By Stuart Foxman
Since 2011, Dr. Kelly Grindrod, R.Ph., has been an influential force at the University of Waterloo’s School of Pharmacy. An Associate Professor and holder of the OCP Professorship in Pharmacy Innovation, she teaches classes in health informatics, therapeutics and professional practice. In May 2020, she was lauded for her fresh approach to pharmacy education when she was named Canadian Pharmacist of the Year by the Canadian Pharmacists’ Association.
Many pharmacy professionals throughout the province are already familiar with Pharmacy5in5, an online platform that allows pharmacists to test their knowledge of, and understand ongoing trends in, pharmacy and healthcare. Dr. Grindrod was the creator of this innovative education platform, which is partially funded by OCP and covers content on everything from opioids to antibiotic stewardship to point-of-care testing.
Beyond her teaching role, Dr. Grindrod’s research interests include looking at how digital technologies can improve how medications are managed and change clinician practice. She also works at the Kitchener Downtown Community Health Centre.
Dr. Grindrod completed a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy at the University of Alberta, and a Master of Science and PharmD at the University of British Columbia.
Dr. Grindrod talked to Pharmacy Connection about helping students to harness their expertise, defining innovation, how her community practice enriches her teaching, and how COVID-19 has influenced the view of pharmacists.
Pharmacy Connection: What do you try to reinforce to your students about what it means to be a pharmacy professional?
Dr. Grindrod: The main thing I focus on is being autonomous. You have strong expertise when it comes to drugs, more than any other professional. The world is a lot better when you use that expertise. The challenge sometimes is being confident enough to apply it every day, helping patients to do better, and prescribers to prescribe better.
Pharmacy Connection: No profession remains static. How do you get today’s pharmacy students ready for an evolution in the role?
Dr. Grindrod: The biggest thing we’re preparing them for is change. Sometimes, when they go into a co-op, the pharmacy isn’t doing the things we’re teaching them. Or, students may know more than their preceptors, so they should be prepared to coach everybody around them as well. There won’t always be a model to show them how to do something. Have the confidence to try something new when it comes out. We want pharmacists to be adaptable.
Pharmacy Connection: The Canadian Pharmacist of the Year award recognizes a pharmacist who demonstrates leadership, and exemplifies the evolution of the profession toward an expanded role in healthcare. What was your to winning the award?
Dr. Grindrod: It was wonderful to receive the award. After it was announced, I received so many calls and emails and social media messages from people I’ve known since I joined the profession. So many talked about the ways my work had impacted them. It gives me a lot of motivation to keep finding ways to help.
There won’t always be a model to show them how to do something. Have the confidence to try something new when it comes out
Pharmacy Connection: What does it mean to you to hold the OCP Professorship in Pharmacy Innovation?
Dr. Grindrod: I love change. I work a lot with computer scientists, engineers and programmers. We often think of innovation as big disruption, a massive change. But it’s really figuring out how to make things work in the best possible way. That could be technology or a device, but also workflow or small tweaks and changes.
Pharmacy Connection: Part of innovation involves digital tools, which has been a research focus of yours. What have you discovered about how pharmacists use such tools in their practice?
Dr. Grindrod: The number one thing we’ve learned is that many things in a pharmacy are designed by people who have no idea [of pharmacy's realities]. Companies create medication apps, and the developers don’t seem to have used medication. Pharmacy computer systems are designed by people who think they understand pharmacists’ workflow, but don’t understand the pharmacists’ thought processes. We need multiple experts to work on problems, and we need to be at the table too.
Pharmacy Connection: Pharmacy5in5 includes quizzes, infographics and videos, and makes learning fun. Why this format?
Dr. Grindrod: Pharmacists are really busy people. Many people have trouble attending a conference or sitting down for a three-hour online course. We came up with the idea to learn five things in a module, in five-minute increments. Everything is interactive. Users assess what they know.
Pharmacy Connection: How does this type of online education help pharmacy professionals to acquire a deeper understanding of clinical and professional topics?
Dr. Grindrod: People who have an expertise in a certain area tend to educate themselves in that area. We try to have a whole range of topics that people may not be focussed on. For instance, one of the most popular is Serotonin syndrome, a serious side effect that most pharmacists and family doctors don’t understand at all.
Pharmacy Connection: As a clinical pharmacist, you work at a centre that serves marginalized populations. How does that work inform your approach as a professor?
Dr. Grindrod: It keeps it real. When you work with populations that have significant challenges, like poverty, trauma or mental illness, it forces you to look at the system in a new way. The system isn’t designed to help the people who need it the most. That informs everything I do in the classroom. I make sure the problems I present are complex and represent diverse patient populations. I’m not just following the perfect textbook scenarios – the ones with obvious, clear solutions. I try to prepare students for the messy. Be creative if a patient doesn’t fit in a box.
Pharmacy Connection: COVID-19 has been transformative for everyone. What do you think this pandemic has revealed to the public about the pharmacist’s role?
Dr. Grindrod: Early on in the pandemic, when everything was shut down, hospitals were focused inward on the ICU and doctors shifted to virtual visits. The pharmacy was one of the only community health spaces open. We saw people realize that pharmacists are the most accessible healthcare providers and truly essential health personnel. That’s what we teach our students to be.