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Pharmacy Leader Christina Adams: "I see the systemic racism and inequities in our healthcare system."

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I am the inaugural Chief Pharmacy Officer for the Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacists. In this role, I oversee professional practice for CSHP, working with our staff and volunteers in areas such as best practices for hospital pharmacy, advocacy, and continuing education. 

How has your career evolved since you first started in the profession?

When I started pharmacy school, I had the goal to become a hospital pharmacist and eventually a director of pharmacy at a hospital. However, for a long time I was also limited in where I could work because of my husband’s profession. As a member of the Canadian Armed Forces, his position dictated where we lived, and this meant that there were not always the formal leadership positions available that I would have liked to be able to pursue to develop my career. Instead, in that time I focused on volunteer positions and developing my knowledge and skills so that when I could make the move to a formal leadership position, I was ready. I also looked to non-traditional roles, working as a hospital telepharmacist for many years so that I could continue my hospital practice, even if it wasn’t in person.

How important was mentoring in your career?

Mentoring has been key. I knew that if I wanted to reach my goal of being a hospital pharmacist, I needed to talk to and learn from established hospital pharmacists. I needed to get my name out there as someone who was interested in hospital pharmacy. To that end, in my second year of pharmacy school I volunteered with CSHP as a registration desk assistant at the Professional Practice Conference. During that conference, and many that followed, I focused on networking with hospital pharmacists from across the country. This networking led to student positions and other opportunities that have been key in my career development. To this day, I remain in touch with many of those pharmacists, and in turn I’ve volunteered when I can to share my experiences in pharmacy practice.  

Was there an “aha” moment for you, when you realized the impact of the difference you’re making?

Sometimes, just being in a role has an impact that you never anticipated. When you take on a position, of course you’re focused on how it will be part of your career, but what you don’t always realize is that it can also serve as an example to others that these goals are achievable.  

The first professional practice specialist I hired at CSHP was Jessica Robinson. She worked with us for a year and was amazing in her role. When she came to me earlier this year to tell me that she was leaving us to take a role as a manager at The Ottawa Hospital, I think she was surprised by how supportive I was to her, even though she was leaving us. I was devastated for us of course, but so proud that she felt confident in her abilities to take the leap to a leadership position. We need more women in pharmacy leadership, and supporting women in taking these roles is how we’re going to get there.

As a leader in pharmacy, what continues to drive you?

I see the systemic racism and inequities in our healthcare system and our institutions.  What drives me is a desire to do what I can to shine a light on this and work towards reducing and ideally eliminating these inequities. 

What advice would you give to new female pharmacy graduates?

Opportunities often arise when you least expect them, and you may not feel like you have enough experience to apply for a position, even if it’s one that you really, really, want. Take the leap! As women, we often think we need to “tick all the boxes” of the job requirements before applying. As pharmacists we often focus on perfection, but perfection can prevent you from taking chances. Don’t let it! If nothing else, it’s a great learning opportunity and possibly a stepping stone to something else!


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