“One of the highlights of my career”

Heather Hadden, a primary care pharmacist in Mississauga, is passionate about the pharmacy profession and the impact that pharmacists can have on patient care. She applies this same passion to teaching U of T students, recently earning her the Preceptor of the Year award from the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy at convocation in June.

“I was so humbled and honoured to receive this award. I felt so proud to be with a great group of people and to see my students graduate,” she says. “It has been one of the highlights of my career.”

Hadden has been involved with education throughout her career. After graduating from the Faculty in 1984, she completed a residency at Women’s College Hospital and taught a fourth-year pharmacy course, then began working at Credit Valley Hospital. Hadden was a preceptor at both hospitals.

Inspiring a passion for patient care

But she began taking on more students once she began working full-time with the Credit Valley Health Team in 2013, where she supervises a full roster of up to seven students every year.

In her role as a primary care pharmacist, she works with patients and their care givers, physicians and other health care providers giving advice on medication safety, adherence and deprescribing when necessary. Hadden is also a certified fitness instructor specializing in older adults and people with osteoporosis, and a smoking cessation counselor. All of these roles play a huge part in her provision of patient care as she recommends lifestyle changes that can help patients to improve overall health. “When patients feel like you actually care about them, they’ll take your advice,” she says. “All of these different things start to connect.”

Working within a family health team is demanding, but Hadden is passionate about the profession and about taking care of patients. She wants to pass on that passion to her students.

“These students spend so many years getting their degree, and they need to see the potential of the role,” she says. “I want to excite them and show them how passionate you can be and the impact you can have.”

“I’m learning all the time. We teach and learn from each other”

From left: Vinita Arora, Marie Jam Bravo, Farah Daya, Heather Hadden

Hadden says that the time commitment to be a preceptor is significant, and it can be challenging in a role like hers, where she’s the only pharmacist on the team. But she says that the challenges are well worth the effort of working with young pharmacists.

“I’m learning all the time. The students are taking courses that weren’t around when I was in school, and they share their knowledge with me,” she says. “And when we hear about something new, like an off-label use for a drug, we’ll look it up together. We teach and learn from each other.”

Being nominated by students makes the Preceptor of the Year award a particularly special honour for Hadden. She has supported students as they submitted abstracts to conferences and articles for publication, and she has helped struggling students gain confidence and become successful in their field. She says that for her students to recognize her work and want to highlight it is humbling.

But most of all, she hopes that her students have learned the importance of their job in patient care.  “We have to make an impact on patients’ lives,” she says. “If a pharmacist isn’t making an impact on a patient’s life, I think we’ve failed at our job.”

By Eileen Hoftyzer