Pharmacy U

David Edwards – Real-world training for a new generation


David Edwards provides leadership to the School of Pharmacy at the University of Waterloo.

He is also actively shaping the next generation of pharmacists in the classroom where he teaches “Introduction to the Profession of Pharmacy” as well as lectures on a variety of other topics related to clinical pharmacokinetics and drug literature evaluation. David is the author of more than 90 papers and has co-authored the textbook Evaluating Drug Literature – A statistical approach.


Photo by Brandon Gray



Education:  University of Toronto (Bachelor of Science, Pharmacy)

State University of New York at Buffalo (Doctor of Pharmacy)

Wayne State University, Detroit (Master in Public Health)

Current role:        Hallman Director, School of Pharmacy, and Associate Dean, Faculty of Science, University of Waterloo


What intrigued you about being a pharmacist?


As a high school student, my favourite subject was chemistry. I wanted to work in a profession that required this type of expertise. I grew up in a small town in Ontario and the pharmacy was the most visible healthcare provider. This was where people often went if they had general health questions.


What surprised you most about the profession once you graduated?


I thought I would work as a pharmacist in a small community, but when I graduated I realized there are a lot of things you don’t know as a new member of the profession. I felt I needed more education.


What challenges do pharmacists face today that they didn’t 20 years ago? Is the profession effectively meeting these challenges?


The changes in the last two decades present both challenges and opportunities. When I first entered the profession, the knowledge pharmacists had about medications was vastly underutilized in community practice. We’ve seen dramatic changes to the scope of practice since then, and that is good news. Now the challenge is to adapt to our expanding role in an environment that has been primarily focused on the distribution of drugs. Inconsistency in the delivery of professional services is one of the biggest problems the profession faces. Many patients are unaware of the clinical services that a pharmacist can offer and this affects our identity as a profession.   We need 100 per cent of pharmacists to be offering a full range of professional services.


Are pharmacy schools breaking new ground in Canada with respect to helping students build greater trust with patients?


Patients have always had great trust in their pharmacist but we are training pharmacists to take a more active role in medication management.  .  Communication and problem-solving are emphasized in the classroom, and experiential learning has expanded dramatically. Our program at Waterloo includes 18 months of experiential education. When our students graduate, they are prepared to offer clinical services to patients and they expect to do so.


How does your school work to help the next generation of pharmacists enhance adherence?


We all realize adherence is fundamental to the success of drug therapy. Historically, we just assumed patients did what we told them. Now we know through research that there are very high rates of non-compliance. We spend quite a bit of time in our courses helping students to work with patients in order to identify and overcome barriers to adherence. It is essential patients have regular communication with healthcare providers they trust. That promotes adherence. We emphasize that with our students.