How the school of pharmacy celebrated PAM


Pharmacy Appreciation Month (PAM), celebrated during March, is a time to recognize the hard work and dedication of pharmacists all across Canada, particularly during the pandemic. As the PAM Chair at the School of Pharmacy, I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight why the month is so important to me. 

We kicked off last month on March 1 with a speech from both myself and Dr. Andrea Edginton, the Hallman Director. One statement of hers in particular really stuck out to me: “Pharmacists have been educators, vaccinators, advocates and leaders that patients have looked to for guidance in regards to their health.” There is no one word to define a pharmacist and the role they play in communities, and this is why I truly love the PAM initiative. 

As we all know, the pandemic really shook society as a whole. Through closures, restrictions and social distancing, pharmacists never wavered in their responsibilities as frontline healthcare professionals. Pharmacists have been at the forefront of the vaccination effort, providing immunizations to Canadians across the country. We have also been instrumental in ensuring continuity of care, helping patients manage chronic conditions, and providing counselling and support to those in need during the pandemic. When all non-essential services were closed due to lockdowns, pharmacists were still there, pharmacies were open, and provided accessible care and continue to do so.

Here are some student experiences through the COVID-19 pandemic: 

“Working at a Shopper’s Drug Mart during the pandemic meant that I, alongside my pharmacists, provided COVID education, vaccinations, performing rapid antigen tests and performing PCR testing for travel,” said Qamar Mobayed of Rx2026. “A lot of our job was also reassuring and educating our patients about the virus and informing them of the tests available.” 

“When the pandemic hit, I was determined to contribute to the efforts of the healthcare workers. This is when I got inspired to start volunteering at a pharmacy, and where my passion for pharmacology was met with my desire to interact with patients. I experienced the unprecedented challenges that the pharmacy staff and healthcare workers faced such as medication shortages, anxious patients, and education on minimizing contact and transmission risk, all without compromising patient care,” said Matta Seifi of Rx2027. “This experience made me appreciate the role of pharmacists in providing patients with a stable healthcare system that warrants undisrupted access to essential medications.”

“I worked as a pharmacy assistant during the pandemic – we were one of the only places open. Patients were so grateful for all the care we could provide and it was remarkable to see pharmacists step up to help aid the vaccine effort,” said Anchanah Jeyamohan of Rx2026.

Let’s take a walk down memory lane. In 2012, pharmacists gained the ability to initiate  counselling for smoking cessation, renew and adapt prescriptions for up to six months, administer injections or inhalation (for the purpose of education or demonstration) and administer the flu vaccine to patients as young as five years old. Fast forward to 2023, pharmacists and pharmacy teams have since advocated for the expansion of vaccination administration and point of care testing. As of today, pharmacists can prescribe for 19 different minor ailments, including urinary tract infections, mild acne, cold sores, nausea/vomiting in pregnancy, dermatitis, and more. 

PAM serves to educate the public and students on the expanded scope of practice of pharmacists. A new event this year is the Land Acknowledgment Writing Session with Savannah Sloat, manager of science indigenous initiatives at UW. This session aimed to educate pharmacy students on the importance of honoring and respecting the land we work on. This complements another event we hosted this month, called “From Truth to Reconciliation: Supporting Indigenous Patients in the Pharmacy and Beyond.” Students were eager to reflect on how they can provide individualized care to patients who are Metis, First Nations and Inuit in their future practice.

Outreach is also an important aspect of PAM and we hosted elementary school presentations as well as a showcase at Conestoga Mall to increase awareness of the expanded scope of practice for pharmacists. As the profession is evolving, it is important that the community recognizes the valuable contributions of pharmacists and how they have been filling gaps in healthcare.

I hope everyone had a very happy PAM and I encourage you to thank a pharmacist as well as learn more about how we can help serve you better in the community.