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ICYMI: Q&A with Rita Winn, new chair of Neighbourhood Pharmacies

a woman in a blue shirt

Rita Winn, Director, Lovell Drugs Limited, was named Chair of the Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association for a two-year term, continuing to the 2023 AGM.

Education: University of Toronto – Pharmacy

Current role: Director, Lovell Drugs. Recently retired as Chief Operating Officer and General Manager at Lovell Drugs. Expanding the profile of Lovell Drugs is one of the achievements of which Rita Winn is proudest. Through her dedication and the work of the entire team, Lovell has become a well-run company committed to its employees, patients and the profession of pharmacy.

Why did you choose pharmacy?

As a child, I was fascinated with medicine and I wanted to be a surgeon. A friend of the family was a physician in the US and they had no life outside of the hospital. I had a scholarship to go to Western to become a physician, but my mom felt it was not a good fit for me. She hounded me that I should be a pharmacist. I have learned not to overanalyze things and decided to take my mom’s advice. Knowing what I know now, my mom was right.

How important was mentoring in your career?

I had a male mentor pharmacist who took me under his wing and taught me a lot. He kept saying “kid, let me show you”. I was an avid learner, and he not only provided me with clinical tips but also important management skills such as training, managing accounts, scheduling and inventory control. Like any great mentor, he gave me the tools to gain a broad knowledge and clear picture of the profession.

How did you transition from working at the store level to head office at Big V pharmacies?

I never envisioned myself in management. I worked relief when I first started and I noticed that some of the stores were poorly run. I thought I could do better, and this drove me to enter management. I first became a store manager for several years and then took on the role of director of operations in two separate newer regions of the company. It was a great time as we were growing and bringing on independents into our chain.

Why did you move to Lovell Drugs?

In 1997, Big V was sold to another pharmacy chain. At that time I decided a career change was in order. As one door closes, another opens and I was approached about a position at Lovell Drugs. It was a perfect fit for me and it was an amazing opportunity to bring the Big V philosophy to another chain. It was somewhere I felt I could make a difference.

What was your role at Lovell?

I was the COO and GM for Lovell drugs  where I worked with incredible pharmacists who are committed to the company and their patients. My role iwas to improve training, technology and systems to make us more efficient and accountable. I told our pharmacists that your job is to service patients and my job is to service you.

What would you tell new graduates about networking?

I have volunteered and sat on many committees. I have gotten back at least ten-fold of what I have given. It is a very small industry and I have made connections where I can pick up a phone and know what to ask. New pharmacists should not be afraid to share ideas and help to improve in what we know.

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