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06/30/2021

Pharmacy Leader Profile: Jaspreet Chager

“I am extremely passionate about this profession.”
a woman smiling for the camera

Education: BScPhm @ U of T – 2004 grad

Current roles: Senior Manager Pharmacy Innovation for Pharmasave East. Supporting independent pharmacy owners and their teams in the implementation of pharmacy clinical services. Ontario Pharmacists Association, Board Member.

What excites you about being a pharmacist? 

With expanded scope, we are seeing novel forms of practice, which is exciting. Pharmacists are recognizing their roles as clinicians and focusing on cognitive services rather than simply focusing on dispensing activities. Of course, no one can argue the dispensing component is essential, however we also know it can be supported by registered pharmacy technicians. Seeing this shift in pharmacy practice has me hopeful and excited for what lies ahead.

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

Honestly, I was quite naïve when I graduated and thought pharmacy services would already be a part of core pharmacy practice. We still had a long way to go. When I speak to pharmacists now, we strategize how to make this possible, that is, how we can move to a more clinical environment. We focus on the long-term strategy. It is important to have the foresight to strategize how we can implement pharmacy services into our daily practice. My hope for the future is pharmacists proactively plan for the implementation of pharmacy services. We know pharmacists can strategize; for example, we are great at determining our budgets based on prescription counts. We need to start applying the same logic to pharmacy services. That way we can move past comments like ‘we just do not have enough time’ and truly embrace our full scope of practice.

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

Luckily, I have explored several environments – industry, hospital, community – store level and regional support. Each position taught me something. Were it not for the multiple transitions, I would not be in my current role. More so, working in multiple sectors has helped me understand I have a unique skillset – in educating and training. This is something I discovered by ‘accident.’ Had I stayed in one role, I would have never understood what I had to offer and my true calling.

How would you describe a great day at work?  

My day-to-day role involves supporting pharmacies in the implementation of pharmacy services. This can be anything from how to perform a MedsCheck, to how to provide medical cannabis consultations. I also work directly with our operations team, helping them understand pharmacy services, so they can speak to our pharmacies about programs. A great day would be confirmation of the tracking we are getting and knowing pharmacies are changing their practices to truly incorporate services.

I am extremely passionate about this profession, and most people can see this when they speak to me. It is a great day when I can speak to others who are just as passionate, but also, invoke change in those who may have lost their passion. At the end of the day, my objective is to improve patient care, by helping pharmacists work to their full scope.

What is (or has been) your greatest challenge as a leader in pharmacy? 

One of the greatest challenges we have in community pharmacy is helping pharmacists remain motivated and passionate. When I graduated, I was excited to be able to share all the knowledge I had, but it turns out, on a day-to-day basis you get inundated with issues which have nothing to do with clinical skillsets – billing issues, patient complaints, pressure to do more, long lineups, etc. This is part of the job, and as time goes on, you learn to be proficient in handling these situations, but in the interim, pharmacists may lose that initial motivation, or desire to make a difference. I have had countless conversations with pharmacists over the last 16 years of my career, where this was the main reason they were not implementing clinical services. That said, once you can re-motivate pharmacists, bringing in new innovative programs, you can harness that motivation again. That is why my focus is always motivating through innovation – not necessarily to always bring new programs to the forefront, but to present innovative ways to conduct the services already in place today.

How important was mentoring in your career? 

Very important! I am lucky enough to currently work in an environment where I am constantly being mentored. I have learned so much from these individuals, and they tend to lead by example. For years this was not the case, and honestly, it was very hard to find my path. Now, however, with their support, I have understood my value and place in the industry.

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

There have been so many, but the first time I realized I made a difference was while working with a pharmacist resistant to clinical services who eventually changed their perspective. This goes back more than 13 years. I was presenting a clinical program to a pharmacist, who ended up ripping all the documents I presented and stated, “do you know what I think of your program – here’s what I think.” Of course, I was upset at the moment, but months later, that very pharmacist had started understanding the value of the program and was implementing it. This was the first time I understood I could truly make a difference and remotivate pharmacy professionals.

As a leader in pharmacy, what continues to drive you? 

The people I surround myself with continue to inspire me to push myself further. I have learned the greatest lessons in life come when you put yourself out there, and do something completely different, no matter how uncomfortable it may be. That desire to learn more also continues to drive me. I have also become extremely confident in my abilities, and as I said before, understand what value I bring to an organization. The confidence, and the desire to continue helping, drives me as well.

Looking at your career, what are you the proudest of? What have been some of the highlights of your career? 

I would say my current work is what I am most proud of, that is, working directly with independent owners in the implementation of pharmacy services. Although there are many highlights, my growth has been exponential in my time here. I have learned a lot and been part of some very important projects. For example, right now I am leading the effort to support COVID vaccine rollouts in Ontario for our members.

The highlights do not only relate to my personal career growth, but also to the profession of pharmacy. This past year, during the pandemic, pharmacists have demonstrated their resilience and dedication to patients and their staff. I am extremely proud of the contribution’s pharmacists have made during the pandemic.

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

Most of my career has focused on clinical services. I would love to leave this profession knowing I helped pharmacists strategize to create a sustainable solution. In the past, I would focus on the ‘how-to’ aspect of pharmacy services – for example, how to conduct a MedsCheck or Pharmaceutical Opinion. My strategy now is much bigger than that. It is to step back and truly understand what opportunities exist for a store and where patients need the most support. Once an owner understands the magnitude of opportunities which exist, the next step is to strategize – i.e. how can they slowly start implementing the services? Even if pharmacies are not able to capture 100% of those opportunities in the first year, over 5-10 years they will build this focus into their plan. Hopefully in 10 years, or even before I retire, we will have found a sustainable solution.

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

Interesting question. My experience has always been the respect bestowed to men naturally, is something women must earn. We must prove our worth first, and then be accepted as leaders. This of course does pose challenges for us as we attempt to progress in our careers. Additionally, many of us want to be mothers and have families. I have 2 kids – which means for 2 years I was out of the workforce. My knowledge base did not change during this time, but I always felt it set me back in my growth as a pharmacy professional. Now, however, I am more focused than ever and feel somewhat unstoppable. I think if I allowed myself to feel there is a glass ceiling, I would find it because it probably does exist. I am choosing however to believe my experience and knowledge will speak for themselves, and this will not be a barrier.

Women are making a big name for themselves in pharmacy. What does this mean to you professionally and personally? 

Most significantly, it invokes confidence. Women always feel like we must prove ourselves to be taken seriously. As women continue to make names for themselves and be recognized as leaders, the less ‘proving’ we must do. Professionally we see women in leadership roles, who are helping other women. That is the great thing about women…we support each other unconditionally. Maybe this happens because we recognize each other’s challenges, and know, just because a woman has dreams in her personal life, this should not impact her growth as a professional. On a personal note, it makes me quite proud. I have a young daughter, and I am hoping once she gets older, she will step into a world where the opportunities for women leaders are endless.

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

I could say we need to be recognized for the work we do, but I am not necessarily sure if that is the only problem. I think it extends to the confidence women have about their abilities, and truly believing in themselves. I am not saying women do not believe in themselves or do not know their self-worth, but we do sometimes allow the opinions of others to impact us. Additionally, companies having programs that support and advocate for women is essential. The truth is, any employee who is made to feel they do not have to choose between their personal and professional life, will go above and beyond for the company they work for. If women are permitted to keep that balance, I think you would see a lot more females in these types of roles.

How are women paving the way for changes in the pharmacy profession? 

We have been stepping into roles we never had before – ownership, corporate roles – in retail, hospital, LTC, industry. We are also breaking the expected norms, and rather than electing to have either a family or a career, we are proving we do not have to make a choice – we can do both. Women are also speaking up about the issues which matter. They are embracing their leadership skills, and not giving up on their dreams for their careers.

What advice would you give to new female pharmacy graduates? 

Although it is cliché to say, ‘never give up’, it is honestly the truth. You will be faced with some disappointment, but overall, the career luckily has many unique avenues for women to follow. As I said, I moved workplaces a few times at the beginning of my career, by choice. Each position taught me something significant which has led to my role now. When I first graduated, I used to get screamed at – a lot. I am tiny and looked somewhat younger than my age at that time. Patients would feel I did not have the expertise to be a pharmacist. I remember a lot of my female colleagues having the same experiences. You must be confident in your abilities and brave through criticism and negativity

 

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