Pierre-Marc Gervais opened his pharmacy in downtown Montreal in 2008. As a young pharmacist, he was looking to contain expenses while building his expertise. He determined the best approach was to focus on the pharmacy and forego the frontshop. A decade later, the pharmacy is an established part of the neighbourhood, says Gervais, who also teaches at the University of Montreal. “I thought I could make a difference with this store, and I was right.”
by donalee Moulton
EDUCATION: University of Montreal (Pharmacy)
CURRENT ROLE: Pharmacist-Owner, Pharmacie Pierre-Marc Gervais, Montreal
Pierre-Marc Gervais opened his pharmacy in downtown Montreal in 2008. As a young pharmacist, he was looking to contain expenses while building his expertise. He determined the best approach was to focus on the pharmacy and forego the frontshop.
A decade later, the pharmacy is an established part of the neighbourhood, says Gervais, who also teaches at the University of Montreal. “I thought I could make a difference with this store, and I was right.”
What intrigued you about being a pharmacist?
When I was in university, I didn’t really know what being a pharmacist was all about. I applied to study both pharmacology and pharmacy, and I didn’t know the difference. I did know that you needed good marks for pharmacy, and the job opportunities were strong. In university, I learned much about medication, but I didn’t really grasp what pharmacists do until I started in practice. Then I learned it’s all about relationships.
What surprised you most about the profession once you graduated from school?
How much people trust you. People share their lives with you. They are looking for help. They have issues, and they want solutions. And it can be about things other than personal health. Shortly after I became a pharmacist, a patient asked me if I knew how to get rid of skunks! At that point, I realized the pharmacist can be part of the fabric of their patients’ lives. And that is an honour.
What challenges do pharmacists face today, compared to a decade ago?
The job is far less technical today. The focus is more on how we disseminate knowledge and help patients implement changes. It is more challenging. Meeting that challenge means assuming greater responsibility and incurring a greater obligation. At my store, we offer a large choice of products and drugs. We also have specialized services such as stomotherapy, orthopedic rentals and breast pump rentals. But what has been the key to our success is our commitment to listen to people and find solutions to their problems. Drugs are powerful tools. To use them correctly, patients need a coach.
Why is it important to take action to enhance pharmacists’ value to patients?
This is crucial. If our role is just to dispense medications without adding value, organizations can actually do that more efficiently than we can. We must provide information and insight as well as medications. As a profession, we are doing better, but we need to do more to change our way of thinking.
What actions can pharmacists take today to become more adept at enhancing the value they bring to patients?
The simple things often matter most. Listen to your patients. Every patient has issues, and they are looking for solutions. Let them know that if one solution doesn’t work, you will help them try another. At the University of Montreal, I stress to students that what is most important is what they can do, not what they can’t. Pharmacists need to sell what they can do to their patients. Tell patients about the services you provide and how they will benefit from those services. I recently received a call from a nurse to alert me that she was having trouble resolving an issue with a patient. I offered up solutions. She was surprised pharmacists could do what I was suggesting – and she is in health care. Pharmacists need to promote their services more effectively and more confidently. Pharmacists underestimate their own value.