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Young Leader in Pharmacy Michael Do: "I love the challenge of solving problems."

Michael Do



Education: UofT Bsc.Pharm

Current role: CEO of MedEssist & community pharmacist

What excites you about being a pharmacist?

I love being a pharmacist because I love making a difference in the everyday health of patients and the community I serve. The impact community pharmacists have is not easy to measure. When we educate patients, optimize medication therapy, or provide vaccinations to the public, these initiatives are preventative and their impact is not always easily measured.

My hypothesis is that patients who have a relationship with their pharmacists, for example if the patient knows their pharmacist by name, are more likely to have better health literacy, medication adherence, and health outcomes. Perhaps the best answer I can give to why I love being a pharmacist is to start listing names of patients who have put their trust in me.

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

To be honest, I never did too much long-term thinking as a student or a brand-new graduate. My focus was on passing PEBCs, not making any mistakes at work, and paying off student debt. I never would have thought I’d start a technology company. Thankfully I had the opportunity to work in an environment that allowed me the freedom to practise pharmacy in my own way and it fostered my creativity and confidence.

How has your career evolved since your graduation?

Maybe some people are born leaders based on their personality. That is not the case for myself. I’m usually a very reserved individual who does not like being in the spotlight. Therefore, my journey to where I am today is full of just small incremental steps. In whatever situation you are in, there are likely skills or habits that you can work on. I worked on my communication, problem solving, and management skills while at the pharmacy. Outside of the pharmacy I worked on projects that allowed me to improve other skills that were required to tackle the issues that I was passionate about. 

How would you describe a great day at work?

Although most of my days are spent at MedEssist, I usually work at least a day a week at a community pharmacy in Toronto, and so I know all the difficulties and uncertainties that community pharmacies have been facing during the COVID-19 pandemic. It's amazing to be able to release a new feature that will not only help my pharmacy staff overcome these challenges, but will help pharmacies all across the country. Nowadays, it's even more exciting as we’ve grown our platform way beyond COVID-19 and are now able to help pharmacies grow their business in new and exciting ways.

How important is mentoring in your career?

Mentoring is a critical part of my professional career. I have a week-by-week lesson plan and a folder of clinical cases I use to teach students on rotation at the pharmacy. I also love teaching coding to students who are interested as well. It's so rewarding to me because I feel like these students will take what you’ve taught them and be able to utilize it to impact so many patients throughout their careers.

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

One of my favourite “aha” moments as a pharmacist is when patients come back to me for advice that is not related to their medications. It could be a healthcare-related question from a newspaper article, social media post, or just something they’ve heard from a friend. During the pandemic, pharmacists have been extremely busy and it can be quite difficult to appreciate how this is a sign of trust. The impact that the education and advice pharmacists provide to their community is not something that is easy to measure.

If you can accomplish just one thing in your career, what would it be?

One of my personal goals is to help modernize community pharmacies. There’s no doubt that the pharmacy landscape is changing. Amazon and other technology-based pharmacies will become more and more visible. My goal is to ensure that even the smallest community pharmacies will still be sustainable and be able to offer the same convenience and experience that consumers now expect. Community pharmacies have a tremendous impact on the healthcare system in so many intangible ways and are critical in serving vulnerable populations. We need to ensure that community pharmacies are not just sustainable, but are able to continue to grow in the future.

As a dynamic leader in the profession, what continues to drive you?

I love the challenge of solving problems. Pharmacists are fantastic problem solvers and I get to do this on a larger scale at MedEssist. There are so many opportunities for pharmacies to solve larger systemic problems within the healthcare system. Helping pharmacies fit in these opportunities within their workflow and helping pharmacies grow their business in new ways are what drive me.

How are young leaders paving the way for changes in the pharmacy profession?

Pharmacists have possibly changed the way they practise more than any other healthcare professional over the past few years. Like it or not, that rate of change is going to continue if not increase. Young leaders may be more willing to adopt these changes and can bring new ideas to the profession. We need to make sure we do not limit their enthusiasm. We need them to help us become experts within the healthcare system in managing change because that can be our strength.

What advice would you give to new pharmacy graduates?

Obtaining your degree is just the beginning of a long journey of learning how to be a great pharmacist. School will only teach you the fundamentals. Learning how to improve your practice on a daily basis is the most critical skill you need to develop. The way you practise at the start of your career should be remarkably different after a few years.



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