Edmonton pharmacists work to improve lives of inner-city's most vulnerable
For Immediate Release
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Edmonton, AB - A group of local health professionals are challenging our perception of what it means to be a pharmacist. Each with their own unique story, these individuals are connected through their dedication to caring for the inner-city’s most vulnerable and marginalized residents. Their innovative approach to caring for individuals living with HIV, grappling with mental health and addiction, and in some cases, homelessness, is both inspiring and eye-opening.
These revolutionary and equally compassionate pharmacists were recently honoured at the 2017 APEX Awards, an annual event hosted by the Alberta College of Pharmacists and the Alberta Pharmacists’ Association to recognize excellence in pharmacy practice in Alberta.
Adherence and Community Engagement (ACE) Team
Launched in August of 2016, the ACE Team is a pharmacist-led HIV outreach team initiative based in Edmonton, that has truly become a unique and innovative pharmacy practice model with no parallel across Canada. The ACE Team consists of two clinical pharmacists, Essi and Klaudia, and licensed practical nurse, Sokun. It was a program developed by the Mint Health + Drugs group as part of their non-profit community health arm, Mint Communities. ACE operates as a mobile team in the community to support transient, disengaged individuals – previously never considered candidates for therapy – successfully start and maintain adherence to antiretroviral therapy. Understanding that health issues do not occur in isolation, the team also connects individuals with community resources to help address their unique social needs and self-identified goals.
“We hope that in achieving greater patient stability and suppressed viral loads, our team’s interventions can demonstrate reduced HIV viral transmission, reduced instances of new HIV cases, as well as a reduction in hospitalizations and incarcerations,” says Klaudia Zabrzenski, clinical pharmacist. View the ACE Team’s video and full profile.
By day, Ken is a critical care pharmacist at the Royal Alexandra Hospital. When his shift is over, Ken puts on another hat and makes his way to the inner-city to pursue his passion for helping others. Ken volunteers in the inner-city helping individuals in need of a bite to eat, some warm clothing, or a supportive ear. With his non-profit organization, the Hymningbirds, Ken makes regular visits to local hospitals, nursing homes, soup kitchens, and prisons. Drawing on his skills as a pharmacist, Ken also keeps Naloxone kits on hand to educate members of the community who may need to use the kits on friends or family members struggling with opioid addiction.
“Volunteering has opened my eyes and my heart to the sufferings and struggles of those around me. As a pharmacist, it has reminded me that everyone is special and deserves generous portions of love and respect along with the clinical care I provide,” says Ken Forgach, clinical pharmacist and community volunteer. View Ken’s video and full profile.
A clinical pharmacist at Mint Health + Drugs - CMP in downtown Edmonton, Andrew works primarily with inner-city patients who often require daily assistance. Andrew and his team collaborate with neighboring clinics and services such as the Boyle McCauley Health Centre (BMHC) and Heavy Users of Services (HUoS), where health professionals, social workers, and the Edmonton Police Service, work together to provide care for patients with multiple barriers to health care, such as homelessness, mental health, and addiction.
“To me, excellence in pharmacy practice means going above and beyond for your patients. It’s about more than just helping them meet their health-related needs; it’s about the time spent to understand their life and putting a smile on their face,” says Andrew Noh, clinical pharmacist. View Andrew’s video and full profile.
Michelle Foisy is a clinical pharmacist with the Northern Alberta HIV Program. Michelle has made many contributions to patient care throughout her 30-year career. Most recently, she played a leading role in updating and implementing the Alberta Health Services/Covenant Health HIV Perinatal Protocol. This protocol is essential in guiding management of HIV-infected pregnant women and preventing transmission of HIV to the neonate. Michelle and her colleagues have also developed a drug interaction app for HIV/HCV therapy, which is used extensively by health care providers. Michelle works closely with an interdisciplinary team to get HIV-infected patients on antiretroviral treatment and to stay on treatment for life. This involves a great deal of outreach and the development of strong partnerships with community agencies and pharmacies, particularly for inner-city patients who may have more social challenges.
“I did not fully appreciate where my career was headed when I started. I now see the richness of the opportunities I’ve had. Not only have I grown and learned from my patients, I have also been able to collaborate with so many other excellent health care professionals,” says Michelle Foisy, clinical pharmacist. View Michelle’s video and full profile.
About the APEX AWARDS
The APEX Awards recognize and celebrate excellence in pharmacy practice in Alberta. Initiated in August 2007, the awards are jointly funded, promoted, and presented by the Alberta College of Pharmacists and the Alberta Pharmacists’ Association. To learn more about the APEX Awards, visit: https://pharmacists.ab.ca/apex-awards