While pharmacist and business owner Miguel Lopez-Dee has built an enviable resume as a leader and activist in his industry over the last several decades of practice, he is adamant that speaking out on behalf of the profession starts within the pharmacy.
“One of the first steps for demonstrating our value is to make people aware of it,” says Lopez-Dee, of connecting with patients on their pharmaceutical care. “When you have done something that is significant, tell them about it.”
A passionate advocate for an expanded scope of practice for pharmacists within our health-care system, Lopez-Dee has been building on this simple, yet impactful, habit since his graduation from pharmacy at the University of British Columbia.
After several years of practice as a pharmacist and pharmacy manager, where he grew his skills and confidence in the profession, he stepped into the corporate world as the national manager for clinical programs with Pharmasave National. Here, he travelled the country, developing patient care tools and mentoring fellow pharmacists and their staff.
It was also during this time that Lopez-Dee first campaigned to represent B.C. on the Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) board of directors, serving for a total of seven years, including two terms as vice-president. A self-professed “restless individual,” Lopez-Dee was looking for a new challenge and avenue to support his beloved pharmacy profession beyond his day job.
“We have to be the ones knocking on their door, identifying what the issues are. We must become part of the solution.”
“After the first year, I was so hooked on the concept of participating in a board, simply because you are the stewards for the organization, you lead the vision, you set the direction,” he says. “You’re doing it with likeminded individuals and you’re all working towards the same goal.”
As a national board member, Lopez-Dee was instrumental in supporting and revolutionizing several key industry institutions, chairing a task force to reinvigorate the economic viability of the century-old national pharmacy publication, Canadian Pharmacists’ Journal, as well as guiding the transformation of CPhA’s governance model in order to strengthen the relationship between the provincial and national advocacy associations.
“Miguel has been an active member of our profession, identifying gaps in both patient care and policy to move our profession forward,” says Pharmasave pharmacy specialist Christine Antler. “He is active as a voice for the profession to a wide variety of audiences including government officials, community groups, other health-care providers and pharmacists.”
A recognized leader and expert in his field, Lopez-Dee has been invited to represent the profession in a wide range of initiatives, roundtable discussions, seminars, modules and frameworks.
During his tenure on the CPhA board, Lopez-Dee was an invited member of the Blueprint for Pharmacy Steering Committee, a long-term, multi-stakeholder strategy designed to better align pharmacy practice with the health-care needs of Canadians, as well as the BC Hospice Palliative Care Association roundtable on the topic of death and dying. He has also advocated for the role of community pharmacy with all levels of government, and as a participant in a provincial roundtable on PharmaCare.
“Pharmacists have to find a way to connect with policy makers,” notes Lopez-Dee. “We have to be the ones knocking on their door, identifying what the issues are. We must become part of the solution for the bigger problems that burden our health-care system.”
While Lopez-Dee has spent over a decade breaking down barriers and building vital connections within a vast network of health-care stakeholders, he insists it’s up to every pharmacist to advocate for their own role to local community groups and representatives. It starts with patients, special interest groups, health fairs and community publications, he says.
“Try to find a way to be comfortable with being uncomfortable to communicate and articulate a message that will resonate with your audience,” he says in support of the young practitioner. “It takes practice.”
In 2013, Lopez-Dee took a step back from his national commitments to pursue a long-held personal and professional dream to own his own pharmacy and opened a Pharmasave Health Centre in Burnaby’s Greystone Village Shopping Plaza. Tucked away from the commercial hub of the city’s urban centre, Lopez-Dee has built a small but thriving business with a friendly, neighbourhood vibe and loyal clientele.
“I very quickly became comfortable with Miguel as he was always so cheerful, approachable as well as very knowledgeable about conditions as well as medication,” says Sarah Keenan, a customer and spouse to a husband suffering from chronic health issues. “We were treated like we mattered, that we were not just a number and that we would never have to worry.”
Recipient of Pharmacy Practice’s Rookie of the Year award in 2014, Lopez-Dee has thoroughly enjoyed his career’s newest challenge, which has not only returned him to the role of community pharmacist, but has also allowed him to spend more time and be more involved with his growing children. Not content to settle down for too long, however, Lopez-Dee has taken on another role this past May, as a member of the board of directors for Pharmasave Pacific.
“He makes his best effort every day to demonstrate to those he encounters the very best of what our profession has to offer,” says Antler.