President and Chair, Board of Trustees, Hygiean Institute for Education, Research and Training
President and CEO, Asia Pacific Institute for Medication Management
Member, Council of Leaders and Board of Advisers, Philippine Pharmacists Association
Member, Executive Board, Western Pacific Pharmaceutical Forum
ExCo Member, Community Pharmacy Section, International Pharmaceutical Federation
What excites you about being a pharmacist?
I am excited to contribute to the building of a healthy and productive community through rational and responsible use of medicines, having observed misuse and irrational use of them early on in my life as a daughter of a public servant and a politician.
When you graduated, what did you envision for your future?
I dreamed to close the gap between pharmacy education and practice, for a better recognition of the pharmacy profession and to contribute to change the image of the pharmacist in the Philippines, having observed how pharmacists are viewed by the public and the community – a reality that I learned later to be present not only in the Philippines but in many developing countries.
How has your career evolved since you first started in the profession?
I started working as a member of a quality control team but did not find it very interesting to me; after 5 months I transferred to community pharmacy. This was where I started to love my work as a pharmacist until I was again convinced to go into academics as a faculty member, then the Dean of a College of Pharmacy, initiating a change in the college program incorporating the entrepreneurial/business component in the competency building of the would-be pharmacists. This I later termed “pharmapreneurship.” Af ew years later, I went back to community pharmacy initiating clinical pharmacy services to disprove the perception of its only being possible in the hospital setting. This gave birth to 3-in-1 (delivery, walk-in and drive-thru services) pharmacy in the Philippines. I also started the setup of pharmacy in big corporate organizations as part of the medical benefits of employees and their families. This gave me the opportunity to develop linkages to different groups. I later became a consultant to a number of organizations, including the Philippines Department of Health that paved the way to my involvement in research that made changes and development of new policies possible. My passion to drive changes in the landscape of the pharmacy profession in the country was later strongly supported as the president of the integrated national organization of pharmacists, the Philippine Pharmacists Association, Inc. (PPhA) for 4 years. My journey in pharmacy was not easy; it has been very challenging.
How would you describe a great day at work?
i find it great day for me when i received a “thank you” from the patient because i have helped them use of their medicines rationally and responsibly, and a “thank you” from other pharmacy owners and operators because I have helped in streamlining the processes and systems of their operations efficiently and effectively.
What is (or has been) your greatest challenge as a leader in pharmacy?
The challenges I experienced are two-fold:
- Internally, among pharmacists to believe that we can be more and do more for the patients we serve. We need to believe that we were prepared for the big task that awaits us in work, we have to stop complacency and show our value if we want the public and the health system to recognize us. We must not fear trying but always be strategic in trying to be the better agents for positive change;
- Externally, to convince our fellow healthcare professionals, health policy makers and legislators to see our value as a member of the healthcare team.
Was there an “aha” moment for you, when you realized the impact of the difference you’re making?
There are two surprising “aha” moments in my life as a pharmacist. One was when I received a notification as the “Lifetime Achievement Awardee” of the Federation of Asian Pharmaceutical Association, an award recognizing my achievements as a pharmacist and the impact of the initiatives and programs that I led to the pharmacy profession and to the clients the profession served. I never think of any personal recognition or award given when I work. Two was when I got elected to the ExCo of the community pharmacy section of FIP.
As a leader in pharmacy, what continues to drive you?
I am inspired by the acceptance and recognition we are getting not only from legislators, policy makers, fellow health professionals but more importantly from the patients and the clients we serve. I need to continue working to further bring pharmacy to the table; we are just beginning to gain our position, we have to continue working without getting tired. As I always tell my colleagues, “We should not stop because we are tired, let us stop only because we are done.”
Looking at your career, what are you the proudest of? What have been some of the highlights of your career?
having had helped pharmacy owners and operators grow their business through proper operations process mapping, workforce training and enabling is a very rewarding work for me. I am also very proud to have successfully led the team that worked for the passage of the New Philippine Pharmacy Law, and to have strategically positioned our stand as the spokespeple in the various committee and plenary hearings in Congress, a very tough job for us. This law gave us the legal framework to sustain the changes we introduced in pharmacy.
Do you feel there is a glass ceiling for women in pharmacy?
Somehow, yes, I would say there is but with what women leaders in pharmacy and even in corporate organizations have shown, we are little by little breaking this. It is a matter of all women to keep on believing that THEY, WE, too “CAN.”
Women are making a big name for themselves in pharmacy. What does this mean to you professionally and personally?
Professionally, I am proud to have done excellently what is mandated of us as pharmacists but personally, “making names,” “getting awards” are just bonuses because we have done our job well. Hopefully, having made big names in the profession could serve as motivation and inspiration to all future women pharmacists.
What do you think needs to happen to have more women in executive roles across various sectors in the profession?
Women have to take seriously their preparation like in their education and training and then work with full commitment and sincerity to gain proficiency in their competencies. We need to develop that mindset “to give only what is best and work without counting.” We must remember always that results of tasks we do are reflections of us, and top positions in a corporate organizations come because we have done our work well and because we were willing to give it an extra mile. Embrace continuous learning as a necessity in life.
What advice would you give to new female pharmacy graduates?
Clearly define what you want in your life, and always be focused, not distracted by the many things around you, the many nice-to-haves and unnecessaries in life. Always work to strengthen your competencies to have that capability and be positive when looking at issues and concerns. DO NOT WASTE TIME for time wasted is time lost to eternity. Believe always that you can be more for people.