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Pharmacy students put patients first in Pharmasave Business Competition

Monday, November 23, 2015

Student winners posing with trophy.Preparing for the expanded role of pharmacists, a group of Waterloo pharmacy students proved they have the business savvy and pharmaceutical know-how to kick-start a business that puts pharmacists on the front line of health care.The Pharmasave Business Competition pits third-year pharmacy student teams against their classmates in a battle for a $5,000 prize that tests their business acumen and innovation in the field of pharmacy.

“Thinking out of the box is what’s truly crucial to this type of learning and exercise,” said Waterloo professor Roderick Slavcev.

Teams have to solve real-life business problems in a way that aligns with Ontario health care regulations. They have a week to put together a feasibility study and are graded on it, making the competition a highly stressful event, said Slavcev.

Students pitch their ideas to a panel of pharmacists and business people.

We keep it real so we have strong graduates who will be innovative and carry on and push the boundaries of pharmacy,” said Slavcev. “After they’re finished, students say it’s the most painful, but rewarding experience they’ve had.”

The winning team ­– Jenn MacKenzie, Steven Crone, Marz Tepczynska, Ashlie McGuire (Altman) and Sandra MacTavish – took the title with their business, Beyond Wellness Pharmsave. With a slogan of “Exceeding your Health Expectations,” the team turned the traditional pharmacy business model on its head.

Typically, when patients walk into a pharmacy they don’t see a pharmacist until after their prescription is filled, but under the team’s business plan a patient walking into their pharmacy would see a pharmacist first, who would ensure the patient’s prescription was appropriate.

In their pitch, the business would include a nurse practitioner who would treat patients with minor ailments, such as skin conditions and allergies.

Ontario health care regulations are expected to change so that pharmacists can treat minor ailments in the future. The team planned for this scenario in their business and had the pharmacists shift to taking over care of patients with minor ailments once the regulations changed. The business would keep the nurse practitioner, who would oversee a walk-in clinic, within the pharmacy.

Winning the competition reassured the team that they were on the right track with their idea, said MacKenzie.

It gave us reassurance that in the real world we can be successful business owners,” MacKenzie said.

The competition is meant to challenge students to find the gaps and pain points in health care that pharmacy is perfectly suited to fill, said Slavcev. “We have the ability to cost-effectively improve access to health care,” he said.

It’s also a reminder of the unique opportunities available to pharmacists and pharmacy, said Billy B. Cheung, Region Director of Pharmacy and Strategic Initiatives for Pharmasave Ontario, which sponsors the competition.

We continue to be inspired and amazed at the enthusiasm, creativity and innovation presented by the students through this competition each year. The students truly take on the challenge of developing viable business ideas,” Cheung said.

The competition has been held for five years and led to at least three real-world businesses.

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