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Warren’s lessons for pharmacy (and life)

Pillar of Pharmacy 2024 recipient Warren Meek - Canadian Foundation for Pharmacy

Warren’s lessons for pharmacy (and life)

Join us for the Pillar of Pharmacy Dinner on Oct. 2 in Halifax, to celebrate Warren’s storied career.

Warren Meek spent some 30 years in community pharmacy and the past 17 years participating in a variety of medical missions, primarily in Tanzania, through his company C7 Consulting Limited. As the recipient of the 2024 Canadian Foundation for Pharmacy’s prestigious Pillar of Pharmacy award, we asked him to look back on his career so far and share his learnings on life and the profession of pharmacy.

What stands out the most for you in your pharmacy career?

Firstly, the transition within the profession throughout the decades. Many of the operations and services provided today were either non-existent or just a dream. I recall working with 2008 Pillar of Pharmacy Award recipient Aubrey Browne on a back of a napkin drawing where we spoke about the pharmacist being the first point of contact, the prescriptions then completed by a stellar crew of technicians, and then the pharmacist communicating with the patient as the last point of contact. Secondly, it is rewarding and encouraging to see pharmacists continually in the list of most trusted profession.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

1) My involvement with a provincial cardiovascular program called ICONS—Improving Cardiovascular Outcomes in Nova Scotia, which seriously engaged pharmacists in the program, and subsequently led to a province-wide Cardiovascular standard. 2) My involvement with my dispensary team in one of the first published Canadian-delegated and medically authorized studies, piloting community pharmacists making changes to patient. 3) Being the only study site with the Dalhousie University College of Pharmacy on the implementation of Pharmaceutical Care. 4) Being involved in what I consider a milestone project in Canadian pharmacy: The Blueprint for Pharmacy in 2008. It was a collaborative initiative designed to catalyze, coordinate and facilitate the changes required to align pharmacy practice with the healthcare needs of Canadians and to achieve the vision of “Optimal Drug Therapy Outcomes for Canadians through Patient-Centred Care” for the future of pharmacy in Canada. 5) My involvement in the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP), where I was able to collaborate with colleagues around the globe.

What do you consider your “secret to success?”

The power of positivity over negativity. Patience. Optimism. Thinking outside the box. An “I can” attitude and the true importance of giving.

How did you get involved in FIP and specifically, medical missions to Tanzania?

My involvement with FIP started in 1997 when its congress was held in Vancouver. Subsequently, I became more involved with the Community Pharmacy Section of the Federation, serving on the Executive, learning from my peers, in sharing the developments in Canadian community pharmacy. My involvement with the overseas medical mission started in 2006 when Brian Stowe, the Canadian Pharmacists Association president, shared with me that a member of his church was seeking a pharmacist for an overseas medical mission. I had no reason to say no.

The inspiration for undertaking these missions preceded my actual engagement by four years. I was attending a FIP Congress in France and the opening plenary speaker was Oscar Arias Sanchez, the then-twice president of Costa Rica. I was the first to approach him after the speech and ask for a copy of his speech. There are so many words of wisdom, but let me share the ones that struck my heart: 

“. . . My friend and fellow Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel once said, ‘The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference.’ Whatever you choose as your part in creating a better world, do not let yourselves fall into indifference. It is a great danger in our age, where we have so much information and so little energy to care. In the face of indifference, I implore you to let yourselves care, to be the best pharmacists you can be, and to find a way—however small or large—to make your work serve the goals of global justice and health. Any positive action you take brings light and dispels darkness. The world needs all the illumination it can get, and you, my friends, are the sparks that will light our way to a better future.”

What learnings did you take from your work in Tanzania?

The practice of pharmacy in Tanzania is well behind our standards in Canada. There were only 2,079 registered pharmacists in the whole country in 2020. Lending a hand in these medical missions was also an opportunity to share how we practise pharmacy in Canada. Specifically, I learned that we are truly blessed in Canada. I learned the importance of understanding culture, and of listening to learn versus listening to answer.

What advice would you offer other pharmacists who wish to offer their expertise in remote areas?

Your skillset is valuable in so many ways—far more than you think. Seek out opportunities to serve beyond your current role in your current domain. In short, just do it, to help yourself and others.

What makes a good leader?

There is so much untapped potential in people, and what brings out that potential is developing the confidence to try something or the courage to try again if they fail. A good leader dares to make a difference, sees something not as it is but as it could be. A good leader is not about self, but rather about the desire to have a positive influence and make a difference in the world. And a good leader is always looking ahead and behind, to ensure the followers are sharing the journey.

What are the best and worse parts about being a pharmacist in 2024?

The best part is having access to quality education, the collaboration with other health professionals, and the myriad of resources enabling us to practise well. While we cannot ignore the stresses in the system, we can be proud of our accomplishments to deliver better care to Canadians. The greatest challenge is how to achieve the optimal work/life balance.

Any last thoughts?

I love being a pharmacist. Were there days in my career where the sun didn’t shine and the flowers didn’t bloom? Probably. But they are all forgotten in the thousands of days when my mentors, my colleagues, my staff, my patients, and my family said, “Good job!”

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