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PharmD dream comes true for internationally educated pharmacist

August 18, 2021

Damion Barnes encourages others to enrol in the U of A’s PharmD for Practicing Pharmacists program.

Growing up in Jamaica, Damion Barnes had an interest in science and teaching. He turned those interests into a career in pharmacy, studying the profession with the goal of one day becoming an instructor. He practised for a combined six years in Jamaica and the British Virgin Islands with a blend of hospital and community pharmacy.

When he was ready to take the next step in his career and enrol in a PharmD program, Damion looked north. He had previously visited Canada; he loved the landscapes, and the warmth of the people. When he researched programs, he found that the University of Alberta’s PharmD for Practicing Pharmacists program was highly regarded with impressive testimonials from graduates. The choice, to him, was obvious.

Two years before landing in Canada, Damion called the Alberta College of Pharmacy (ACP) to get the details of the requirements to register as a pharmacist in Alberta. Upon completing the requirements, Damion applied to practise as a pharmacist in Alberta in April 2018 and began practising in Northern Alberta as a relief community pharmacist. He was then accepted for and enrolled in the PharmD for Practicing Pharmacists program in August 2018.

Damion graduated in June 2021 and continues to practise community pharmacy. He has found that the training has strengthened his critical thinking skills in weighing the pros and cons of a given piece of evidence to make better treatment decisions.

He believes his patients will ultimately benefit from his education.

"I have stronger assessment skills, which enables me to perform better therapeutic evaluations while working alongside patients to set achievable goals," explained Damion. "The program also imparts practical ways to go about measuring these goals."

Overall, he has found that he is now better prepared to practise to full scope.

"Certain areas of practice where I had limited knowledge, I now approach with confidence," said Damion. "I am able to conduct an appropriate assessment, devise an action plan for monitoring, and follow up with patients, while working more collaboratively with patients and physicians."

Damion urges other practising Alberta pharmacists who were internationally trained not to be afraid to take the next step to advance their career.

"Take the knowledge and experiences that you have as an international pharmacy graduate and incorporate them into your practice as you learn," advised Damion. "Never disregard your past experiences and the lessons you learned in your home country; it is those different perspectives that you bring that sets you apart. The PharmD for Practicing Pharmacists program will help to strengthen your critical thinking skills, increase your knowledge in a wide variety of disease states, and improve your evidence-based medicine skills."

He acknowledges that the thought of completing the program while working might be daunting for some, but Damion points out that he and others in the program managed to do it, and it was well worth the effort.

“The flexibility is there to take on reduced hours or work full time while honoring your scholarly obligations. The option is also there to complete the PharmD program within a maximum of five years” he said. “I had a structured timetable which helped me to manage demands from the program while working as a community pharmacist.”

He credits the experience for making him a seasoned pharmacist capable of delivering high-quality patient care to Albertans.


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