During the pandemic, pharmacies have become community hubs for distributing personal protective equipment and testing kits, as well as for administering vaccinations. But well before COVID-19 emerged, U of T’s Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy was already re-envisioning the role of pharmacies in Canadian health care and determining what this means for how it trains pharmacy students.
Last October, the faculty launched the Discovery Pharmacy, an accredited community pharmacy located on the third floor of the faculty’s St. George campus building that provides hands-on learning for students and conducts research into best pharmaceutical practices. The facility, which is the first of its kind in Canada, is training future pharmacists to do much more than dispense medication, says Lisa Dolovich, the faculty’s dean. It is helping them become key members of health-care teams who focus on disease prevention and management, and health promotion.
“Because pharmacists have become much more involved with patient care than they used to be, we wanted to create a centre for experiential teaching, research and development and holistic care – where new ideas can be developed and refined in the real world of patient care,” Dolovich says.
Guided by pharmacy and other health-care professionals from U of T’s partner hospitals, students benefit from hands-on training in everything from consulting with patients to developing care plans. They learn in collaboration with students in other U of T health sciences programs, such as medicine and nursing, as well as those in disciplines such as business and engineering.
“I think it’s a really great concept, because we have the opportunity to test new ideas and prepare for how the profession is evolving,” says student Dina Carovska, who completed a five-week rotation at the pharmacy this past winter that involved giving COVID-19 and flu shots. “We could think critically about every step.”
Discovery Pharmacy will eventually move to a permanent site on the faculty’s main floor, where it will offer U of T community members in-person and digital services such as support for quitting smoking, mental health programs and reproductive health care.
As part of its research mission, the Discovery Pharmacy will investigate how to provide health-care services in the safest, most effective and cost-efficient way, including the impact of virtual care in medication management and delivery. Says Dolovich: “We are imagining the pharmacist of the future, in the hope of achieving improved health for everyone.”