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Young Leader in Pharmacy Thao Dao: "The profession of pharmacy is currently at the forefront of change."

The profession of pharmacy is currently at the forefront of change. Now more than ever, pharmacy is shifting away from being solely regarded as retail medication dispensers to being viewed as medication experts. More and more, patients are starting to see the vast clinical roles that pharmacists can provide, from injections and self-care counselling to even prescribing!
Thao Dao



Bachelor of Science, Minor in Life Sciences – University of Ottawa

PharmD 2023 – University of Waterloo School of Pharmacy

Current role:

3rd year PharmD Student

Co Social Director - Society of Pharmacy Students (SOPhS)

Rx2023 Class Representative - Society of Pharmacy Students (SOPhS)

Peer support Mentor – Pharmacy Peer Relief Network (RxPRN)

Co-op Pharmacy Student – Shoppers Drug Mart in Peace River, Alberta

What excites you about being a pharmacist?

The profession of pharmacy is currently at the forefront of change. Now more than ever, pharmacy is shifting away from being solely regarded as retail medication dispensers to being viewed as medication experts. More and more, patients are starting to see the vast clinical roles that pharmacists can provide, from injections and self-care counselling to even prescribing!

As a future pharmacist, I am excited about the opportunity to practise with the forthcoming minor ailment prescribing. Being the most accessible healthcare providers, I believe that confidently and eagerly exercising our full scope of practice is essential to provide high-quality care for our patients, personally and at a public health level. The implementation of minor ailment prescribing will help reduce wait times in doctors' offices and unnecessary usage of resources in emergency departments, as well as benefit small communities that lack nearby physicians. Alongside specialty care, such as providing vaccinations, point-of-care testing, medical cannabis pharmacies, and travel health consultations, we as pharmacists are able to relieve the pressure from other sectors of the healthcare system that are currently lacking the resources to adequately care for society.

How important is mentoring in your career?

I believe that mentorship comes in many different forms. For me, surrounding myself with strong female role models who lead by example has been very important for my career. It is no secret that there is a lack of females who possess leadership roles in many professions, pharmacy included. However, being able to witness women that I know shape such successful careers for themselves, encourages me to do the same every day.

One role model in particular, Dr. Nardine Nakhla, a professor that I had the privilege of learning from in my first year of pharmacy school, endlessly inspires me. Watching such a successful pharmacist be able to balance her career, personal life, and motherhood all at once, while continuing to advocate for the advancement of the profession of pharmacy has amazed me time and time again. It is this type of female leadership that has mentored me throughout my career and that continues to drive me to be a female leader as well.

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

At the beginning of 2021, the life-changing cystic fibrosis (CF) medication, Trikafta, was in the midst of getting Health Canada approval. It was also at this time that I was working as a co-op student at the Ontario Ministry of Health Exceptional Access Program. After speaking with a mutual friend and hearing his story with CF and hardships acquiring Trikafta, I knew that I wanted to help. My friend had suffered with CF since the age of five, but in recent years the condition worsened, forcing him in and out of the hospital. After getting special access approval to trial Trikafta, he went from barely being able to walk up the stairs to being able to hike the Mont Tremblant Mountain. Knowing the tremendous impact that this drug could have on so many lives, I wanted to present on Trikafta to my colleagues and supervisors at the Ontario Ministry of Health. The hope was to help push for the medication to be added to the formulary, making the drug more accessible to the many young Ontarians that suffer with CF. The big “aha” moment really came months after, when my friend reached out to inform me that he and his younger brother had both been granted EAP coverage for their Trikafta.  

Knowing that a trivial presentation may have been a contributing factor to a decision that benefited the lives and families of so many people really put every piece of this profession into perspective. Regardless of how insignificant something may seem to you, whether it be a simple renewal, adaptation, vaccination, or even just a conversation, it may be a life changing moment for the patient. This “aha” moment for me not only revealed the true difference that I could make as a pharmacist, but also reminded me of the importance of finding your purpose and intent in your actions – if there is something you are passionate about, go out and get it!

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

Seeing the huge success of the illustrious female pharmacists around me makes the possibility of attaining big goals and aspirations more tangible. That is why the biggest thing that I hope to accomplish in my career is to one day become a strong role model for young female leaders in pharmacy to look up to, just as I presently have. Through my own work and passion for pharmacy, I hope that I am able to inspire, empower, and ultimately mentor the newer generations of female leaders – because the inclusion of these young female leaders will be the driving force for the continual evolution of the profession.  

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

For me, the biggest driver is knowing that there is always room for improvement – nothing is ever perfect! Finding opportunities to seek out areas that can be enhanced in the profession is what will allow pharmacy to continue to evolve to better help our patients. It is equally important to take a step back, look at the bigger picture, and realize just how much the profession has improved over the years. It is important to remember that all of the changes and improvements that have happened did not magically occur overnight, but rather with the careful advocacy of individuals who have propelled the profession forward one change at a time – each small step forward contributes to the achievement of a bigger goal.

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

Young leaders continually pave the way for change because they are open minded, embrace the change, and advocate for these changes to be realized in all avenues of the healthcare system. Very recently, I had the opportunity to participate in a discussion group to provide feedback on a pilot project that Shoppers Drug Mart is working on. Understanding how the landscape within the pharmacy world is shifting to better serve patients and the healthcare system, I was able to suggest different strategic models and improvements to the project to help drive the change in our profession.

Young leaders have also grown up in a more feminist society, where there has been a slow shift in normalizing women in power. It is up to the new generation of female healthcare providers to continue to advocate for equal rights and to close the gender gap in leadership positions – it is up to us to prove that women are qualified leaders.



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