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We are all leaders: the Wellspring Awards

We are all leaders: the Wellspring Awards | Illustration showing individuals helping each other climb different levels - The Canadian Foundation For Pharmacy

We are all leaders: the Wellspring Awards

SEPTEMBER 2021 – The Canadian Foundation for Pharmacy launched the Wellspring Leadership Award in 2012 to honour the legacy of Barbara Wells, an exceptional pharmacy leader. The goal is to recognize and nurture leadership in frontline pharmacists to help advance not only their own careers, but also the profession of pharmacy.  

We catch up with some of our past winners here, whose inspiring initiatives span across many areas, from change management to quality improvement and peer support.

Christina Adams
Kristine Petrasko
Sherilyn Houle
Aaron Sihota
Certina Ho
Alexandre Chagnon

Christina Adams (2012)

As one of the very first Wellspring Pharmacy Leadership Award recipients, Adams had the pleasure of working with Barbara Wells and was inspired first-hand by her leadership. Adams used her award to cover tuition costs at the Pharmacy Leadership Academy through the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. She says the experience “was invaluable in developing my leadership abilities and in learning about hospital pharmacy management.” Her positive experience at the Academy inspired the Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacists (CSHP) to sponsor someone the next year—and they continue to do so.

Adams has been honing her leadership skills ever since, most recently as the Chief Pharmacy Officer at CSHP. “The position I have now is like the dream job because it’s advocating for frontline pharmacists and equipping them with the tools/skills they need to be all they can be,” she says.

Kristine Petrasko (2013)

In the spirit of paying it forward, Petrasko used her award to support the first pharmacy student summer placement at the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, where she was a Regional Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program Educator. It worked out so well, another three pharmacy students were placed in subsequent years. In 2014, the site won national accolades with an award for Collaborative Team Initiative, which Petrasko credits the Wellspring Award for kickstarting. 

After taking on numerous leadership and mentorship initiatives in respiratory care and community/hospital pharmacy over the years, Petrasko is once again taking the lead in educating pharmacists and working with industry stakeholders as the Professional Relations Manager at The Compounding Pharmacy of Manitoba in Winnipeg.

Sherilyn Houle (2015)

After using her Wellspring award to enrol in a pharmacy facilitation workshop through McGill University, Houle discovered that the most sustainable changes come from within. “When people are equipped and empowered to recognize that they play a role in enacting change in their organization, there is less resistance to change, greater uptake of change, and early gains are more likely to be sustained long-term.”

In her case, she identified a niche in pharmacy practice where she could develop her leadership skills—travel medicine—that launched her into a whole new career trajectory. She earned her Certificate in Travel Health from the International Society of Travel Medicine in 2018 and has since focused her research and service efforts on supporting pharmacists as immunizers and travel health providers. She currently practises at an international travel and immunizations clinic associated with a family health team in Ontario and is on the executive of the Pharmacists Professional Group of the International Society of Travel Medicine and the Ontario Pharmacists Evidence Network. She is a regular travel health columnist for Pharmacy Practice + Business.

Aaron Sihota (2015)

Funding from the Wellspring Award was put towards launching the Pharmacy Leaders of Tomorrow (PLoT) initiative, a grassroots platform aimed at supporting and inspiring early career pharmacists in leadership, innovation and entrepreneurship. “Pharmacy is evolving. Health care is evolving,” says Sihota. “There needs to be a relook at the profession of pharmacy and health care at large, and that fresh way of thinking is what PLoT is about.”

Sihota says the platform has successfully connected thought leaders with young frontline practitioners. “We recently had B.C. Minister of Health Adrian Dix host a townhall and open a Q & A dialogue,” he says. “PLoT Alumni have gone on to serve in various leadership capacities and roles both inside and outside of pharmacy.”

Certina Ho (2018)

Ho used her award to help fund a one-month study program that included a trip to Scotland where she met with Dr. Derek Stewart, a professor of pharmacy practice at the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, United Kingdom, at the time. She was so inspired by his work around facilitators and barriers to medication error reporting that it expanded her own view on collaborating with both junior and senior pharmacy students in research work pertaining to patient/medication safety. “I wouldn’t have had the gumption to go outside of my comfort zone if it wasn’t for that trip,” she says.

As assistant professor at the University of Toronto, Ho has gone on to inspire pharmacy students to pursue research in medication safety. “One of my students, who was a 2020 PharmD graduate, worked on a comprehensive literature review on perceived barriers to reporting med errors that she presented virtually to seven provincial pharmacy regulatory colleges,” says Ho. She is currently working with pharmacy students on a Pocket Guide to Quality Improvement (QI) for healthcare professionals and students. “Fostering a culture and practice of QI will enable continuous development of processes and procedures to provide the best patient care.”

Alexandre Chagnon (2019)

Chagnon’s Wellspring Award went towards developing a bilingual, accredited online course to help pharmacists incorporate social media and digital health tools into their practice. A couple of weeks after the launch of the program, he was approached by the Université Laval in Quebec City to develop a program to teach healthcare workers from all backgrounds everything they need to know to thrive when using technology in patient care.

Since then, he has continued to demonstrate his leadership acumen. In the early days of COVID-19, he started working with Quebec’s Ministry of Health on a program aimed at bringing the pharmacist’s expertise to people calling the 8-1-1 call centers with medication-related issues. This pilot project, which uses artificial intelligence, is evolving into a province-wide program that connects pharmacists to patients who are on waiting lists for family physicians.

Click here to learn more about the Wellspring Awards and previous winners.

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