships, so it is essential to have the relationship first. My job requires building relationships outside Medical Pharmacies – with pharmacy associations and college of pharmacy, industry partners and government, among others. We help each other understand and navigate the future of pharmacy. Our work with long-term care facilities, in particular, is a niche market that most people don’t understand even within the pharmacy sector. Partnerships help us enhance awareness of the key role we play as a profession and collectively bring about important advances.
How can pharmacists best develop strong partnerships?
To have a successful partnership, there has to be trust. That can’t be rushed. We can get impatient when our recommendations aren’t accepted, but it takes time to build a strong relationship and have others understand our expertise. Inclusiveness is also important. Having a mix of various professionals to confer with is essential. This enhances the circle of care. As well, pharmacists need to develop partnerships with other pharmacists. We need to focus on what is best for the profession of pharmacy and our patients. As we expand our scope, and move from the role of a retailer to becoming a member of a patient’s healthcare team, it is critical that we develop our existing relationships and transform them into true partnerships.
Leaders in Pharmacy, including this independently written article, is supported by Pfizer Canada.