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Pharmacy Leader Rebecca McKillican: "Pharmacists have incredible skill and potential in transforming healthcare in Canada."

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Graduated from The University of Western Ontario with a Bachelor of Engineering degree, as well as a Bachelor of Arts degree from the Richard Ivey School of Business. From there, earned an MBA at Harvard Business School. 

Current Role

CEO at McKesson Canada. In this role, I lead and energize a talented and skilled team focused on engaging with our customers, patients and partners as we collectively work to improve care in every setting across Canada. 

What excites you about pharmacy?

The opportunity to make a meaningful difference in the lives of Canadians. We saw firsthand during the COVID-19 pandemic, the expanded role pharmacists were asked to step into – it was inspiring to see them meet the challenge with passion. When many of us were asked to stay home, pharmacists were asked to stay open to serve us with lifesaving medications and healthcare services. In my role, I was able help use our pharmacy and distribution networks at McKesson Canada to support our pharmacists and focus our solutions on giving them more time with their patients.

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

Like many recent graduates, I wasn’t exactly sure where my career would ultimately take me, but I was confident that I wanted to eventually build a business that helped people make healthy choices. I always envisioned a future that would allow me to apply my acquired knowledge to bigger picture problems, and make a real positive impact in the lives of Canadians. 

Having a business background, I may not have predicted that I’d occupy a role as a leader in healthcare, but I have been incredibly blessed to focus my efforts on advocating for pharmacists across Canada and the important role they play in healthcare. 

How would you describe a great day at work?

For me, a great day at work would be having the feeling that we’re making a difference in the lives of our employees, customers, and patients. We are so quick to judge ourselves on a macro level, but what matters most is that, at the end of every day, we’ve made progress at a micro level. A truly great day is a day that allows me to watch our teams come together and share their expertise and passion across the organization. When united and inspired, our teams perform best – and that energizes me each and every day.

As each day comes to a close, I ask myself “are our employees safe, are they feeling included, are they engaged and challenged?” If the answer is “yes,” I like to feel that I’ve made a difference. 

What is (or has been) your greatest challenge as a leader in pharmacy?

The greatest challenge that I have personally encountered as a leader in pharmacy was taking on the role of CEO of one of Canada’s largest healthcare companies in the midst of a global pandemic. 

Over the past year, we saw firsthand the incredible dedication of pharmacists, as they went above and beyond to support and protect their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether they were participating in asymptomatic COVID-19 testing programs, playing a leading role in the largest vaccination campaign in the country’s history or going the extra mile to care for vulnerable and at-risk members of their communities – pharmacies were there for Canadians, when we needed them most. 

Both myself and the incredible team at McKesson Canada worked around the clock with – and to support – pharmacists, in the work they do, during exceptional circumstances. 

What legacy would you like to leave to the pharmacy profession?

In addition to helping other women break down barriers in achieving their true potential in pharmacy, I would also like to leave a legacy of helping to build trust in and expand the scope of practice for pharmacists. Pharmacists have incredible skill and potential in transforming healthcare in Canada. My vision includes a larger role for pharmacists in local communities, and I ensure that I promote these values during meetings with public policy makers from coast to coast. 

Women are making a big name for themselves in pharmacy. What does this mean to you professionally and personally?

It is so encouraging to witness the meaningful changes that are happening through the celebration and recognition of women’s contributions in pharmacy. Seeing the industry challenging itself to provide better opportunities for women makes me incredibly happy, as it is visible that we are moving towards a more gender-equal world. This is amazing to see, as it will provide more opportunities for my own children, as well as any other individuals starting their career. 

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

I believe that to have more women in executive roles, we require members across all sectors to continue breaking down those pre-existing barriers that tend to encompass women’s professional pathways. This can all start with consistent reflection and recognition, surrounding the hard work that women contribute to the industry every day. We need to continue having difficult conversations around inclusivity and diversity, to educate ourselves and others, and I could not be prouder to be a champion for these causes at McKesson Canada.

Stepping back as a society, I believe we must continually work to allow men and women to bring their whole selves to work. This involves supporting both genders in participating equally at home and in the workplace – which can be accomplished through advocating for progressive policies, like enhanced parental leave and childcare. We will then, in turn, see a more balanced approach to raising a family, creating more opportunities and better outcomes across both our personal and professional lives.


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