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2008 M.J. Huston Pharmacist of the Year: Glen Pearson

Dr. Glen PearsonDr. Glen Pearson
Associate Professor of Medicine
Co-director Cardiac Transplant Clinic
Director of Research- Cardiovascular Risk Reduction Clinic
Walter MacKenzie Health Sciences Centre
Edmonton, Alberta

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It’s hard to know where to begin when describing Glen Pearson, this year’s M.J. Huston Pharmacist of the Year. Should it be with his role as co-director of the Cardiac Transplant Clinic at the University of Alberta Hospital? Or maybe with his work as Associate Professor of Medicine at the UofA? Or perhaps with a look at his many accomplishments as a researcher, currently as Director of Research – Cardiovascular Risk Reduction Clinic.

Well, it turns out that none of those are the best starting points. It’s not the degrees or the titles that Glen finds rewarding. Nor does he think they’re necessary to elevate a pharmacist’s level of practice. It’s the opportunities to help people and to expand the boundaries of pharmacist practice that ignite his passion. Providing excellent patient care, mentoring others, and advancing the profession have been three of the four cornerstones of Glen’s career. The fourth is his constant question: “What’s next?”

He hadn’t even completed his Bachelor of Science degree when that “What’s next?” popped into his head. He answered by going on to graduate cum laude with a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy & Science. Glen cites a distant relative, who was a drug development researcher in the pharmaceutical industry, as influencing his choice of career. It wast his relative who encouraged him to explore pharmacy and who first modeled the non-traditional role possibilities within the profession. In fact, it was this flexibility of roles and options for growth that persuaded Glen to choose pharmacy over other options.

Glen was always drawn to hospital practice, cardiology and transplantation in particular, as he went through his training. “I get to work across the full spectrum—acute care, chronic conditions, end-of-life. I often first meet people when they think they are going to die, and then get to see them recover and carry on.” His love of patient care keeps him from pursuing life as only an academic or researcher. “I love to work through the challenges of complex diseases. I want to see the results of my interventions.” And he does this every day—in his clinical work, through pictures sent to him by former patients now celebrating the births of first grandchildren, and especially at Christmas when his desk is covered with cards and gifts from grateful transplant patients.

Never satisfied with stopping at a successful hospital practice, Glen again asked, “What’s next?” Grateful for the many mentors and people who helped him on his way, Glen decided it was his turn to give back. He recalls an incident that happened only six months into his first job. He was presenting a poster at a conference when a delegate peppered him with a barrage of negative feedback. He says if it would have ended there, he would have left feeling very discouraged and would have been hesitant to present again. However, another pharmacist, having seen the interaction, came over and offered encouraging words about the high volume of work Glen had achieved in his short tenure. That turned the situation around. “There are so many ‘little things’ that make a difference. We never know how much a little encouragement can mean to others. Provide a fertile environment and people can do great things.”

Glen creates that fertile environment for others as a mentor. When working with students, he is able to provide the right balance of support and independence to help them develop skills. He will often take time to educate other professionals on issues associated with drug therapy to enable them to improve their knowledge and skills as well. Glen also advances the profession as a volunteer. He has designed and given countless presentations to patients, other healthcare providers, and pharmacists. As a member of the Canadian Cardiology Pharmacists Network and the Canadian Cardiovascular Society; and board member of the Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacists (CSHP); Glen lends support to cardiology pharmacists across the country. He chaired the CSHP’s task force on pharmacist prescribing. He recently had an editorial published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal on the changing role of pharmacists, and was lead author for the 2007 guidelines for the management of dyslipidemia and prevention of cardiovascular disease by pharmacists.

Looking back over his career so far, Glen offers his tips for success. “Create a job you are going to be happy with. Don’t settle into something just because it’s there. There is so much to do and never enough people to do it. Find out what satisfies you and where you can contribute. Work with people who empower you to take action, and then demonstrate that you can do the job. Do it, do it with passion, and go home every day thinking, ‘OK, I want to do that again.’ Use what you learn, be powerful, and play on the global field.”

With his positive attitude, seemingly boundless energy, and passion for pharmacy, all we can do now is sit back and see “What’s next.”