Russell Cohen has more than 40 years’ experience in all things pharmacy. His current role often has him talking about the importance of the profession with government representatives. “A good half of our business is funded by government,” he notes. “I focus my time and energy on those areas with government that illustrate and promote the value and role neighbourhood pharmacy can play in helping improve patient outcomes.”
Education: University of Manchester, U.K. (Pharmacy)
Current role: Executive Vice President, Industry and Government Affairs, Rexall, Mississauga, Ont.
There are so many options for young people in pharmacy today. What would you say to the graduating class of 2015 about the opportunities that lie ahead?
Expect to work hard – and smart. Our business is not just about filling prescriptions, which is what it was when I started. Today our patients want advice and counsel on more than just medicine. Explore professional or business choices and opportunities ahead of you and don’t be afraid to make bold moves that may take you away from your current comfort zone.
How has your career evolved since you first started in the field?
It’s been an incredible journey. I’ve been able to touch on both the profession of pharmacy and the business of pharmacy. They are absolutely intertwined. I started as a staff pharmacist before becoming a franchise owner for over 12 years. I moved into management with successive roles including marketing, operations, and pharmacy. I retired in 2001, temporarily as it turned out. I lived the good life as a retiree, but maybe my family were not ready to have me around full time, so I started my second career and joined Rexall in 2004. As the EVP, pharmacy I used to spend 10 per cent of my time focused on government and 90 per cent on pharmacy. Drug reform turned that completely around to where I now spend most of my time focused on ways that pharmacists can help improve patient outcomes.
What do you anticipate will be the biggest changes in pharmacy in the next decade?
We’re dealing with an aging population that is putting increasing demands on the healthcare system at the same time government is trying to manage costs on healthcare spending. There is an opportunity for our profession to step up again and reinforce that pharmacy is easily accessible and a more cost-effective setting to deliver services. It is imperative that we leverage our expertise and support the healthcare system in meeting these demands.
How has pharmacy advocacy evolved over the years?
We have evolved from a focus on the product to a focus on the patient. The foundation for this is articulated in 9000 Points of Care and sets forth the future path for pharmacists delivering pharmacy care. This is a journey that has evolved over the last 2 years, gaining acceptance and momentum, and we need to continue the ongoing dialogue.
Will advocacy become even more important to pharmacy in the future?
Advocacy is critical. Pharmacy is transforming and we have to continue to innovate and do a better job of informing our patients, governments and other payers about our future role in delivering healthcare services.