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Co-op student receives multiple awards for outstanding research presentations

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Ai-Leng Foong

Third-year pharmacy student Ai-Leng Foong has received recognitions for outstanding research presentations. At the Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) she won the Best Pharmacy Practice Research Oral Presentation award, and at the Ontario Pharmacist Association (OPA) conference she received awards for Best Poster Presentation and Best Audio-Slide Presentation. These honours recognized two research projects, one examining perceptions of recent changes in Ontario pharmacists’ ability to provide immunizations, and the other exploring the manner in which pharmacists are disciplined by pharmacy colleges.

Currently a co-op student with Professor Sherilyn Houle and Professor Kelly Grindrod, Foong is fairly new to the world of pharmacy practice research.

“I never saw myself in research,” she explains. “But working with Kelly and Sherilyn has given me many opportunities to develop new skills. ”

Called "Ready or not? Pharmacist perceptions of a changing injection scope of practice before it happens”, the project presented at CPhA was a joint effort by Professors Houle and Grindrod, Waterloo Pharmacy Director David Edwards, and Foong. The study used data collected by the Ontario College of Pharmacists and analyzed how people were responding to the decision to allow Ontario pharmacists to vaccinate against 13 conditions in addition to the flu. Foong and the team coded data and she led the creation of the manuscript that reported their findings. The article has been accepted for publication in the Canadian Pharmacists Journal, a leading pharmacy journal.

Ai-leng presenting at OPA

Ai-Leng presenting at the Ontario Pharmacists Association conference

“I hadn’t written a journal article before,” she reflects. “It was an engaging experience and it taught me to make connections between what we’re researching and why people should care. Not just publishing our findings, but also being sure to communicate why they are important.”

The second project, presented at the OPA conference, built on Professor Houle’s observation that pharmacists are often afraid of repercussion or losing their license. These fears might deter pharmacists from practicing new services such as immunization. Thus, Foong, Houle, and Grindrod explored whether or not this fear was grounded: their study, called “Will I lose my license for that? A closer look at disciplinary hearings and what it means for pharmacists’ expanded scope,” examined the types of errors brought to pharmacy colleges for investigation, and the types of punishments these errors result in.

Foong examined discipline cases from pharmacy colleges across the country. Though the cases and punishments varied, the team found that there were very few discipline cases involving clinical errors like issues around expanded scope services like immunization.

Working on and presenting robust research projects has been an eye-opening experience for Foong. But it was collaboration with two Waterloo Pharmacy professors that was especially impactful.

“I’ve been fortunate to work with two excellent supervisors, who are not only willing to teach and mentor, but who are examples of what a pharmacist with a passion for research can achieve. None of this would’ve been possible without their support.”