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Sherry’s lessons for pharmacy (and life)

Sherry's lessons for pharmacy (and life) | Picture of Sherry Peister with her husband, Al, at the Pillar of Pharmacy Event in November - The Canadian Foundation For Pharmacy

Sherry’s lessons for pharmacy (and life)

NOVEMBER 2019 – Sherry Peister of Waterloo, Ontario, has dedicated more than half her life to pharmacy as a practicing pharmacist, advocate and volunteer. She has no plans to slow down, and is excited by the opportunities unfolding for future generations of pharmacists.

Peister is the 2019 recipient of the Canadian Foundation for Pharmacy’s prestigious Pillar of Pharmacy Award. We asked her to look back on her career so far and share her words of advice for professional (and personal) fulfillment.

If you could boil down the “secret to success” to just one thing, what would it be?

Be passionate about what you do. You have to believe in yourself, that you are doing the right thing for the right reason. That comes naturally when you have a focus that really drives you. You could be passionate about an area of patient care, you could be passionate about patient counselling in general, you could be passionate about improving workflow—whatever it is, passion will motivate you and build your confidence. You will also speak with confidence and be able to debate the issues if need be. Others will see and feel your passion, and respond to it. 

What if your passion hits major roadblocks?

It probably will! That’s okay. Sometimes change takes a lot of patience. You may need to bring people to your way of thinking. To do that you have to keep bringing up your idea, but don’t keep saying the same thing: bring in new points to strengthen the idea, to show its benefits. Do your research, bring forward credible evidence and respond to other people’s questions and concerns. If you truly believe in what you’re saying or doing, you can’t let it go—but at the same time you always have to respect other viewpoints. Always listen attentively.

If your work environment is a barrier, what then?

If you are in an unhealthy environment where you are not realizing your dream, leave it. That may not be that easy in today’s market, but make it a goal to leave as soon as you can. And when interviewing for a new job, make sure you also interview the person who is hiring. Make sure it’s a two-way conversation. Young pharmacists in particular may not feel comfortable bringing up issues like job security, job role and personal expectations, but they shouldn’t be. You want to pick the right job to begin with, as it becomes a major part of your life.

How can pharmacists help direct change, rather than react to it?

Become involved in your community. Health care is changing rapidly, as more services move out of institutions and into the community. To be truly seen as a member of the circle of care team we have to demonstrate our added value, and to do that we have to be at the table from the start. At the individual level, reach out to neighbouring physicians, clinics, nurse practitioners, etc. You can offer lunch and learn sessions on topics of interest to them, such as updates on new drugs. Reach out to the head of the pharmacy department at the local hospital to implement a discharge medication reconciliation process—family physicians really appreciate that because they lose track of patients once they enter the hospital. Volunteer to join committees in the community, such as seniors’ groups and disease advocacy groups. Your local public health department likely has many committees that would love the expertise of a pharmacist.

Can you give an example of something that grew out of community involvement?

I started a committee with the public health department on seniors and medications. It started with medicine cabinet cleanups, including data collection. That led to more activities to educate seniors about their use of medications. It grew to such a point that Public Health partnered with another agency and hired somebody to lead the initiative. We came to them with the idea, worked with them, they saw the value and brought in funding to make this a regular program.

Sounds amazing, but how do you make the time?

If you’re passionate about something, you will find the time. Protect a regular slot of time to pursue your professional passions. Make it a part of your regular schedule. And if you find you’re doing something that you’re not passionate about, stop doing it. Dedicate your time to what’s important for you.

What else is key to fulfilling your passion, and/or a good rule to live by in daily practice?

Build lasting relationships. You’ll want to do this with patients, healthcare providers, your peers and government. You don’t know what role you’re going to have in another 10 years, or where the people in your network will be in 10 years. The way you interact with and treat them today could influence decisions they make years from now, which could have a positive or negative impact on pharmacy. Every single interaction is important. 

Sherry Peister’s pharmacy career path (so far)

  • Graduated from University of Toronto Faculty of Pharmacy in 1982
  • Worked for 32 years as a community pharmacist, including 18 years as a pharmacy owner
  • Joined the Board of Green Shield Canada (GSC) in 1997 and served on numerous committees
  • Became Chair of the Board of GSC and Chair of the GSC Foundation in 2010, positions she continues to hold
  • Provincially, served on numerous committees of the Ontario Pharmacists Association (OPA) and was its President in 1994-1995
  • Current member of the joint OPA PPMS eHealth task force
  • Served on numerous committees for the Ontario College of Pharmacists
  • Founding member of the Advisory Council for the School of Pharmacy, University of Waterloo, and currently a lead admissions interviewer
  • Nationally, served on numerous committees for the Canadian Pharmacists Association and was its President in 2013-2014
  • Has served on regional boards, committees or programs, including the Waterloo Region-Wellington-Dufferin District Health Council
  • An international public speaker, including speaking engagements for the American Pharmacists Association and the Federation of International Pharmacists

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