Lindsay Kufta’s budding pharmacy career hasn’t necessarily followed a typical trajectory, but the eager pharmacist is quite content to enjoy the journey.
As an undergraduate student at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Kufta started out studying chemistry, a field she thoroughly enjoyed, yet left her questioning her future career options.
“I gave thought to what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, and I realized pharmacy would be a good fit for me,” she says.
The very next day she conducted a serendipitous online search, landing on UBC’s pharmacy website on the last day of the late registration deadline for the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT). As the Vancouver site was already full, the former North Shore resident bundled up to head to Kamloops in the middle of the winter where, she says, “everything fell into place.”
After an engaging and thought-provoking four years in the pharmacy program, Kufta was determined to keep an open mind when it came to her newfound job search in 2012. So much so that she ultimately found herself in the unique position of convincing her soon-to-be boss that, yes, she did indeed want to pack up her city life to move to the quiet town of Hope to serve as pharmacist at the local Pharmasave.
“It was beautiful up here and I had never lived in a small town,” she says. “I thought I would give it a try.”
The conscientious young pharmacist set out to live small town life to its fullest, warmly engaging in her community, expanding clinical services to meet the needs of her patients, volunteering with the local fire department and exploring the many picturesque hiking trails in the surrounding mountains.
Thrilled to put her education into practice, Kufta assumed the management of the pharmacy’s vaccination program, expanding it to include travel, HPV and shingles vaccinations, in addition to the traditional offering of annual flu shots.
Through her earnest promotion, Kufta grew the small town’s vaccination program into one of the most successful programs within the B.C. group of Pharmasave stores.
“I was new, I was eager and I wanted to keep busy,” Kufta says simply. “I was just persistent and then all of a sudden we were doing so many vaccines every single day we became one of the leaders in our group of stores.”
Over time, as she grew more familiar with the Hope community and some of its challenges for those patients dealing with drug addiction, Kufta focused her energy into finding meaningful solutions for those in need, including the dispensing of safe injection kits throughout Hope. Consisting of clean needles and injection supplies, the kits are supplied by local non-profit Positive Living and are designed to prevent the spread of disease in the community.
Through this initiative, Kufta began actively engaging with a number of local residents struggling to seek treatment, due to a lack of available localized services.
“For the people in that type of lifestyle, a lot of things can be barriers and trying to find transportation for a 45-minute commute to Chilliwack was almost impossible,” says Kufta. “If you add that to all of their other struggles, it was not something that many of them could get over.”
In seeking a way to offer a practical solution to this community-wide problem, Kufta reached out to a clinic in Surrey willing to work with the Hope pharmacy to offer a telehealth program, allowing patients to receive much of their treatment from within their own town. And she continued to battle barriers to seek optimal health for her patients, arranging rides through volunteer program CARE Transit for required in-person appointments as well as offering in-pharmacy urine screening when the local lab would not provide the service for methadone patients.
“In this initiative, Lindsay made a point of engaging with a clientele that was not used to being actively interacted with, and the results were startling,” says Linda Gutenberg, director of pharmacy for Forewest Holdings Inc., Pharmasave’s parent company. “Lindsay’s unique approach has resulted in an almost three-fold increase in the number of people participating in harm reduction strategies and successfully staying off illicit drugs.”
For Kufta, while the addiction program has certainly been her biggest achievement in her five years at the pharmacy, it’s also been the most natural.
“I know I’ve heard in some treatment settings, a lot of patients feel like they’re second class citizens,” says Kufta. “But here, we chat to them every day, we’re very open with them.”
It’s these interactions Kufta will treasure the most, as she moves onto the next phase of her career this summer, pursuing a pharmacy practice residency through the Lower Mainland Pharmacy Services Pharmacy Practice Residency Program.
Following an unsuccessful application to the program as a brand new pharmacy grad in 2012, getting accepted into the prestigious program now is all the more meaningful for Kufta, as she closes her career’s first chapter of an incredibly rewarding five years in community pharmacy.
“I’m really honoured to be receiving this award,” Kufta says. “To me, I’ve found the work rewarding on its own, and it’s nice to see other people are recognizing it as well.”