New UBC program aims to develop pharmacy leaders

Updated on November 7, 2023 (Originally posted on November 6, 2023) The Tablet
UBC Graduate Diploma in Pharmacy Leadership

In November, UBC opened admissions for Canada’s first graduate university diploma program focusing on pharmacy leadership.

What comes to mind when you think about the idea of pharmacy leadership? Is it decision-making? Policy development? Conflict or understanding organizational behaviour perhaps? Developing team members to leverage their strengths? All of the above?

Traditionally, Canadian pharmacy schools prepared students primarily for roles in clinical settings such as community, hospital practice or industry, with curricula focused on preparing students to become licensed pharmacists, not for leadership roles. The new Graduate Diploma in Pharmacy Leadership (GDPL) program at the University of British Columbia is the first program designed for working pharmacists focused on leadership applied across the spectrum of contexts and settings in the profession. For most currently practicing pharmacists, these are lessons traditionally learned through years, potentially decades, on the job. 

The Tablet spoke with Dr. Patricia Gerber PharmD, GDPL program director, to share some information on the new opportunity.

“If I am a pharmacist who received my license in the last, say, two to 10 years, and want to make my mark on the profession, I can’t wait 30 years to get good at leading. The profession has changed. For us to stay on top of this momentum of enhancing practice while being key players in the healthcare system, we need pharmacists equipped with leadership skills today,” said Gerber.

In November, UBC opened admissions for Canada’s first graduate university diploma program focusing on pharmacy leadership. The GDPL program was the culmination of a process that began in 2018, through which Gerber met with pharmacy employers, stakeholders, professional associations, recent graduates, current students and experienced pharmacists, to ask: what is needed next in pharmacy education?

“And it was quite clear. The message was, great educational paths to the development of pharmacists’ clinical skills already exist. Spend the time developing the new cadre of leaders who can advance the profession” Gerber said.

What seemed to be missing was an easily accessible, short program that working pharmacists could take to gain those skills, and which employers could be supportive of their staff enrolling in while continuing to work. 

The 12-month program is fully online, with the exception of the start of the program, from Sept. 9 to 13, 2024, which requires mandatory in-person attendance at UBC’s Vancouver campus. The curriculum is delivered mostly asynchronously, with some scheduled times for synchronous portions. Schedules will be communicated several months in advance. The program addresses learning outcomes for organizational behaviour, change management, leadership, challenges and opportunities confronting the profession, decision-making, policy-making, communication, conflict management, educating a range of audiences, and supporting leadership in the self and in others. 

Applications opened on Nov. 1, 2023 and close on Jan. 31, 2024.  

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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.