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Celebrating 2022 Technician Innovation Pharmacy Practice + Business Award winner

The Pharmacy Practice + Business Awards recognize Canadian pharmacy professionals providing exceptional patient care and demonstrating creativity and innovation in pharmacy practice. We are pleased to introduce this year’s winners.
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Why she won: With her unique team of Drug Access Navigators in Atlantic Canada, pharmacy technician Kayla Ross helps to eliminate financial barriers around medication access so cancer patients can focus on their health and treatment. As hospital employees, navigators work on a referral from the oncology team to investigate and coordinate funding for a patient’s prescribed therapy, staying up to date on drug plan submission processes, temporary drug release programs, and financial assistance options. The ultimate goal is to keep the patient and the oncology team informed, while also keeping the treatment plan moving smoothly.

With no formal training for this role, most navigators learn on the job. In 2020, Ross became the co-founder and vice president for Atlantic Canada Oncology Drug Access Navigators Association, a not-for-profit organization with a goal to improve the quality and availability of 

oncology drug access navigator services throughout the region. Since its inception, the group has been instrumental in standardizing the role of oncology navigators in the region. Its website features education opportunities and information-sharing, as well as resources for cancer patients/their families, healthcare professionals and plan and program representatives.

Since Ross become the first Drug Access Navigator in Nova Scotia in 2015, there are now a total of 22 navigators across the province (18 of whom have a pharmacy technician background) and counting!


What do you most enjoy about what you do?

Helping others, specifically cancer patients! The role of the Drug Access Navigator has endless opportunities. Finding innovative ways to help patients gain access and funding for their treatment lifts one of the many burdens these patients and family bear—and I am happy to be a part of this.

What is your biggest challenge?

Being in a unique role means that there is no specific education to prepare for it. However, this is also one of the many reasons I love this role. You must be self-motivated, passionate and driven as you learn on the job.

Is there someone who served as a role model?

As I was the first Drug Access Navigator here in Nova Scotia, I owe many thanks to the large body of drug navigators in Ontario who helped me navigate this new role, specifically Alan Birch and Amy Pilon. These individuals helped me bring more accessible access to Cancer patients here in NS.

What’s your favourite way to spend time outside of work?

I am a single mom to a beautiful little girl. Most of my time is spent running around to different activities such as dance! I also enjoy volunteering to support other navigators and cancer patients through the Atlantic association, where I am the co-founder and hold the role of Director of Education.

Name something you’re really good at that has  nothing to do with pharmacy.

Event planning and do-it-yourself craft projects!

What’s one piece of advice you’d give a young
pharmacy technician who wants to make a difference in their career?

The opportunities are endless! Don’t stop looking for your dream job until you find it!

What’s next for you?

I hope to see a course developed for pharmacy technicians and others who want to further their education and become a Drug Access Navigator. Furthermore, I hope to be involved in creating this course. I think if more pharmacy technicians knew about this, it would help expand this role within many parts of the healthcare system, which in turn helps patients and families with the burden of a cancer diagnosis.

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