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Co-op student Pauline Bal joins team of Waterloo Pharmacy alumni at biologics specialty pharmacy

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Pauline BalN.K.S Health in Mississauga is a specialty pharmacy that focuses on biologic medications – a class of drugs that are produced from living organisms and treat conditions that range from rheumatoid arthritis to migraines. Unlike traditional drugs which are usually synthesized products with chemical bases, biologics are genetically engineered protein molecules created using biotechnology. It was this unique focus that attracted Pauline Bal, a third year pharmacy student.

“I had no experience working with biologics, and we’d only heard a little about these medications in class. Wanting to learn more, I applied to N.K.S. for a co-op term,” says Bal (right). “Here, I’ve had opportunities to try new things like reconstituting biologic infusions, checking biologic scripts, compounding specialty topical creams, and counselling and training patients.”

Newer biologics developed in recent years are largely used to treat chronic conditions. These medications represent an up-and-coming area in pharmacy practice and can be individualized to suit the specific needs of specific patients. Because many biologics are delivered through needle injection, patient education is also a big part of working at N.K.S.

“We have to make sure patients are comfortable with self-injecting their medication,” says Bal. “Because patient education is so vital with these medications, we follow an appointment based model. This is ideal because I don’t feel like there’s a time constraint on the interaction – I can really focus on the patient’s concerns and follow up more regularly.”

The biologic focus isn’t the only unique aspect of N.K.S. – the pharmacy is also completely staffed by Waterloo Pharmacy grads. John Park is a 2015 graduate and Siraj Khan and Farzan Dadfar are both graduates of the 2013 class.

John Park, Farzan Dadfar, and Siraj Khan at N.K.S. Health

John Park, Farzan Dadfar, and Siraj Khan at N.K.S. Health

“Specialty pharmacy practice presents an opportunity to think outside of the box,” says Dadfar, reflecting on his decision to pursue a specialty focus. “It allows pharmacists to develop creative health solutions for patients and offers a different type of pharmacy experience in more complex areas of medication management.”

In addition to focusing on a specific type of medication, the N.K.S. team specializes in specific disease states. Many of the clinic’s patients have chronic conditions like types of arthritis or ulcerative colitis.

“Being diagnosed with a chronic, incurable disease can be devastating for patients, and the thought of taking an injectable medication can be overwhelming,” says Khan. “Working one-on-one with patients, I’m able to help relieve their anxiety towards self-injecting medications. Seeing the effectiveness of these medications firsthand and building strong patient-pharmacist relationships is extremely rewarding.”

Having a team full of Waterloo Pharmacy grads, the clinic is naturally a strong supporter of the co-op program.

“Our goal is to have students all year round,” explains Dadfar. “Our experience with bringing pharmacy students on board has been outstanding. Students instill a contagious positive energy and attitude into our team, and motivate everyone around them to look at old routines in a new way. Despite the short amount of time that they are with us, they certainly leave their footprints and positive impact behind.”

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