Pharmacy U

Leaders in Pharmacy 2019: Justin Bates


The Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association of Canada champions pharmacy for the delivery of high-value, quality health care to Canadians.  It advocates for Canada’s leading pharmacy organizations in all pharmacy formats, including chain, banner, grocery, mass-merchandiser, long-term care, specialty and independent. The Association focuses on improving the delivery-of-care environment for pharmacy, while fostering the right conditions for business success. By leveraging more than 10,500 pharmacies located in neighbourhoods across Canada, the Association aims to advance sustainable health care for all stakeholders. “We represent the entire pharmacy ecosystem. That gives us a unique platform to be truly representative,” says CEO Justin Bates.


by donalee Moulton


EDUCATION: York University (Business Administration)
CURRENT ROLE: CEO, Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association of Canada


How would you describe your role in the healthcare system?

I look at my involvement from three perspectives: as a patient, a patient advocate, and a professional advocate for pharmacies. You really learn what advocacy is when you are a patient and when you are speaking for a loved one. From a professional perspective, the need to ensure speed, access and comfortable relationships drives the work I do today. Patients’ trust in pharmacists and the high accessibility of pharmacies create capacity in the system to deliver care closer to where patients work, live and play. We have a good healthcare system, but there are important opportunities to improve.

What is essential to move the healthcare system forward?

We must connect ideas and people. We need to work with government and private payors to address their challenges. We must also unite behind the principle of better care for everyone. My job – and I am not alone in this – is to help develop the relationships that will foster greater collaboration. As pharmacists, being on the solutions side will position the profession more effectively.

There is a tendency to look inward. That tunnel vision can lead to not seeing other perspectives. It would serve us well, for example, to have more robust evidence for government about the value we bring to the system. Fragmentation within the pharmacy sector is also an ongoing issue. We need to do more to unite the profession and business of pharmacy.

What advice would you give new pharmacists to help them in the years ahead?

Bring that energy and passion, hope and optimism you feel as a student to your career. Challenge conventional approaches, and practise to the fullest extent of your expertise. Take that latter responsibility very seriously.

Is taking action to enhance pharmacists’ value to patients an integral part of the work you do?

Patient impact is our biggest asset. We need to harness that story. Pharmacists can build stronger relationships with patients and other healthcare providers, and communicating our value is central to that. This is what we do at the Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association of Canada – we build the story that demonstrates the value of pharmacy. Research shows what value pharmacists can bring when they do more, how pharmacies can successfully mobilize to help patients, and how that translates into efficiencies. To fully succeed in this, we must improve inter-professional collaboration.

Why is it critical that pharmacists act to enhance their value to patients? Why not let other health professionals do this?

Every healthcare provider should be practising to the fullest extent of their scope. Pharmacists have a specialized focus and a unique position on the front lines. It’s about the right person in the right place at the right time. I often see opportunities for pharmacies to serve as a healthcare hub, and for pharmacists to help patients navigate the healthcare system. That role is still evolving but, as always, it is centred around medication management.

Click here for a video featuring the 2019 Leaders in Pharmacy:

  • Video featuring all the 6th annual Leaders in Pharmacy


Leaders in Pharmacy, including this independently written article, is supported by Pfizer Canada Inc.

The article appeared originally in the January issue of Pharmacy Practice + Business and Canadian Healthcare Network.