Kelly Grindrod never was your traditional neighbourhood pharmacist.
An educator and practicing pharmacist, Grindrod holds the OCP Professorship in Pharmacy Innovation for the University of Waterloo. The diversity of her roles and accomplishments led to her receiving the Pharmacist of the Year Award for 2020. This highest distinction for Canadian pharmacists is presented annually by the Canadian Pharmacists Association, the national advocacy body for pharmacy in Canada.
“I wear many hats - researcher, teacher, mentor, and pharmacist,” says the School of Pharmacy professor. “In a day, I go from seeing patients in the clinic, to writing a paper, to supervising graduate students, to managing a large group of pharmacy students in a professional practice lab. I have a lot of freedom to do what I want in my job, which means I spend a lot of time being creative and thinking outside the box.”
Pharmacy is evolving in Canada. In recent years, changes in services pharmacists can provide have been rolled out across the country. In some provinces, pharmacists can give vaccinations, order lab tests, and adjust and adapt patient prescriptions. In Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia pharmacists can prescribe medication for minor ailments – a change that is currently being explored in Ontario. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these are services that have been relied on, and Grindrod has been an outspoken advocate for the profession, communicating the critical role pharmacists are playing at this time and the need for support from governments.
As an educator, innovator, and pharmacist, Grindrod has been at the forefront of encouraging pharmacists to embrace scope changes. That’s what led her to design Pharmacy5in5, an online platform where pharmacists can learn five things about complex health topics in five minutes or less. She works with digital arts experts across the University of Waterloo and employs game theories and evidence-based health information in developing modules on topics like cannabis and pharmacy, opioids and naloxone, and, most recently, COVID-19.
“I love figuring out messy problems and showing others how to navigate a similar problem,” said Grindrod. “Pharmacy can be a puzzle, where you have dozens of pieces that need to fit together. In a busy pharmacy, it can be hard to find the time to solve the puzzle. That’s why we started making our infographics and animated videos for Pharmacy5in5. Through my work, I've been able to find creative solutions to show pharmacists how to embrace these challenges and to feel empowered to help their patients.”
Pharmacy5in5 has been hugely successful, attracting extensive funding support and reaching over 10,000 users across the country. Pharmacists, pharmacy students, pharmacy technicians, and others use the tool to improve their knowledge, and Grindrod and her team regularly roll out modules on emerging health issues.
In the midst of a global pandemic, Grindrod has pivoted to meet the needs of Canadians. She’s partnered with different experts to develop new COVID-19 educational content to help communicate best practices and guidelines as the profession of pharmacy adjusts.
As faculty at the School of Pharmacy, Grindrod has been recognized for her teaching and mentorship, held several academic leadership positions, and built a research group that examines medication use and digital technologies. The focus on technology emerged in part as a response to the way new technology is disrupting traditional pharmacy practice.
“As the technical tasks of pharmacy become more and more automated, pharmacists need to embrace their roles as drug experts and get comfortable making difficult decisions,” she said. “We need to be working with patients to help them make choices about medications, and we need to be proactively using our expertise. Rather than waiting to be asked for our opinion, we need to show our patients and the rest of the health care system that we are more than double-checkers and dispensers.”
Grindrod continues to model that kind of assertive and evidence-based practice for her students.
“I love being a pharmacist but for me, “pharmacist” has meant many different things. I love that I get to show people a different side of pharmacy, and to also show my students how rewarding an academic career can be.”
In the media
University of Waterloo professor recognized as Canadian Pharmacist of the Year, The Waterloo Region Record, May 21, 2020
UW prof named Canadian pharmacist of the year, CTV News Kitchener, May 20, 2020