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Pharmacy Leader profile: Christine Donaldson – “My career has taken many interesting twists and turns.”

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Christine Donaldson BSc.Phm. is the Vice President, Pharmacy Services at HealthPRO Procurement Services Inc. 

When you graduated, what did you envision for your future?

When I first graduated from U of T, I originally planned to return to my hometown of Windsor to practise in community pharmacy. However, a summer student position in a downtown teaching hospital in Toronto (Mount Sinai) forever changed my career goals. There, I met extraordinary pharmacy leaders like Bill Wilson, Zubin Austin and Emily Musing, who provided me with dedicated mentorship and solid opportunities to develop my clinical skills. I suddenly saw a new future for myself within a larger healthcare organization where I could make a major difference in the lives of many patients. This hospital experience helped boost my career goals and soon led to a unique opportunity to take on a faculty position at U of T. Interacting with students inspired me to continue my education by completing my Master of Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE).

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

My career has taken many interesting twists and turns, and my advice to new pharmacists is to always remain open to unique career pathways even if you don’t envision these roles for yourself. I was fortunate to build on my leadership skills early in my career.  Teaching pharmacy students at U of T and then Wayne State University (Michigan) always kept me ‘on my toes’ – I learned as much from my students as they learned from me! Representing my peers by participating on committees for the Ontario College of Pharmacists, I discovered that giving back to the profession was very fulfilling to me personally. And being able to return to my home community as a Director of Pharmacy at Windsor Regional Hospital was a privilege that I will always cherish. To help improve the overall healthcare of my family and friends by enhancing clinical programs we could offer will always be an accomplishment that I am most proud of.  However, my true calling was to accept a national role as Vice President, Pharmacy at HealthPRO, to provide strategic oversight to the procurement of high quality and reliable pharmaceuticals. I currently represent the collective voice of hospitals across Canada and advocate with government for important change to strengthen our medication supply now and into the future.

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

As leaders, we are all driven by the need to contribute to necessary change as a means of continuous improvement. I am relentless in pushing for higher standards and challenging the status quo. I like to reference that we are always striving for ‘better practices,’ not best practice – because as soon as we reach that pinnacle, practice has already evolved so we need to reach higher! During this time of crisis due to the pandemic, I have been constantly awed by how a committed group of individuals across this country have banded together to ensure that patients never go without life-saving drugs. I know that the legacy of this crisis will be that we will build a stronger tomorrow. To quote Maya Angelou: “Do the best you can until you know better.  Then when you know better, do better.”

What do you think needs to happen to have more women in executive roles across various sectors in the profession?

I think more women are ready for executive roles across pharmacy and need to lift each other up to take on these challenging positions. Be a strong advocate for yourself and tirelessly promote what you know and have to offer. But also be committed to becoming a selfless promoter of other women whenever you can, to showcase those who you know have the same ambition, depth of knowledge, and strong ability to lead important organizational change.

How are women paving the way for changes in the pharmacy profession?

I think women continue to pave the way for innovation as they are passionate about changing the current way we deliver healthcare to patients. There is an absolute acknowledgement that our system does not serve many patients and caregivers within under-serviced groups and we need to expand our thinking in how we can reach them and provide the best care possible. I think that our innate ability to seek inter-relationships and strengthen partnerships will foster a new way of treating patients that is closer to home, providing integrated care in a way that has not been contemplated in the past. I am excited about a future world of pharmacy practice where virtual care, inter-professional collaboration and seamless transition from hospital to home become the norm. Our patients deserve it!

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