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2010 M.J. Huston Pharmacist of Distinction: Christine Hughes

Christine Hughes
Clinical Associate Professor, University of Alberta
Advanced Pharmacotherapy Practitioner, Northern Alberta HIV Program

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"What fires me up?” Christine Hughes doesn’t even pause. “Variety! I like lots of variety. I believe you should follow your passion. If you enjoy going to work every day and it involves something you’re passionate about, you’ll be successful.”

Well, there is no shortage of variety, passion, or success in Christine’s world. She divides her work days between clinic practice, teaching, and research and has received numerous accolades in each area.

“I work with amazing people – the faculty, the clinic staff, the students, the patients. The clinic work is intense and offers challenge. My teaching and research both keep me involved in the generation of new knowledge, in moving things along.”

As an Associate Professor of Pharmacy and Chair of the Pharmacy Practice Division at the UofA Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Christine is a respected and effective teacher who can easily transpose bedside knowledge into the classroom setting. She has precepted numerous undergraduate, resident, and PharmD students on clinical rotation. She has also served as research preceptor for both undergraduates and residents. In 1999, she received the Bristol Myers Squibb Excellence in Teaching Award.

Christine reflects, “I think I’ve matured in my teaching. I’m less concerned now about students reciting detail and more concerned about them being able to do something with that knowledge. I want students to have a thoughtful process. It’s hard for students to see how pharmacists can lead the planning for drug therapy decisions; I want to help them build that confidence.”

As a clinical practitioner, Christine pioneered HIV pharmaceutical care in Edmonton and has become recognized nationally. “I always liked infectious diseases,” states Christine. “I knew I wanted an ambulatory practice and I really saw a need [in HIV/AIDS] when I was studying in Vancouver.”

Thanks to Christine’s example, the medical personnel at the Northern Alberta HIV Program have become such strong advocates for the role of pharmacists in HIV care that this has spawned the creation of several new HIV pharmacist positions in the program.

“Dr. Hughes is a superb and caring clinical practitioner, an extremely knowledgeable and highly regarded expert in her rapidly evolving field, a well-respected teacher and a productive researcher,” observes Dr. Stan Houston, Director of the Northern Alberta HIV Program. “She has pioneered and developed the role of the HIV program pharmacist and established herself as an invaluable member of the HIV program team.”

Christine’s patients are just as effusive. “From the very first time I sat with Christine to discuss a new and frightening ARV treatment schedule I felt listened to,” recalls Darren, a patient in the Northern Alberta HIV Program. “Compassion and understanding are most definitely in her toolbox. It’s not uncommon today to hear continuous complaining about the low level of patient care in our hurting health care system. I would say these loud voices have obviously not been on Christine’s caseload.”

Another patient echoes Darren’s tribute. “There is a kindness and gentle power that is obvious within minutes of meeting her. I see this in the way us patients feel and care about her. I see this in the way her peers care and respect her. I see this in the fact that the University of Alberta outpatient pharmacy is so outstanding. I suppose the best testimonial I can offer is that I truly know I’m ALIVE today because of the awesome care I receive from Dr. Hughes and everyone else on my team; it is above and beyond.”

Somehow, on top of her teaching and practice schedule, Christine also finds time to conduct research and participate in professional organizations. She is currently researching adherence and examining the roles social factors, beliefs, and values play among different ethnicities. She is Past President of the Canadian College of Clinical Pharmacy, a reviewer for multiple journals, a member of seven professional organizations, and, in 2008, was conferred Fellows status by the Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacists (National). The Fellows Program recognizes sustained and outstanding efforts in patient care, research, teaching and service to the profession. Another major success for Christine was to be among the first fifteen pharmacists in Alberta to receive prescribing privileges in 2008. She was also one of the first pharmacists to receive authorization to administer drugs by injection.

“She is a leader, a teacher and a role model for pharmacists,” says colleague Terri Schindel. “Christine’s contributions to the profession of pharmacy are important because she is dedicated to excellence in all that she does, works to a high personal standard and is committed to giving back to the profession."