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Embracing the change at Pharmacy U Toronto
Think. Do. Say.

by Jane Auster


Marketing, branding and creativity guru Ron Tite’s provocative opening session at the ninth annual Pharmacy U Toronto – Think. Do. Say. – posed this dilemma:
“In today’s dynamic pharmacy environment, growth isn’t going to come from the same services delivered in the same way with the same mindset. No. Disruption is coming from all angles, and the modern pharmacy has to aggressively disrupt itself before someone else does it first.

But here’s the problem: Organizations don’t change. People do.”

Are you one of those people?
How does a leader think, do, and say while at the same time delivering service in the most efficient way? asked Ron Tite.

#1 Choose purpose over profit and connect with everyone you deal with – employees, customers, suppliers, shareholders and community – like they are the only person in the world at that moment.

“Either you or your people have a genuine desire to connect with the people who come into your pharmacy or you don’t…and you have to operationalize it (that connection).”
How do you become irreplaceable in the eyes of your patients in a world in which Amazon Pharmacy (arguably the biggest potential disrupter) is coming and offering faster and cheaper service delivered straight to your patients’ door?
“The real disrupters,” said Tite, “are the ones who are solving the problems the establishment can’t or won’t. It is not a problem until somebody solves it.
“Exceeding benchmarks is the new benchmark!” he said, as he told a personal story of his experience with Westin Hotels, Vancouver, where the benchmark was definitely exceeded.
How can Canadian pharmacists empower themselves for change – and major disruption? That question resonated throughout the day as a sold-out crowd of pharmacists from across the country listened, learned and engaged with presenters, challenging them to do better and be better for their patients – and their businesses.


Panel: If you’re not at the table, you’re probably on the menu

This lunchtime panel left the Pharmacy U audience hungry for more.
Moderated by AdhereRx’s Jim Danahy, the panel challenged every pharmacist in the room to become a leader.

“More pharmacists have to step up to be leaders, said Carlene Oleksyn. “Engage government. Meet with them and document those meetings.
“If you have the leadership, you can make changes. We do things differently so a pharmacist coming (to work with) us has to learn a completely different philosophy. I hire for care! You have to talk to the patients. When they (pharmacists) get into that culture, they say ‘oh my god!'” They are empowered to make decisions and become leaders.

Jamie Kellar, professor at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, is not convinced that pharmacists don’t want to be leaders, but she pointed to other healthcare professionals (such as physicians) who lead themselves rather than be led by others.
She also challenged the audience to consider the importance of language in the pharmacy profession. “A lot of industries are undergoing disruption,” she said. “What if ‘dispensing’ weren’t a dirty word? What if we are selling ourselves short?” Maybe it’s time for pharmacists to “own” their profession in a way they aren’t currently because of a natural tendency to be self-deprecating.

How can pharmacists find an unmet need in their communities? Many already are, said Billy Cheung, Executive Director, Pharmacy, Marketing & Professional Affairs at Pharmasave. “Get out of just thinking like a dispenser,” he advised, and consider other services, such as meds checks, which allow valuable face to face encounters with patients. “You can’t wait to make changes. You must take leadership at all levels.”

Whole Health Pharmacy Partners CEO Dean Miller offered that pharmacists have already made great strides in becoming healthcare leaders. The flu shot is just one example where pharmacists have stepped up to “own” that business and become the go-to providers, and are hugely successful. “Think like a CEO to make changes!”

Here are just a few other Pharmacy U Toronto highlights:

From poop talk to pep talk

What roles do probiotics play in managing GI? Pharmacist Dragana Skokovic-Sunjic helped to dispel the myths and provide sound guidelines for probiotic therapy in a highly entertaining session that did not shy away from talking about poop in all its forms.

Can I take this for pain?

Pharmacist and University of Waterloo clinical lecturer Nardine Nakhla advised the audience never to underestimate the power of listening to patients and trying to understand their pain experience. The patient experience is key to making successful treatment recommendations. Canadians spend millions on OTC pain relief products. There is a huge role for pharmacists to play to provide assessment, triage and care to improve patient outcomes.

Helping your patients quit smoking

The quit journey is one where pharmacists are uniquely qualified to help, said pharmacist Jane Ling, who is also President of Pharmacists for a Smoke Free Canada and CEASE (Central East Association for Smoking Elimination). She advocated using the 3 As (Ask Advise Act) to make a huge difference in patients’ health.

The opioid crisis

Donnie Edwards offered his firsthand, sometimes painful experience dealing with patients with addiction – and specifically opioid – issues. The co-owner of Boggio & Edwards IDA and Adjunct Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Waterloo shared his insights into the use of naloxone as a recovery aid. “Naloxone should not only be talked about in a clinical setting,” he said. “We need to talk more about naloxone and opioids (in other settings) to remove the stigma. 390,000 naloxone kits have been distributed from 2016 to 2020. That sounds good, but it’s not enough.” Naloxone is the new EpiPen.


Are you ready to embrace YOUR change?

Visit to learn about our upcoming conferences.

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