Supporting Innovation in Pharmacy for a Healthier Canada

Derek's lessons for pharmacy (and life)


Derek Desrosiers, left, receives the Lifetime Achievement Award from CFP's Dayle Acorn at the B.C. Pharmacy Association's 2018 conference

JULY 2018 - The Canadian Foundation for Pharmacy is very pleased to bestow a Lifetime Achievement Award to Derek Desrosiers, who retired from his position of Director, Pharmacy Practice Support at the BC Pharmacy Association (BCPhA) in May, 2018. Looking back over his 36-year career in pharmacy so far, Desrosiers shares some of his learnings and offers a few “pearls of wisdom” for pharmacists today.

Throughout your career you’ve volunteered for pharmacy organizations, such BCPhA and CFP. Why the steadfast commitment?

I get as much out of it as I put into it. Volunteering has helped me be a better pharmacist, a better manager, a better person. I’ve met some amazing people who’ve become an important part of my network, and some are close friends. You get a much deeper understanding of how things work in the broader world of pharmacy and you’re doing things that make a difference. It is just tremendously satisfying work and I strongly recommend it as something that can really enhance not only your professional career, but also your personal growth. Yes, it takes up a bit of time, but I think you’ll find your employer will support you, because they’ll see benefits as well.

When you were CEO of uniPHARM, you helped guide the company to achieve the designation of Canada’s Best Managed Companies. What did that experience teach you?

We decided to do it as a way to set our sights on quality improvement, and it took us three years to be successful for the first time. It really comes down to having a proper, written business plan that you follow actively. We made significant changes to financial reporting, to the structure and role of the Board of Directors, and to standard operating procedures. We put in new HR policies and invested a lot of time and energy in getting all levels of staff involved in determining the strategic direction of the company. Employees become much more engaged, you could see they enjoyed work more, and this led to reduced employee turnover. The whole process also gave us a lot of credibility with suppliers. It was a pretty big achievement, and it’s something I definitely recommend to any pharmacy or pharmacy group that’s privately owned with annual revenue of at least $10 million, which are among the criteria. Individual pharmacies can do something similar as well, using the same principles.

At BCPhA, your job was to help pharmacists fulfill their potential as healthcare professionals while also ensuring the economic viability of pharmacy. What advice can you give at the pharmacy level?

Again, it all starts with a proper business plan. I say that a lot, and I can’t say it enough! Too many pharmacies simply don’t have a real business plan, in writing. And this is not a snapshot in time, but something that’s dynamic, that you revisit every year or two. And if you implement a new service, you need a business plan for just that service that’s integrated into the overall plan. Business plans are foundational not just for economic viability, but it’s also a great way for you as a pharmacist to figure out what’s really important to you.

Notwithstanding all the negativity out there when it comes to the economics of pharmacy, there are still a ton of opportunities to thrive while helping patients achieve better outcomes. You find an area of practice that interests you and that your competition is not doing, and you build a business plan with an economic model. You might have to change the plan, or even go in a different direction, but that’s okay. Eventually you tap into a market and become a destination location for people who really value what you can do for them.

Any final words of advice?

Try really hard not to burn any bridges, no matter how south things appear to be going at the time. Pharmacy is a very small world, and you never know when you’ll run back into people who have since moved on to different roles. You learn the most from people, from the relationships you cultivate, so it’s really important to maintain a robust and supportive network.

Derek Desrosiers’ pharmacy career path (so far)
  • Graduated from University of BC in 1982
  • Worked for 13 years as a community pharmacist, and as HR manager for small pharmacy chain
  • First joined BCPhA in 1995 As Director of Professional Services
  • He joined uniPHARM Wholesale Drugs in 1999 and became its CEO in 2004
  • Returned to BCPhA in 2013 as Director, Pharmacy Practice Support; retired from this position in May 2018
  • Currently has his own consulting company, Desson Consulting, where he helps pharmacy owners develop—you guessed it—business plans
  • He is also a succession and acquisitions consultant with Rxownership.ca
  • When he wasn’t on staff at BCPhA, Derek was a member of its Board, and served six terms as President
  • Derek is also on CFP’s Board and was President in 2017; he was on the Board of the Canadian Association for Pharmacy Distribution Management from 2007 to 2013, serving as Chair from 2008 to 2011