When you first meet Dillon Lee, it’s hard not to come away impressed. She’s confident, professional, and, most of all, passionate about advancing pharmacy practice. At ACP’s Celebration of Leadership event in Calgary in June, Dillon was presented with the Leadership Development Award, which is awarded to a third- or fourth-year University of Alberta pharmacy student who has demonstrated exemplary professionalism, leadership, and citizenship.
Helping earn Dillon the award was her development of a healthcare guide for new Canadians and international university students who were finding it difficult to navigate the healthcare system.
“My experience, growing up as a Korean Canadian and having parents who have English as a second language, I thought to myself, pharmacists learn all these communications skills, but if the patient simply doesn’t understand, is this being lost?” said Dillon. “I had a question about what is the best way to provide pharmacy services and counselling to new Canadians and international students. I decided to pursue an independent research study on it.”
Dillon interviewed international students, on-campus healthcare providers, pharmacists, and other relevant stakeholders. She found that while a language barrier existed, the bigger issue was that many immigrants don’t understand how healthcare is delivered in Canada. She determined one way to eliminate this gap would be to provide a comprehensive healthcare guide for international students and new Canadians.
“Luckily, I had over 50 volunteers who collectively translated the guide for me into 12 different languages,” said Dillon. “I collaborated with the University Health Centre, the Faculty of Pharmacy, the International Student Centre, and a whole collective group of people who decided to help out. It’s an initiative that helped me develop my leadership skills but also find ways to address health care gaps as a leader.”
Dillon is also passionate about quality improvement to help meet the growing needs of communities. Her first foray into quality improvement came while volunteering at the University of Alberta Hospital.
“As a volunteer, I saw older patients and their experiences of social isolation during mealtimes, which was stopping them from enjoying the meal,” she said. “I thought if there was a way I could make this environment a bit better for them, I will do it. As a volunteer, I asked the resource centre if there was a project I could initiate to find out what I could do to improve these mealtime experiences for older adults.”
The result of her work was to call for an expanded role for mealtime volunteers, and the findings were published last October in the Alberta Strategic Clinical Improvement Committee QI conference.
As part of her Leadership Development Award, ACP will contribute $5,000 towards a conference or symposium of Dillon’s choice. She is hoping to attend an event to learn more about quality improvement and/or change management. In the meantime, she will continue looking for ways to improve pharmacy care.