Pharmacy U

Pharmacy Leader profile: Pawandeep Sidhu – “I did not anticipate the journey I’ve been on.”

Pawandeep
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Pawandeep Sidhu

 

Education: Bachelor of Pharmacy from the University of Manitoba

Current Role: Program Manager for Pharmacy at Mount Carmel Clinic and President of Pharmacists Manitoba

 

When you graduated, what did you envision for your future?

 

By the time I graduated, my ambition was to own or operate a chain pharmacy. My career goals were fully situated in community pharmacy. I never envisioned or thought I would be in the position I am today, working in a not-for-profit interprofessional clinic supporting those in a largely marginalized community, as well as the president of our provincial pharmacy association, Pharmacists Manitoba.

 

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

 

Looking back, I did not anticipate the journey I have been on. I started as a staff pharmacist with Shoppers Drug Mart in Thompson, Manitoba. Thompson is the largest city in northern Manitoba and the service hub for dozens of communities, many of them Indigenous. In relatively quick succession, I became pharmacy manager and then associate-owner, first in Thompson and subsequently in Winnipeg.

 

I later broadened my experience through an opportunity to temporarily cover a role in pharmacy operations, supporting all Shoppers Drug Mart associate-owners in Manitoba. This is where I realized my passion for working with other professionals and supporting them in an ever-changing environment.

 

In addition to this, I became a board director with Pharmacists Manitoba in 2016, chairing several committees and, since 2019, as president. Being on the board has further strengthened my belief that pharmacists are an integral part of the healthcare team. To deliver better outcomes for clients and to make healthcare spending more sustainable, we need massive shifts in our public health system. Pharmacists can play a much larger role in delivering expanded services while helping to contain costs.

 

I am currently the program manager for pharmacy at Mount Carmel Clinic, a not-for-profit community health agency. This interprofessional clinic is situated in a community with some of the most marginalized people of Winnipeg. We work with our clients to ensure that they have access to all their healthcare needs including but not limited to primary health, pharmacy, dieticians, social work and dentistry.

 

I am fortunate to have had some great opportunities come my way working in different communities and areas of pharmacy. These opportunities allowed me to gain an extensive amount of experience that continues to help move me forward in my career.

 

 

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

 

I have encountered many comments related to my race. I have been told on several occasions my opinion doesn’t matter because “I wasn’t born here” or “the colour of my skin doesn’t meet the needs of the community,” to name a few. These are incredibly difficult comments to face and it has definitely taken me some time to be able to step back from these comments and navigate these conversations in a constructive manner.

 

I have also encountered challenges creating boundaries between my personal and professional life and, from time to time, one or the other has had to take the backseat. These are difficult decisions to make and as I continue to grow and learn, there is never a “perfect balance,” but it’s important to find a balance that works in that moment. There’s a lot of give and take.

 

From a professional standpoint, Manitoba has been a difficult environment to create change within the profession of pharmacy. We lag behind many of our colleagues in other Canadian jurisdictions in both scope of practice and public funding for services. It has been a great challenge trying to move this forward, but with persistence and continued efforts of building positive relationships with our government, I believe we will move the needle forward.

 

 

How important was mentoring in your career?

 

Mentoring has been very significant in helping me get where I am today. I was fortunate to acquire a great mentor when I was a student who continuously pushed me outside my comfort zone. This helped make the transition from pharmacy student to pharmacist that much easier. I have been fortunate to continue to have other strong mentors over the past few years that continue to support me today. Now that I look back, I am proud to say that the majority of my mentors have been women in leadership positions. Whether having an advisory board to bounce ideas off, learning from the experiences of others, or creating networks of like-minded individuals, mentoring is definitely a critical part of growing professionally and personally.

 

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

 

I am driven by the belief that we as pharmacists are incredibly underutilized as healthcare providers. We can make significant impacts on health outcomes and measurably improve lives, while supporting operational and financial efficiency in the Canadian healthcare system.

 

Additionally, I am motivated by the fact that much work is left to be done moving women into leadership roles. Despite women being a majority within our profession, we are still very much a minority in ownership, executive, and other leadership positions. We need to continue to both discuss continuing inequities and systemic barriers and to take action to shatter those glass ceilings.

 

What advice would you give to new female pharmacy graduates?

 

Never underestimate your potential. Take on as many opportunities as possible that come your way. The experience, skills, and networks you gain from unexpected opportunities will only make you stronger, more capable, and confident to continue to move forward.