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Young Leader in Pharmacy Sandy Faheim: "As the world changes, we will continue to evolve and adapt."

Sandy Faheim



McMaster University – Bachelor of Science (BSc.) in Biogenetics

University of Toronto – Master of Science (MSc.) in Pharmacogenetics

University of Waterloo Pharmacy School – Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy (RPhm)

Certified Diabetes Educator

Current role

Owner at Miltowne Pharmacy and Vodden MD Pharmacy

Pharmacy Consultant

What excites you about being a pharmacist?

It’s exciting to know we have ability to impact our community and make a difference, not only for our patients (the pillars of our practice), but also as advocates for the profession itself, our team members, and other healthcare professionals. For many, pharmacists are the first point of contact. We’ve always known this, but I think the pandemic really highlighted our key role and accessibility as front-line workers.

It’s also exciting knowing that we are part of an industry that is so diverse. With new developments taking place regularly in pharmacy, whether it be in business, technology, education, our expanded scope of clinical practice, there really is something out there for every pharmacist

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

Honestly, I always knew and envisioned that I would be working in community pharmacy; it was very important for me to work in a setting where I could follow up with my patients and get to know them and their families, while working closely with their primary care team. I made that decision during my Masters program at the University of Toronto when my professor, Dr. Tyndale, asked me to stay on and pursue my PhD in her pharmacogenetics lab. At the time, we were working closely with The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) on breakthrough research to better understand smoking addiction and how our genes play a role on both smoking behaviours and why some people have an easier time quitting than others. It was during these 2 years that I appreciated this complex disease and felt the need to be out in the community to help educate patients, be part of their journey towards positive health outcomes, and likely be their first point of contact. For me personally, I felt that I could make a greater impact out in the community meeting patients than inside the lab.

How has your career evolved since your graduation?

When I first started my career, I was hired at a community pharmacy to improve the culture of professional services. I did a lot of MedChecks, smoking cessation consults, counselling, and set up and ran clinic days. I was able to put into practice all the things I learned in pharmacy school (for the most part). When I became a business owner 3 years later, my mindset shifted from only ME providing the service, to creating an environment and developing processes that motivated my team to also incorporate these practices into their workflow. As a business owner, I quickly learned that I can’t do everything myself and if I wanted to grow and service patients more efficiently, I had to figure out ways to do things through a team and system approach. There was a big learning curve for me when it came to the business side of pharmacy, and I needed to reach out to experts for support and mentorship. As technology evolved since I graduated, I had to embrace it and adapt as well. We launched a social media page in 2020 and an e-commerce website earlier this year where patients can purchase OTC products, refill prescriptions, and book appointments for vaccines and rapid tests. As the world changes, we will continue to evolve and adapt; as pharmacists we are compelled to do that for our community.

How would you describe a great day at work?

It would have to start with A BIG cup of coffee! Followed by a short team huddle that involves some time not talking about work. We are all someone’s wife/husband/mother/father/daughter/son and it’s important to keep the human element and foster camaraderie for a positive workplace. If we can joke together, we can work together! Throughout the day we all usually work as a team managing what the day brings with the same focus and goals, knowing we did the best we could that day.

When I’m not in the dispensary, a great day at work for me would be to work on processes that makes someone’s life easier (including myself), collaborating with other healthcare professionals to see how we can work together, or meeting with my business partner for an inspiring brainstorming session. Whether it be developing a niche service for patients or creating a manual for an employee that makes their life easier, making a difference when I work is a great day!

How important is mentoring in your career?

Mentoring is a crucial part of my career, both as a mentor and mentee. I actively participate in the University of Waterloo’s Co-op program, not only to give back as an alumna but for my personal growth. It’s such a synergistic experience for both my student and me that allows us to integrate classroom teachings (which I love to be updated on) with real life practice. The first 2 weeks of a 4-month co-op term consists of intense training and shadowing of staff and pharmacists, but by the third week or so they get right in there and get to see what being a pharmacist is all about! My last co-op student was heavily involved in our COVID-19 vaccine rollout, vaccinating most patients. She conducted MedChecks almost daily, smoking cessation consults, working closely with our cardiologists and everything in the dispensary from A to Z. I learned so much from her too and her experiences in other workplaces; that’s the beauty of mentoring. I think it’s important to mentor staff too, always thinking of ways to encourage their career development. For example, I encouraged a staff member to become a certified compression stockings fitter, she came back with her certificate which we hang proudly in the pharmacy; she now runs the compression stockings program taking home a portion of any sales she makes.

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

For me I think it would be to leave a legacy of what community pharmacy really stands for.  We don’t know what the future of pharmacy is, and what changes our industry might face, but I would love to know that I was part of something special that provided personalized care where every single patient mattered. If I can make a difference for this profession somehow, whether it’s to inspire patients to recognize what good quality healthcare looks like, inspire my staff to understand what a positive working environment is, or inspire healthcare professionals to appreciate the difference a community pharmacist can make, I would certainly feel accomplished.

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

When I collaborate with others, I find I can make the biggest difference and that drives me. There's something truly empowering about working with others to improve patient outcomes. I recently implemented a Point of Care Hep C program for patients at my methadone pharmacy that involved the doctor, nurse, pharmacist, and medical rep. As a team we now screen, diagnose, and provide curative therapy for our patients that has forever changed their lives. 

What advice would you give to new pharmacy graduates?

Just a few :)

1. Learning is not confined to the 4 walls of school and working with classmates should not be the last time you work in groups. Find opportunities to learn and find opportunities to collaborate with others beyond graduation. 

2. Find your niche! Your happy place in pharmacy, where the best (pharmacist) version of you exists that will allow your strengths to make a difference in someone’s life

3. Take risks

4. Celebrate the wins

5. Don’t forget to bring your lunch!




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