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11/04/2021

Pharmacy Leader Kimberley Kallio: "Use your female intuition and compassion to really connect with patients."

a woman wearing a white shirt and smiling at the camera

Snapshot

Education:

Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Queen's University (2008-2012)

Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy from UBC (2013-2017)

Current role:

Relief pharmacist at Kallio Relief Pharmacy and Functional Pharmacy Consultant at Kallio Functional Pharmacy

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

I figured I would work as a community pharmacist for some time and then eventually own my own store. I saw myself always in the setting of traditional community pharmacy.

How has your career evolved since you first started in the profession?

I experienced a paradigm shift when I learned about therapeutic nutrition and functional medicine. In my first role outside of school I was part of a study which assessed a pharmacist-led ketogenic diet for the treatment of Type 2 diabetes. It was 2017, when Toujeo had first come out and many of my regular diabetes patients were switching from 100mg/mL insulin to 300mg/mL due to their ever-increasing sugars. This was in stark contrast to the discontinuation of insulin and most other diabetes medications in the patients who were following the ketogenic diet! This got me interested in alternative ways to help people manage their chronic diseases. 

Having been originally trained as an engineer, I was drawn to the idea of functional medicine where they employ a systems approach to health. We have a real problem with over-medication in our culture, and I believe a lot of it stems from our siloed view of the human body. We have divided the complex, interconnected body into different disease states with a different specialist for every one of them. With each specialist following clinical guidelines for their specific field, no one stops to think about how it is all connected. It is not uncommon to see drugs being used to treat side effects of other drugs, which drives me bananas.

Since starting my own relief pharmacy business, I have been able to spend more time learning about functional medicine and therapeutic nutrition. I am now halfway through the Institute for Functional Medicine's certification program. I write a patient-facing blog about functional medicine at kalliofunctionalpharmacy.com. I have also become involved with the Institute for Personalized Therapeutic Nutrition (IPTN), volunteering on their scientific planning committee. The IPTN focuses their education efforts on healthcare practitioners, so I help with choosing speakers for webinars and their annual conference (you can sign up to learn more at therapeuticnutrition.org). I figure with these two roles I am helping to bring better management of chronic diseases to everyone who could benefit!

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

Being a relief pharmacist can make you feel like you aren't as valuable as a regular pharmacist. You don't know the patients as well, often only ever having one interaction with a patient ever. I knew I was on the right track when I would hear from patients "Wow, no one has ever mentioned that before" or when the cashiers at the front would relay to me how pleased patients were. Early in my career I was reprimanded for being too slow, as though being thorough was a bad thing. But I knew in my heart what was right and stuck to my guns. As it turns out, patients could care less if they have to wait longer for their prescriptions when they feel they are being cared for!

What legacy would you like to leave to the pharmacy profession?

I see many problems in our healthcare system, particularly in chronic disease management, that could be solved with better technology and smart solutions. I am hoping at some point to be able to apply my engineering degree to help solve those problems.

Do you feel there is a glass ceiling for women in pharmacy?

I do not feel that there is a glass ceiling for women in pharmacy. And I credit my incredibly strong and persevering mother for that. I grew up in a split family home with two single parents, my mother being a community pharmacist as well. Perhaps in married households it is true that the female's career often suffers when compared to her male partner's. But when you are a single parent household you have to be both the breadwinner and the caregiver. And that is a challenge that my mother absolutely crushed. She was able to clothe and feed my brother and me while also running a busy community pharmacy. Throughout her career she has always been there for our family while being recognized numerous times for her contribution to the profession of pharmacy and to our community. She is the reason I do not see a glass ceiling in pharmacy and the reason I know I can achieve whatever I set my mind to.

How important was mentoring in your career?

With the financial strain that community pharmacy has been placed under, mentorship has played a huge role in advocating for myself especially in these early years. Having a pharmacy owner for a mother, and having grown up working for her, I was able to recognize when things were not right. Many new grads accept whatever the circumstances are as normal because they do not know any better, but I had concrete examples of better treatment and working conditions to refer to. Another very important mentor for me is Gerry Spitzner of Pharmacy SOS. He's incredibly down to earth and whip smart. I really enjoyed his fourth-year business class and since leaving pharmacy school I've benefited greatly from being able to throw ideas at him. I can always count on him to tell the honest-to-god truth.  

What do you think needs to happen to have more women in executive roles across various sectors in the profession?

I think more women need to simply APPLY FOR THESE JOBS. We have what it takes. We just need to have the confidence to go for it.  

What advice would you give to new female pharmacy graduates?

Get excited about what makes you unique as a female. Become the resident expert in contraceptive choices. Get really knowledgeable about menopause. Use your female intuition and compassion to really connect with patients. 

 

 

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