By Randilynne Urslak
On Tuesday, April 20, I had the opportunity to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland to discuss the important role that pharmacy is playing in Canada’s response to COVID-19. I am in complete awe that I was given this opportunity – I think I may still wake up one morning and find out it was all a dream!
To provide some context, I am a second-year pharmacy student finishing my co-op rotation at the Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA). I have also been working nights and weekends at a local Ottawa pharmacy supporting COVID-19 vaccination efforts. Recognizing the tremendous work that pharmacists are doing, the Prime Minister’s office reached out to CPhA to organize a virtual meeting to discuss those efforts with front-line pharmacists. I was invited to provide a student perspective, and I was joined by pharmacists from across Canada who shared their experiences administering COVID-19 vaccines in their communities.
Although each province has individual vaccine rollout strategies and every experience was a little bit different, it was inspiring to see that we all shared the same passion and goal — to help our communities feel safe again. Pharmacists have been working around the clock, not only administering vaccines, but also educating patients on their safety and efficacy. As the most accessible and often the most trusted health-care professionals, pharmacists are a reliable source of information during times of uncertainty. All of the pharmacists discussed how rewarding and positive their experience has been, and how appreciative patients are of the services we offer. I was inspired to be in a meeting full of hard-working, kind, exceptional pharmacists who are working so hard to end this pandemic.
The Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister were extremely appreciative of the contributions pharmacy has made throughout the pandemic. The discussion was very positive and covered topics such as vaccine hesitancy and supply vs. demand for COVID-19 vaccines.
During the meeting, Justin Trudeau asked me if the pandemic has caused me to be more or less excited about my career choice. I can say with absolute certainty that I am prouder than ever to be joining this profession, and although I am just starting my pharmacy journey, I know this experience will remain a highlight of my career. COVID-19 has uncovered a lot of cracks in our health system. However, it has also solidified my conviction that pharmacists truly are a crucial part of that system and that we can and do play a vital role in the health and well-being of Canadians.
Advocacy has always been a passion of mine and I hope to continue advocating for my profession and for my patients throughout my career. I am very thankful to CPhA for inviting me to attend this meeting, and to the other pharmacists for being willing to share their experiences. It was truly an honour to participate, and I am excited to see what the future holds for all of us.