“I have found front-line community pharmacy both social and satisfying. No two days are the same and we are making a difference every day.”
- Dalhousie University – Pharmacy
- Vice-president, Professional and Regulatory Affairs at Sobeys Pharmacy Group
Sandra Aylward has actively championed the role pharmacists can play to every key stakeholder. Her interactions with government, associations and regulatory bodies have helped to evolve the practice of pharmacy and ensure sustainability through the transition.
What was your first job as a pharmacist?
I am from a small town in Nova Scotia, and when I graduated my mother said: “Come live at home for a few years until you have your car and your fur coat.” I got the car, but skipped the fur coat. It was great to be at home as it was a good support system and allowed me to get my feet wet when I started. In small towns, pharmacists are viewed as important people in the community, and although it was strange stepping into these shoes at a young age, it was a great way to start.
Was there a mentor at that stage of your career?
The owner of the pharmacy where I worked couldn’t have been more different than I was. He was older, a chain smoker, politically active, and it seemed he had been around forever. But he had a tremendous influence on me as he got behind me and pushed me out to the local physicians and patients. He told everyone that I was the newest and most up-to-date version of a pharmacist. He championed me to everyone in the community.
Why did you leave your hometown?
I wanted to be closer to the university, and the attractions that a larger centre offers. I moved to an independent pharmacy practice in Halifax where there were physicians and a variety of other healthcare professionals. This was a great experience as it was a highly collaborative practice and we all took advantage of having so many different professionals under the same roof.
What has been your role at Sobeys?
I started as an Operations Coordinator and moved to the Director of Pharmacy Affairs. I am now the VP of Professional and Regulatory Affairs. My primary role is advocacy, public relations and government affairs. I promote our company and the profession to all outside stakeholders. I feel I am constantly fighting for an appreciation of community pharmacy service and our piece of public spending. My work also means focusing on the importance of the sustainability of community pharmacy.
What advice would you give to young female pharmacists?
Pharmacy is a great profession for women. Community practice is rewarding and can positively impact patients; I recommend it. Pharmacy hopefully has shed the old boys’ club culture and women have an opportunity to be judged based on their merits. For the first couple of years, I recommend that everyone keep their ears and hearts open and not be afraid of making wrong decisions in their careers; enjoy the experience.
If you could change one thing in the profession, what would it be?
I would like to see pharmacists become comfortable with asking patients for payment for the services we provide. We offer an extremely valuable public service. Dispensing is a passive model, in which the patients come to us. With expanded scope, it will be very different; we will have to approach patients to make them aware of these services and how they can benefit — and become comfortable asking for payment.
Leaders in Pharmacy, including this independently written article, is supported by GenMed, a division of Pfizer