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Leaders in Pharmacy 2019: Sean McKelvey

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The Institute for Personalized Therapeutic Nutrition is a not-for-profit collaboration among pharmacists, researchers, academics, physicians and allied health professionals. The team focuses on a common goal: implementing a food-first approach to manage or reverse chronic conditions. This is a new and emerging area of practice, says CEO Sean McKelvey. “Most people don’t realize that type 2 diabetes, and many other chronic diseases, can often be reversed with food. The impact we’re seeing is quite remarkable.”

 

by donalee Moulton

 

EDUCATION: University of British Columbia (Pharmacy)
CURRENT ROLE: CEO, Institute for Personalized Therapeutic Nutrition

The Institute for Personalized Therapeutic Nutrition is a not-for-profit collaboration among pharmacists, researchers, academics, physicians and allied health professionals. The team focuses on a common goal: implementing a food-first approach to manage or reverse chronic conditions. This is a new and emerging area of practice, says CEO Sean McKelvey. “Most people don’t realize that type 2 diabetes, and many other chronic diseases, can often be reversed with food. The impact we’re seeing is quite remarkable.”

How would you describe your career path? Did it take any unexpected turns?

My career has been defined by twists and turns. I’ve worked as a community pharmacist and as the manager of pharmacy innovation with Pharmasave Pacific, and I’ve co-founded and run a number of companies, but I never imagined I would be doing the work I am doing today. In 2013, I was introduced to the therapeutic potential of food, and it completely changed my career. I saw an opportunity to reduce unnecessary suffering and healthcare costs, and dramatically improve health outcomes and quality of life for Canadians. I also saw the need for pharmacists to understand the profound impact that therapeutic nutrition can have on medications.

What is your greatest challenge as a leader in pharmacy?

In my current role, lack of awareness is a significant issue. For instance, not many people understand that type 2 diabetes is often a reversible condition. The research is still ongoing, but 10 years ago it was not even envisioned that this was possible. I am spending a lot of my time building this awareness and the partnerships to support practice change.

In your field, what are the biggest opportunities for pharmacy in the next decade?

Therapeutic nutrition is an entirely new area of practice. Once you see the impact this has on patients, you can’t ‘unsee’ it. You can’t go back to just filling prescriptions as normal. This approach will require a complete change in the way our profession engages with patients. Specialized de-prescribing centres will be created, and innovative pharmacists will focus on this area.

What would you tell new graduates about the emerging area of therapeutic nutrition, and how it can help pharmacists bring value to patients?

The bottom line: you need to take responsibility, at least initially, for understanding the role of therapeutic nutrition. This is currently not part of the curriculum. You need to prepare for this new field, which will eventually become a core area of practice. Nothing is more valuable to patients than giving them hope. You can explain to patients that therapeutic nutrition is a way for them to take back control of their health. You can help give patients their lives back.

What actions can pharmacists take today to become more adept at enhancing the value they bring to patients?

Be aware of the important role you can play in informing your patients. First step, learn about new areas of practice. Then offer options to patients. A lot of what pharmacists do to enhance value happens behind the scenes. This needs to be understood and communicated. It is also important for pharmacists to help patients reduce the number of medications they need. As well, pharmacists have an individual responsibility to be aware of and open to changes that happen outside of our profession. Many pharmacists fall into a pattern that cuts them off from opportunities to do more for their patients. We need to be always open and willing to embrace new areas of practice.

Click to watch a video profiling 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 2019 issue of Pharmacy Practice + Business and Canadian Healthcare Network.