Pharmacy U

Pharmacy Leader of the week: Kristen Watt – “I am a practising community pharmacist on the ground.”

Kristen pharmacist


-Education -Current role

I graduated from the University of Toronto’s BSc Phm program in 2010.

I am currently the owner of a small independent community Pharmacy, Kristen’s Pharmacy, in Southampton, ON


-What excites you about being a pharmacist?

The ability to make a difference, today, right now, in a patient’s life.  Either for how they feel physically by providing them with the proper medication for their physical condition, or how they feel mentally by providing support and reassurance that I am on their team.


-How has your career evolved since you first started in the profession?

I started in pharmacy 21 years ago.  I have been lucky to watch the evolution towards paid cognitive services and medication management.  Today more than ever pharmacists are part of the healthcare team and this is something that wasn’t as common two decades ago.


-How would you describe a great day at work?

Collaboration.  Regularly I receive calls, faxes and texts asking for my input.  Challenging case.  Assistance with dosing.  Complex med regimen.  A good day as a pharmacist is a day spent dealing with medication management and effecting positive outcomes.  Notice I did not mention dispensing medications anywhere in there.  A good day is also when I have a fantastic team, especially pharmacy technicians, supporting me.


-What is (or has been) your greatest challenge as a leader in pharmacy?

Time.  Women bear so much.  At home, mother, educator, nurturer.  Friend, daughter, wife.  Finding the guilt-free time to spend to grow my career, in addition to the above AND working at my career, is exceptionally challenging.


-How important was mentoring in your career?

Incredibly important.  There are two women out there – Suzanne Alton and Jane Fielding, both incredible community pharmacists, who shaped my career.  I started working with Suzanne when I was only 16 and her ability to address any situation with calm and confidence inspired me to want to be able to do just that.  Jane took me on as an intern during the tumult of 2010, with open arms and taught me how to wrap clinical practice into a frenetic community setting.


-Was there an “aha” moment for you, when you realized the impact of the difference you’re making?

No.  As most women in pharmacy and women who effect change, I have a significant amount of imposter syndrome where I wonder why anyone listens to me at all!


-As a leader in pharmacy, what continues to drive you?

My patients.  My professional relationships.  And my sons, providing them a strong female role model.


-Looking at your career, what are you the proudest of?

My community pharmacy and its ability to pivot quickly to meet the needs of the patients and the community.  Also my commitment to my roots.  I am a practising community pharmacist on the ground.  Everything I do, every talk, every committee, every panel, I approach with that lens.  I am proud not to lose site of the ground.


-Do you feel there is a glass ceiling for women in pharmacy?

I feel there is a glass ceiling for women everywhere. There are many women pharmacists who have risen but not enough.  And we need to remember to teach those working to rise, how, what to look for, how to make connections and how to effect change.


-What do you think needs to happen to have more women in executive roles across various sectors in the profession?

Available childcare.  Understanding of family needs around meetings and committees.  PAID MATERNITY LEAVE beyond CPP – asking a female professional, who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, to take only CPP when this often doesn’t even pay for student loans puts a woman at a disadvantage.  We either can’t afford to take the required time off to grow our families or we are half present in our jobs for years while we try to balance both.  A fully paid maternity leave would have allowed me time with my children and perhaps a little time for some CE, etc.  As it was, I was able to afford only one month off with each child then returned to work FT.  The ensuing years I had no time at all for CE because I had nothing left to give after work with babies at home.  We need to support women and mothers in all aspects of career development.


-What advice would you give to new female pharmacy graduates?

If you want to make change, be heard.  Don’t be afraid of being labeled as loud and bossy.  Focus on the changes you want to make not the problems you see.  Don’t get dragged down by naysayers.  Only you can set your limitations.  If you want something, ask for it.  You are the future of the profession, you have power to make it what it needs to be.