Workplace First Nations Health Authority
Location Vancouver and throughout B.C.
When Cindy Preston was 14 years old, her life was forever changed. Fascinated by a young pharmacist, who had spoken passionately about his profession during her grade nine career day, she found her calling.
“The whole reason I went into pharmacy was because there was this pharmacist who was involved with the community and was so excited about pharmacy,” Preston recalls.
Curious and inspired from a young age, Preston has built a rewarding career based on a desire to provide exceptional service for all patients.
Her career has seen her take on various unique and challenging roles, including working as a staff pharmacist caring for patients in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside; caring for inmates as a pharmacist with the Correctional Service of Canada; and working as the B.C. Regional pharmacist for the federal First Nations and Inuit Health Branch; and now currently serving as the lead pharmacist for B.C.’s First Nations Health Authority (FNHA).
As lead pharmacist with FNHA, Preston has been instrumental in the enhancement of health-care services for B.C.’s 203 diverse First Nations communities across the province. Supporting “all things pharmacy,” Preston manages the formulary for remotely located nursing sites, collaborates with the health benefits team and provides strategic advice to programs across the organization, ensuring the voice of pharmacy is always heard.
Most recently, Preston spearheaded the FNHA’s transition of its former, federally managed drug coverage plan to the new Plan Wellness, bringing care closer to home for First Nations people under the umbrella of B.C.’s PharmaCare program. Preston advocated for the essential role that pharmacists would play throughout the transition, asserting their need to be involved and trained to help communicate the changes to patients effectively.
“These public programs are very complex systems,” she notes. “To move one system to another and minimize client impacts was an incredible challenge. Pharmacists were integral to ensuring a smooth transition as they are on the front line with patients every day.”
While she notes there is a long way yet to go in developing cultural safety and humility within all areas of health care, she sees positive change happening across the province. Currently, 70 First Nations communities are participating in FNHA’s Healthy Medication Use Initiative, in partnership with the University of British Columbia, which addresses topics such as healthy medication use, polypharmacy and medication management. The aim of the grassroots project is to encourage First Nations communities and pharmacies to collaborate in providing care that is not only tailored to the specific needs of each community, but also delivered in a more culturally safe and effective way.
“In terms of health and wellness, everything and everyone in our lives plays a part,” says Preston. “Pharmacy is one area that will affect so many other things. Being involved in your local community, and creating opportunities to learn from your patients, however small they are, will go a long way.”