When Elaine Lillie first joined Waterloo Pharmacy in 2007, the School had no building, no curriculum, and no students. She was replying to an advertisement in the Waterloo Region Record. The job: communications instructor. The requirements: educational experience and a background in pharmacy.
“I was intrigued by a professional school that had the insight to understand that it needed focus on communication, that communication is the key that grants patients access to care providers’ knowledge,” says Elaine. “I wanted to meet these people and hoped I convince them to let me be a part of the team.”
At the time, Elaine was developing and delivering courses in Wilfrid Laurier University’s Master of Business Administration Program. She had a successful career in the business world, working in the banking sector and the high-tech industry.
Impressed with her experience and passion for communication education the Waterloo Pharmacy start-up team hired Elaine. She began as a part-time instructor, but before long she moved into senior roles: Co-chair of the Curriculum Committee and Director of Interprofessional Education. Her communications courses – an introductory course in first year and a fourth-year Symposium course – bookend the student experience at Waterloo Pharmacy and ensure our graduates are strong communicators.
Elaine faced many challenges in her time at Waterloo Pharmacy. As Curriculum Committee Co-Chair, she helped guide the School through the transition from the BSc to the PharmD program. Her leadership during this difficult transition meant that Waterloo Pharmacy was one of Canada’s first pharmacy schools to roll out a PharmD program.
“The transition to the PharmD was a major undertaking,” she remembers. “The BScPharm curriculum was designed with the PharmD in mind, but the change affected everyone at the School. Organizing this shift while maintaining the integrity of the program and ensuring that our students had the best experience possible was difficult, but we ultimately succeeded.”
Her role as Director of Interprofessional Education (IPE) also came with challenges. Waterloo Pharmacy is the only Canadian pharmacy school at an institution without a Medical or Nursing school, and the Kitchener-Waterloo area does not have a teaching hospital. To find partners from other professions, Elaine had to reach out and make external connections.
“That meant that our strategy ultimately involved reaching out – the result is partnerships that have benefitted everyone involved. We now run interprofessional activities in each year of the PharmD program and these are jointly hosted with our partners from other health care education institutions.”
In her 11 years with the School, Elaine has taught every cohort of Waterloo Pharmacy students. Her contributions in the classroom and as a leader have been recognized through numerous awards.
“The one thing that stands out when I reflect on the many contributions Elaine has made to our School is what a team player she is,” said Nancy Waite, Associate Director of Clinical Education, at Elaine’s retirement celebration. “In the ten years that Elaine has been here, I can think of countless occasions when she stepped up to the plate to help get an important job done. When you are in the start-up phase of a School, this willingness to be an enthusiastic team player is priceless.”
Congratulations Elaine on your retirement!