Ben Gant Innovative Practice Award
Pharmacy Manager and Co Owner, Central Drugs Pacific Station
Growing up, Ben Gant Innovative Practice Award recipient Sylvie Fraser was always surrounded by animals. Her family lived on a farm, she rode horses competitively, and there were always pigs, chickens and dogs roaming around the property.
Had her life turned out a bit differently, she might have pursued veterinary medicine, just like her stepfather did before her. It was a professor during university who convinced her to investigate organic chemistry and pharmacology, leading her to applying to the University of B.C.’s pharmacy program, which she graduated from in 2016. Since then, she’s come full circle, and many of her pharmacy patients today are animals from the community around Nanaimo.
“I honestly didn’t even know that community pharmacies really dealt with animal prescriptions and that wasn’t something that was on my radar until I moved to Central Drugs and started working in compounding,” Fraser said.
That was in 2018 when Fraser first joined Central Drugs. At the time, the banner was expanding to a new location that would include a compounding pharmacy at its Pacific Station location. Fraser was tasked to build up the pharmacy, and quickly found a niche she enjoyed through working with veterinarians in the community.
“Since I’ve been here, we’ve grown the practice probably to three times the size in terms of our animal population patients that we service,” Fraser said. “I’ve made great connections with a lot of the veterinarians, there’s probably 10+ clinics in the area that we work with. I would say we have grown the business into that area.”
Ben Gant Innovative Practice Award recipient Sylvie Fraser has a special love for the animal patients in her community.
For Fraser, innovation in pharmacy means pushing the boundaries to create more opportunities for pharmacists, continually learning and growing, and keeping up with changes in how the community is accessing health care. Her pharmacy’s focus on animals has been a great fit, particularly for the many first-time pet owners who got adopted or purchased companion animals throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Compounding allows us to be very creative. It’s almost like an art and a science combined,” she said. “One particular animal was this cat that would not take a pill, would not take a liquid no matter what flavour we tried. We tried a fish paste, a smoothy slurry of different fish, and it would not take any medications orally.
“So we actually worked with the vet to come up with multiple different transdermal delivery systems for the medications … that was a really cool case. We went from the cat not taking four to five different medications to just putting it in the ear.”
On any given day, about a third of the medications being compounded at Fraser’s pharmacy will be for animals, with the rest going to humans. And it’s not just cats and dogs that Fraser helps treat, either.
“We get referred patients who are really teeny tiny, like a couple hundred grams to horses who are thousands of pounds,” she said. “You might think of animals as dogs, cats, bunnies, horses, but we have a veterinarian in Nanaimo who sees more exotic animals … we do get prescriptions for those exotic animals, snakes, bearded dragons, geckos and stuff too.”
Regardless of whether Fraser is working with a human or animal patient, she keeps one goal in mind: helping the patient recover from sickness or helping manage an ongoing chronic condition. The pharmacy also goes beyond that to help animals organizations in the community as well, including making donations to local animal rescue shelters and the B.C. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
“We treat all of our patients with genuine care,” Fraser said. “Animals are a member of the family. Owners come in and they’re very distraught oftentimes, their animals are sick and it’s like a kid, right? It’s like a member of their family.”