Lifetime Achievement Award: Derek Desrosiers

The Tablet

It would be easy to argue there is no person more dedicated to the profession of pharmacy in BC than Derek Desrosiers, director of pharmacy practice support at the BC Pharmacy Association.

Not only has he experienced firsthand the many different roles that commonly accompany the profession – pharmacist, manager, owner – he has also represented the interests of pharmacists through numerous executive and Board positions, including CEO of Unipharm, two stints at the BCPhA head office and a phenomenal six terms as president of the BCPhA Board of Directors.

“There’s no question about Derek’s dedication to the profession,” says Bryce Wong, manager of pharmacy practice support at the BCPhA and Desrosiers’ employee. “He’s dedicated his life and career 
to pharmacy.”

Having volunteered thousands of hours to represent community pharmacy as a Board member, Desrosiers is known for his commitment to giving back to his profession. Playing a critical role in shaping the Board’s current approach, it was vital to Desrosiers that the voluntary Board members represent a commitment to the sector as a whole, as opposed to serving individual needs.

“The thing that distinguishes Derek in many ways is he doesn’t do anything in half measure,” says BCPhA CEO Geraldine Vance. “He feels a deep obligation to do what’s in the best interest of the profession.”

Drawing on his decades of past career accomplishments, Desrosiers is a fierce supporter of the future direction of pharmacy care in BC – to expand the scope of clinical pharmacy services, utilizing the skills and expertise of pharmacists to advance health care in BC and save critical tax dollars.

Desrosiers is in constant communication with government leaders as well as regulatory bodies, lobbying for increased opportunities for pharmacists and fewer barriers to providing comprehensive, high quality care for patients across the province.

“As an advocacy organization, it’s a balance between building relationships and taking tough stances on issues,” notes Vance. “I think Derek understands that balance, working with people in the ministry and third party payers. They know that Derek means business, but he’s the kind of guy that people want to do business with. He’s respectful and understands their needs.”

A compassionate and thoughtful advocate, Desrosiers pays close attention to member concerns, consistently monitoring comments for emerging issues needing action and support, such as pharmacy’s role in marijuana legalization and medically assisted death, for example.

In addition, he is responsible for the advancement of pharmacist training, working with Wong to develop and deliver relevant training modules and resource materials. Most recently, Desrosiers led the development of a new program designed to help pharmacists better understand regulatory compliance within their practice. He regularly organizes education sessions and business basics information seminars for those pharmacists interested in launching into business ownership, as well as developing the program for the BCPhA Annual Conference.

To colleague and chief operating officer Cyril Lopez, Desrosiers returned to the association role at a perfect time in pharmacy’s history.

“In returning to his advocacy role, he wanted to make a stamp to say, ‘This is my last 10 years, what can I do to make an imprint?’” Lopez notes. “This is a time where the profession needs to take a step forward, not a gradual change. And he can get people together to make those changes.”

To his wife, Bertha Johnson, Desrosiers’ naturally curious, ambitious personality has allowed him to thrive in his career and on behalf of the pharmacy profession.

“His keen interest in pharmacy is remarkable,” says Johnson, who met Desrosiers at the BCPhA in 1992 when she was working as the Association’s director of finance and administration and he was serving one of his first terms on the Board. “His determination and his drive are some of his strongest character traits. He’s interested in the new technologies and services that are coming out; he wants to know and he wants to be a leader in these areas.”

His drive, she says, is what has kept him strong in his recent fight against a rare blood disorder, diagnosed just several years ago. Having undergone a stem cell transplant and two rounds of chemotherapy, he has taken off very little time from work to date, forging ahead through his illness. “That really shows his determination – it’s just part of him.”

Outside of work, Desrosiers is well known for his many pursuits – running marathons and Ironman triathlons with Johnson, traveling extensively (most recently enjoying an Elton John concert in Las Vegas with Johnson) and exploring new culinary cuisines. He is also father to a daughter and stepdaughter, as well as three grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.

Often heard from across the office laughing loudly, sharing stories and reminiscing on the past, Desrosiers is a caring, compassionate person who truly respects the people he works with and works for.

“The nominations committee were unanimous that Derek was the obvious candidate for the Lifetime Achievement Award this year,” notes Vance. “He really exemplifies the person who has given back to their profession and he’s been acknowledged by his peers.”

This article is featured in The Tablet. The Tablet features pharmacy and industry news, profiles on B.C. pharmacists, information on research developments and new products.