In 2017, Dana Lyons was elected by her pharmacy technician peers to represent District B (southern Alberta) on ACP Council. In 2020, she became the first pharmacy technician in Canada to serve as president of a pharmacy regulatory body. She was re-elected for a second term on Council in 2021. Dana is the technical practice manager for pharmacy services with Alberta Health Services and is also the president and co-founder of the Street Sisters Society of Calgary, an organization that creates connections and builds relationships with vulnerable women while promoting health and safety. We chatted with Dana to reflect on her time on Council.
You first got interested in running for Council after your experience with the ACP Leadership Forum. Why did that ignite your interest?
“The Leadership Forum was enlightening. I learned a lot about myself and about the different roles on Council that I hadn’t considered before, but more importantly, I liked how Council came together and worked together. I saw that through the Leadership Forum. It was an exceptional experience. I wanted to be part of it.”
Why is it important to give back to profession in this way?
“You give back to your profession, but also to the public. After participating in the Leadership Forum, I came up with my own personal vision. It was about adding value through the system, to the system, as opposed to a siloed approach. It’s important to serve on Council to get healthy systems in place—the public entrusts us with this.”
How has Council contributed to a healthy system during your time?
“One of the first things on the table when I started was changing the college’s name from Alberta College of Pharmacists to Alberta College of Pharmacy, and considering what that meant for the professions that had come together, for ACP, and for the public. Shortly after that, we needed to consider what the new cannabis regulation meant for public safety and for pharmacy professionals. We made many other changes to existing standards and developed new standards which are important to the safety of the public.”
You were the first pharmacy technician in Canada to serve as president of a pharmacy regulatory body. What was that experience like?
“That year involved a lot of firsts—we also went through the first pandemic of this kind. We met virtually that entire year. I don’t think I appreciated the growth and the learning that would come through that. I learned to lead through the experiences and problems I had in front of me and grow through that. It was less about being the first pharmacy technician president and more about my own growth through our experiences. It was a first for everyone.”
During your time on Council, what have you learned about regulation?
“What’s needed at the table are diverse perspectives and experiences. How those come together shape the regulatory process. You have the pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, public members, and leadership at ACP working together. Regulation is complex and challenging—we see all that at the Council table. Regulatory processes are changing and we have to change with them. It’s a dynamic, evolving field. How we consider keeping Albertans safe is all wrapped into the regulatory process.”
What have you learned about yourself?
“I’ve learned how little I know and how much there is to learn. I always knew I was open to learning and curious, but this shaped me in a different way—a way of possibility. I now look at things through what’s possible as opposed to relying simply on experiences. I learned how you need to lift yourself out of your day-to-day role to appreciate where your contributions can be best given. Your experiences help shape your perspective, but you need to look at what other possibilities are out there and what other input we need. Depending on just your own experiences can be limiting.”
How have you used your experiences on Council to become a better leader and contribute to safe, quality pharmacy practice?
“The experience on Council has made me a better human, a better pharmacy technician, a better leader, and a better colleague. It has helped me be more rounded. I have learned to connect the regulation to the work in front of us and be able to bring that to the people I lead and my organization in a way that helps move us in alignment with regulation. My experience on Council helps me understand why things are the way they are. I look at patient safety through a broader lens.”
What would you say to encourage other pharmacy technicians to run for Council?
“If you are serious about contributing to system changes for the betterment of the public, are open to growth and learning continuously, and willing to do that work, then this opportunity will fill all those buckets and then some. You don’t have to come knowing everything. You have to come willing to learn and grow. You will grow through the experience in ways you didn’t anticipate. You will become a better leader of self and a better leader of people around you. You will develop skills you wouldn’t have anticipated developing. It’s been the best experience of my career. There have been difficult aspects of it, which I expected, but it’s been a highlight of my life.”