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11/17/2021

Pharmacy Leader Teresa Pitre: "Have big dreams."

a woman smiling for the camera

Snapshot

Education

B.Sc. in Biochemistry from University of Ottawa, B.Sc. in Pharmaceutical Sciences from University of British Columbia. Management Certificate from Seneca College

Current role

General Manager of Pack4U Toronto, a high-volume central fill pharmacy providing multidose strip compliance packaging services to other pharmacies across Ontario, as well as directly to patients in LTC, retirement homes, and living at home. Pack4U Toronto enables pharmacies to provide digital health services and connected care to patients living with chronic disease using spencerTM, an automated dispensing robot that connects virtually to the pharmacy and care team, offering consistent medication adherence rates of over 98%.  Pharmacies can focus on frontline clinical services by outsourcing the packaging to Pack4U’s Central Fill.

What excites you about being a pharmacist? 

I have always been excited to be a pharmacist because of the difference we make in people’s lives every day, no matter what sector we work in. I have tried many…community, hospital, industry, LTC…and loved aspects of all of them. Now I use my broad experience from clinical and leadership roles to provide unique and innovative pharmacy services to long term care and patients in the community.

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

Honestly, my passion was always community pharmacy. I will never forget a professor quipping “What a waste” when I said I was going to practise in the community. I couldn’t understand why, but I certainly made sure it was not a waste. After spending years in different pharmacy sectors, I am back serving the community in a more global way, changing the way pharmacists care for their patients, keeping them adherent and therefore feeling better and doing better despite their polychronic diseases. I guess when I initially got a little “bored” with community pharmacy practice and moved on after a few years, even though my plan was a little unclear at the time, my desire to do something impactful on a larger scale actually materialized.

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

In my first 10 years practising pharmacy I bounced back and forth between direct patient care and non-direct patient care roles. Both appealed to me in different ways because of the different impacts I could have on individual patients and pharmacy practice. I was so fortunate to get amazing management training while at Apotex working in drug information and then marketing and professional services. Early on, I became involved in launching new technologies for pharmacy…way back when palm pilots preceded smartphones for digital drug information! I also am grateful for Apotex for exposing me to the LTC industry through my account management contacts. Carole McKie, an early mentor, was instrumental in luring me into LTC as a clinician, and quickly I started to want to change this practice too and introduce technology that would not only make LTC consultant pharmacists work smarter, but also make the world aware of the amazing impact these clinicians were making in senior care. The ability to continue making these types of changes and educating our LTC and retirement home clients on the services we could provide was granted to me as I was promoted to Vice President, Long Term Care Services, and for that opportunity I am eternally grateful to the original owners. 

Fast forward to today, my career has evolved into entrepreneurship, thanks to some visionaries and investors. I am proud to have launched a new model of pharmacy service for long-term care, including automated dispensing cabinets, onsite pharmacy team members, clinical telepharmacy and pharmacist-led med rec, a model we continue to provide to our LTC and RH clients today at Pack4U Toronto. Working with spencer and adherence services and pharmacy has opened up a whole new opportunity for pharmacists to have an even greater and more measurable ability to keep patients aging at home safely, reducing hospitalizations, admissions to LTC, morbidity and mortality, all while connecting to them digitally and virtually. The first pilot studies have been published, in partnership with University of Waterloo and Alberta Health Services, setting the stage for more clinical outcome-focused pharmacy practice research.

How would you describe a great day at work?

Hearing a patient say “Ever since I started using spencer, and taking my meds not only regularly but at the same time every day, I feel so much better.”

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

My greatest challenge was seeing opportunity for new programs, services, ideas, but being blocked by budgets and lack of vision of senior leaders.

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

I do, but the ceiling is being raised continuously. As the founder of MPGL, Erast Huculak used to say, “Women will take over the world.” I don’t know about take over, but equality is more attainable. There is still work to be done in pay equity and there are still organizations that have a “boys club” culture, but I am delighted to see more and more women breaking into the business side of things, in pharmacies as well as the pharmaceutical industry. 

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

It is exciting and sometimes mind-blowing. I remember when I first became a manager, and some of the female staff approached me to tell me how much it meant to them to see a woman promoted. They admired me and were proud. It really gave me a sense of responsibility. I also never dreamed I would be doing what I do now, when I first graduated. I knew nothing about business and finance, and didn’t think I had the creativity to do what I am doing now. It took the encouragement of my managers and recognition of my abilities to help me to eventually believe in myself, and start to take risks and learn from my mistakes, always fiercely keeping my eye on my vision.

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

Encouraging women to take some business and finance training either during pharmacy education or afterwards. Women have to feel comfortable in the boardroom and not feel lost if they don’t understand something.

What advice would you give to new female pharmacy graduates? 

Have big dreams. Don’t create your own glass ceilings. Keep your mind and heart open for opportunities in your every day and every job. Take risks – that’s how you grow.

 

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