Celebrating our bold start and bright future at Founders and Friends event

Friday, May 25, 2018

Students standing with instructor Josie Orso-Simon

A project manager who didn’t plan on becoming Waterloo Pharmacy’s first Hallman Director. A mayor who didn’t expect to lead Kitchener city council in providing 30 million dollars and 8 acres of land to the University of Waterloo. Students who took a chance on a program with no building, six faculty members, and Canada’s first co-operative education pharmacy program.

The story of how Waterloo Pharmacy began is full of unlikely circumstances like these, all underscored by the dogged pursuit of innovation and excellence. On May 23, founders and friends of Waterloo Pharmacy gathered to celebrate these achievements and the School’s 10th anniversary.

Jake Thiessen speaking“Sometimes what doesn’t happen is as important as what did happen,” said Founding Hallman Director Jake Thiessen (left). Thiessen was reflecting back to 2004 when the idea arose to open Canada’s first new pharmacy school in twenty years.

The plan was to make the new school a satellite program of the University of Toronto’s Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy. However, it soon became clear that the University of Waterloo had the leadership, support, and ambition to make the school their own. Five years after the proposal of the new school, the University of Waterloo welcomed its first pharmacy students.

“We wanted a program that created a sense of diversity, creativity, and adaptability in our students,” Thiessen told the audience. That adaptability is apparent today in the varied roles that Waterloo Pharmacy alumni hold across the province and country.

Heather Foley is one of these alumni – a family health team pharmacist and adjunct faculty member with the School, she shared her experiences as a member of the first cohort of Waterloo Pharmacy students.

“Our first year of pharmacy was quite ad lib… we didn’t have many of the resources the students on main campus had,” said Foley. “We started from scratch – just four walls and a bunch of amazing people. But it didn’t take long to get the wheels turning, and progress has been made continually ever since.”

Stacey Verhaeghe, Jenn Silvecka, Heather Foley, and Sarah de Waal

Waterloo Pharmacy staff with Rx2011 alumnus and adjunct faculty member Heather Foley. Left to right: Stacey Verhaeghe, Jenn Silvecka, Heather Foley and Sarah de Waal

The audience also heard from University of Waterloo President Feridun Hamdullahpur and the Dean of Science Bob Lemieux. Hamdullahpur congratulated all involved for the milestone anniversary, and Lemieux reflected on the translational research of pharmacy faculty and exciting developing initiatives like partnership with Hong Kong universities. Former Kitchener Mayor Carl Zehr discussed how Waterloo Pharmacy fit into the City’s plans for revitalization of downtown Kitchener – a project that transformed the warehouse district to the innovation district of today.

David Edwards“The last ten years have been filled with accomplishments,” said Hallman Director David Edwards (right). “We’ve implemented not just one, but two pharmacy degrees. A Masters program. A PhD program. And we now have over 800 alumni across the country.  At the same time our faculty have built thriving research programs and attracted close to 20 million dollars in research support, directed towards solving pressing health problems.”

Edwards closed by acknowledging how our academic, civic, and health care partners have played a significant role in supporting the School and enabling our success.

“Thank you all for your contributions to the School of Pharmacy. Every single person here tonight has played some role in the success and accomplishments of the School of Pharmacy.”

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