Pharmacy U

Pharmacy Leader of the week: Rachelle Rocha – “Were there challenges? Absolutely!”

Rachelle Rocha Head Shot

Rachelle Rocha will be a featured speaker at the upcoming PharmacyU 2021!



University of Toronto BScPhm 1993

Owner and Chief Visionary Officer, Seasons Pharmacy and Culinaria


How is pharmacy changing?

Pharmacists are highly specialized and highly skilled professionals that are under-utilized in the healthcare system. Most of us offer our services in practice sites developed by the leadership of many decades past, when the important piece work of product distribution was the dominant role of the pharmacist. Much has changed in the way of scope, while the physical spaces, software, reimbursement models and labour assignment have not made the commensurate changes. Pharmacists, who possess a sophisticated understanding of physiology, pharmacology and pharmacokinetics can identify, prevent and resolve medication related problems. Pharmacy technicians, our allies in patient care, need to be given more responsibility, in more workplaces, to assist with all the technical functions related to vaccination, testing and drug distribution.

Where has your career taken you?

My personal career path includes in hospital, retail pharmacy and more senior roles in the food/mass industry. At home, we live on a mixed-production farm. I have been involved at the Ontario College of Pharmacists, and in nonprofit organizations supporting seed saving, local food policy work, increasing food literacy and access to locally produced food. I have almost 30 years of providing lifestyle advice with prescriptions for the many chronic ailments that inflict our population. My newest pharmacy project combines my skillset in practice and operations with my passion for eating healthy food, and my deep understanding of the food production system.

What’s behind Seasons Pharmacy and Culinaria?

With specific intent, my business partner, Laurie Pennell and I, went to Germany to work with architect Claus Lammle, to design Seasons Pharmacy and Culinaria. According to Claus, it is “not sympathic” to attend a pharmacy. With a fresh perspective, we created a distinctly innovative patient care environment.  The kitchen, Culinaria, has equal prominence, in visibility and square footage, to the pharmacy dispensary. We cook in this kitchen every day. We are a destination for ingredients and inspiration, for home cooking, as a means to better health – a place where food meets medicine. In the retail selling space, we have excluded items that are potentially addictive or troublesome, like lottery tickets, or highly processed edible food-like substances, high in sugar fat salt and devoid of fibre and vitality. Advice about lifestyle factors resonates more profoundly with customers, when they realize that the products we sell are not in conflict with the advice that we provide.

Have you faced challenges?

Were there challenges? Absolutely!  Funding was challenging – the typical formula for pharmacy success does not include an extra $80,000 for a kitchen.  The engineering firm I contracted, would not find a design solution to one of our problems, until I brought my husband, who is also an engineer to a meeting.  Did I experience extra hurdles because I was female?  It is hard to know. The reality is, regardless of who you are, or where you were born, you will come across barriers. In nature and in business, it is survival of the fittest, and you need to rely on yourself to solve those problems. You might need to tap into your network of associates to get what you need.  You might need to use your own cash to fund part of your project. You might need to find a good partner who complements your skillset and shares the work.

How should pharmacists who want to be leaders get started?

When your vocation is your avocation, you can always find a way to make your imprint on the world. Start in your sphere of influence, with your pharmacy team and your client base, and grow from there.  It is possible to have work that you love, that integrates with your work experience and your personal life.  The world needs the solutions you have in your mind’s eye.  To be a leader, you must simply lead the way.

Visit Rachelle’s unique pharmacy/culinaria concept.

Rachelle Rocha will be a featured speaker at the upcoming PharmacyU 2021!