As CEO of the not-for-profit British Columbia Pharmacy Association, Geraldine Vance works on behalf of more than 3,000 pharmacists and more than 850 pharmacies. The association supports and advances the professional role and economic viability of pharmacists so they, in turn, can provide enhanced patient-centred care. “Our job is to see the emergent issues and respond to them,” Geraldine says.
Education: Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (Journalism Administration)
Current Role: Chief Executive Officer, British Columbia Pharmacy Association, Vancouver
How would you describe a great day at work?
It’s one that brings a pleasant surprise for me and the pharmacy profession. Recently, for example, I met with a group of pharmacists, pharmacy owners, and industry representatives. They had enormous passion and could see opportunities ahead. They looked past the storm clouds. We need this type of commitment – this type of partnership – as we face exciting and uncertain times ahead. Of course, not all surprises are as satisfying as this. I started with the association in 2012, and within 60 days the government terminated our Pharmacy Services Agreement. I realized I am destined to have a life full of surprises as long as I am in pharmacy.
What is or has been your greatest challenge as a leader in the pharmacy sector?
I came to work at the association after 10 years with the B.C. Medical Association. I thought I understood pharmacy and the sector, but I discovered it was much more complex than I realized. I was surprised (there is that word again!) to learn how little profile the profession has in the community. The challenge is always for pharmacy to boast a bit. There is exceptional expertise here; however, that is an under-told story. It is a significant challenge for people to understand the full range of benefits community pharmacists offer because pharmacists are generally a modest group. But, this is changing. For example, we have put in place an MLA outreach program to connect pharmacists and politicians. As a profession and as pharmacists, we need to demonstrate value.
Was there an “aha” moment for you, when you knew you were making a difference?
In 2009, B.C. pharmacists were given authority to do immunizations, and they did about 30,000 flu vaccinations that year. In 2015, they did 430,000 flu shots. That is a powerful demonstration of what community pharmacists can do and how they have enhanced their role in healthcare.
How can the profession build stronger partnerships during these changing times?
Partnerships are all about relationships and being responsive to those relationships. If you look after this, the business looks after itself. It starts by understanding the needs of the people you work with. It’s easy, for instance, to think all government is interested in is cost-cutting. If you make the conversation about dollars and cents, it will be a short conversation. You have to go to the next level. Ask yourself how patients, the healthcare system and the province will benefit. Then bring this insight to the conversation. You’ll be surprised what happens next: partnerships that benefit everyone, especially patients.
Why is being a strong partner important to you?
Strong partnerships are based on a mutual understanding of what each party needs on a fundamental level, where they need to go, and how to get there together. I’ve always believed we need to be open to doing things in ways they haven‘t been done before. We may even need to redefine who are our partners are, private payers, for instance. In B.C., we were involved in a program on cardiovascular risk counselling modelled after a partnership between the Ontario Pharmacists Association and Green Shield Canada. It’s a different approach to a significant healthcare issue, and it can save dollars while still meeting the needs of patients. It’s a game-changer.