Pharmacy student wins leadership prize for interventions in cancer care

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Gloria LauBlueprint for Pharmacy recently awarded fourth-year Pharmacy student Gloria Lau first place for her essay on the evolving role of pharmacists to a clinical and patient-centred profession. 

The Blueprint for Pharmacy Student Leadership competition in Practice Change is open to all pharmacy students throughout Canada.

Lau’s essay reflecting her work placement at the Sunnybrook Odette Cancer Centre emphasized the critical role pharmacists play in clinical therapy, disease management and patient outcomes.

Many patients are hesitant to ask questions because they are afraid to ‘go against’ professional advice,” says Lau, PharmD student. “As pharmacists, we help guide patients and direct them to the medical information they need.”

She worked with a medical oncologist and was in charge of monitoring adverse effects of chemotherapies and endocrine therapies, recommending changes to treatments if necessary. Working closely with a team of health care providers, including physicians and nurses, Lau was able to accurately recognize disease-related problems and distinguish them from medication-related effects. Her insights improved patient health and helped flag undiagnosed issues for further investigation.

I was following a patient who did not speak English too well and she had been describing some vague symptoms to me,” says Lau. “They were red flags and I contacted the oncologist immediately afterwards to schedule further scans. The results showed that the cancer had spread to the brain and the patient needed urgent whole brain radiation therapy.”

Lau’s contribution towards improving patient care echoes the change of the profession. Nowadays, a pharmacist’s expertise is not limited to drug-related problems but is instead expanding and becoming increasingly clinical and patient-orientated.

The Blueprint for Pharmacy Prize for Student Leadership in Practice Change is an annual award given to a pharmacy student that has displayed innovative patient care in a summer job, work placement or volunteer position.

UWaterloo's School of Pharmacy in the Faculty of Science is the only co-op pharmacy school in Canada and one of two in North America. The program provides students with more than 2,010 hours of practical experience in a wide range of fields including community pharmacy, hospital pharmacy, pharmaceutical industry, long-term care and government.

Congratulations Gloria Lau!

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