John Papastergiou plays many leadership roles in the pharmacy community.
Owning and operating two busy urban Shoppers Drug Mart locations consumes most of his time. That being said, he is also passionate about pharmacy practice research. He employs his unique background in clinical research to explore an expanded role for the community pharmacist. He is currently the lead investigator of a number of innovative research projects, he is actively involved with the Ontario Pharmacists Association, and he can be heard regularly on Zoomer Radio in Toronto. John is also a popular public speaker and has delivered presentations at conferences both nationally and internationally.
Photo by Brandon Gray
Education: University of Toronto (Bachelor of Science, Pharmacy)
Current role: Associate Owner, Shoppers Drug Mart, Toronto
Assistant Professor, Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Toronto
Adjunct Assistant Professor, School of Pharmacy,University of Waterloo
How would you describe a great day at work?
I have been part of my local community in downtown Toronto since 2005. My typical day revolves around my patients. That is what is important to me. We have become a staple in Toronto East. This has helped to grow our business and enabled us to have an impact on our community. Many members of this community are newcomers, and we have striven to make their life easier.
What is or has been your greatest challenge as a leader in the pharmacy sector?
There has traditionally been a barrier to community pharmacists being engaged in research. I have worked to overcome this barrier. We are on the frontlines. What we do is practise, and this has real-world applications. I have received a lot of support from Shoppers Drug Mart for this work, and that support is essential. We really believe in the expanded role of the pharmacist.
Understanding and acceptance don’t happen overnight, and initially there was skepticism about some of our patient programs. Early on, for example, I did a lot of outreach to the family doctors in the community to help them better understand what we were doing. Now I am even part of their local journal club. It’s critical to be part of your greater healthcare community.
Was there an “aha” moment for you when you knew that you were making a difference?
My initial “aha” moment came when I decided to prepare a manuscript around one of our pilot programs and submitted it to the Canadian Pharmacists Journal. When it got accepted, it was validation that our work could have broader application. Subsequent to that, we published a case report on domperidone withdrawal in breastfeeding mothers and got calls from clinicians and patients from all over the world. That was the first time I realized our impact could extend beyond our local community and possibly change practice globally.
Why is it important for the profession to focus on customer loyalty?
If you want to build a good pharmacy practice and a successful business, your customers have to be loyal to you. We’re not going to get buy-in from payers and government unless our patients are demanding services.
How can pharmacists more effectively help ensure adherence?
Little things can make a big difference. Simply having a discussion on adherence will have an impact. At Shoppers, we have a group that calls patients to remind them about refills. This resonates with them. Pharmacists should also do a medication review. This is an opportunity to talk about the importance of adherence and the tools available.