Apotex Inc. Award in Pharmaceutical Sciences 2024: Ilianna Doornbos

Updated on May 31, 2024 (Originally posted on May 15, 2024) The Tablet

Ilianna Doornbos
Apotex Inc. Award in Pharmaceutical Sciences
Third-year Pharmacy Student
University of British Columbia
Vancouver, B.C.

Enabling opportunities to be in a career that offers work-life balance is important for third-year PharmD student Ilianna Doornbos.

Growing up in a family of six, Doornbos was raised by her mother, a licenced practical nurse who was the sole provider for her family. This meant that her mom often had to work long hours, and Doornbos and her five siblings learned to be independent from a young age. 

This experience had an impact on Doornbos, one of the recipients of the 2024 Apotex Inc. Future British Columbia Pharmacy Leader Award. It made her realize that a career not only needs to provide financially for her family, it also needs to provide a balance between the home and professional lives so that, if she chooses to raise a family, she would have the opportunity to spend time at home without worry. Pharmacy seemed to be that opportunity. 

“Nursing was not for me. I also didn’t know too many doctors growing up, and it seemed like the amount of stress involved in pursuing medical school wasn’t the type of work-life balance I was seeking,” Doornbos said. 

“I liked the idea of patient care, though, of building relationships within communities and making a difference in people. I saw pharmacy as a profession that’s growing and isn’t slowing down. We’ve seen it already with the recent expansion of scope.”

For Doornbos, patient care means making a difference, and helping deliver accessible patient care could mean — in the most extreme cases — the difference between life and death for someone in the community. 

“It feels good when you can help them, and helping someone as a pharmacist can be impactful and even life-changing for a patient,” she said. 

“As health care workers, whether you’re a pharmacist or a doctor or a nurse, we’re all experts in our own fields. Health care is collaborative, we can learn from each other and when we deliver health care together, we are more than the sum of our parts.”

Upon selecting pharmacy, Doornbos realized the significant costs for tuition may be prohibitive for prospective students. Initially, she had intended to apply for a student loan forgiveness program to help offset some costs, but discovered that pharmacists were not eligible for any such government programs in Canada. With some help from her family, she was able to enroll. 

But the idea that some other students might not be so fortunate never left her.

Ilianna Doornbos

Ilianna Doornbos, a third-year PharmD student at the University of B.C., is a passionate advocate for rural health care.

“In January this year, I had the opportunity to go to professional development week in Toronto with the Canadian Association of Pharmacy Students and Interns (CAPSI). At the trade show the Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) had a booth, and they were advocating to include pharmacy students into the federal loan forgiveness program,” Doornbos said. “They had a letter template set up, so I filled in my information to send letters to my Members of Parliament. A month later, I got an email from the CPhA and CAPSI, asking if I would get involved in this advocacy effort.”

A couple of discussions later, and Doornbos decided that she would make sure organizations in B.C. also got involved in advocating for pharmacists to be included in student loan forgiveness programs. She reached out to contacts in both the University of B.C. and the BC Pharmacy Association to help spread the news. 

In April, the federal government announced in its 2024 budget that pharmacy students would be included for eligibility in the Canada student loan forgiveness program. 

“It was kind of one of those screaming, crying, throwing up moments of excitement. I’m still bubbling about it. This is definitely evidence of what can happen when we all work together to advocate for the betterment of the profession,” Doornbos said.

Making sure rural, remote and isolated areas of B.C. have access to health care is close to heart for her. Born and raised in Prince George, Doornbos never had any question she would return to rural B.C. to practice pharmacy upon graduation. Those were the communities she focused on for her practicums, and she’s already worked in pharmacies in Vanderhoof and Prince George. Later this year, she’ll be working at a pharmacy in Vernon.

“I went into pharmacy to help people,” she said. “Once I graduate, I hope to do a residency, and do a few years of service back at my community hospital, and then once I gain experience to move into primary care. I’m pretty open to what the future looks like.” 

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.