Portrait of Jamie Kellar

Jamie Kellar has been teaching pharmacy students at the University of Toronto for seven years. As assistant professor at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy and a former advanced practice pharmacist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), she is dedicated to connecting students to as much real-world knowledge as possible within a lecture setting.

“To provide good care, you need to have a sense of what it’s like to live illness,” says Kellar. "And when it comes to mental illness, there can be a lot of fear and misconception associated with it. I think it’s important to breakdown any potential fear and our students have been really receptive to this.”

Incorporating lived experiences

Kellar does this by incorporating the voices and experiences of people who live with mental illness and have received care and support through the healthcare system. In the third year course she teaches, billed as “Pharmacotherapy 7”, students learn about medication function and management for major mental illness like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression. Every year she works with psychiatrists at CAMH to coordinate a panel of current or former patients to speak to the class for a two-hour lecture.

"Students have an opportunity to see the people behind the diseases they are learning about and to see that very often they don’t fit into existing stereotypes."

"With the right care, people can manage these illnesses effectively and be successful in their lives,” says Kellar who says panel participants have come from all walks of life and professions including lawyers, artists, and healthcare providers.

Kellar also works with PharmD students to host mental health movie nights at least once per term. “We screen movies and documentaries related to mental health and substance use and we follow up with a discussion, often about how people were portrayed in the film and how media can contribute to or correct misconceptions,” she says. On occasion, people involved in making the films have attended the screenings and engaged in the discussion.

This work all contributes to empowering pharmacists to be better care providers and advocates for their patients, Kellar explains. “When a patient gets sick, pharmacists are often the first to know. So it’s not only about the medication-related advice you provide, it’s about your overall interaction with that person and your understanding of their experience and how you may be able to connect them with other services.”

Since integrating this kind of nuanced, first-hand experience into her course, Kellar has seen more students requesting rotations at mental health facilities and course evaluations have been very positive. “Bringing patients in to share lived experiences was one of the most valuable parts of the course,” one student wrote.

More News

Faces of PharmSci: Amin GhavamiNejad

Post-doctoral Fellow Amin GhavamiNejad discusses leading the Diabetes research subgroup in the Wu lab with the goal of developing affordable, clinically-translatable products to benefit diabetes patients.
Read More

Faces of PharmSci: Brian Lu

PharmSci PhD candidate Brian Lu discusses what led him to working with Professor Shirley Wu, his passion for the field of drug delivery and ongoing research on hypoglycaemia prevention.
Read More