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Leading through learning

July 26, 2023
Third-year U of A student Justin Peters earns ACP’s 2023 Leadership Development Award.

University of Alberta (U of A) student Justin Peters (they/them) was presented with the 2023 Leadership Development Award during ACP’s Celebration of Leadership event in June. Each year, this award is presented to a third- or fourth-year student in the U of A’s Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences who has demonstrated exemplary professionalism, leadership, and citizenship.

Justin first learned about how pharmacy teams can help patients when Justin was hired as a pharmacy assistant in 2012. After learning about pharmacists’ scope of practice and patient needs, Justin began to notice gaps in care for patients in gender and sexual minorities, a lack of gender-affirming care, and limited care related to the treatment and prevention of sexually transmitted and blood borne infections (STBBIs).

Justin saw a lack of awareness and a hesitancy to take a more active role in treatment and diagnosis within these areas of care. They saw an opportunity to make a difference and made the decision to pursue their PharmD through the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

“I’ve noticed that pharmacy staff are often uncomfortable talking to patients about sexual health and STBBIs and that they are not always equipped to support gender and sexual minorities,” said Justin. “If a patient visits a pharmacy with a concern, I think it’s really important to be able to address the concern right then and there, otherwise some patients might not address it until it becomes a larger, more concerning problem.”

Justin wanted to become a pharmacist with the understanding and empathy to support patients and make them feel seen and understood. Beyond that, Justin wanted to help other healthcare professionals develop these skills as well.

“Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m really persistent in my efforts to learn more about sexual health and I’m constantly trying to pass on what I’ve learned to others, so I’m always on the lookout for new opportunities to learn and grow,” said Justin.

When Justin received an email about the Leadership Development Award, they knew it was a perfect opportunity to further their education. As part of the Leadership Development Award, ACP contributes $5,000 to allow the recipient to attend a conference or symposium of their choice.

Justin applied for the award, with the goal of using the funding to complete the U of A’s Graduate Certificate in Sexual Health. When they heard they had been selected as the award recipient, Justin didn’t hesitate – they’ve already enrolled in the program and look forward to getting started.

“By obtaining this certificate, I will have the foundation to better educate myself, my patients, and my colleagues to help improve sexual health access and care in Alberta,” said Justin. “I hope to continue to be fortunate enough to create educational presentations for not just my peers but also for other healthcare professionals as I truly feel that the best way to improve health care is to improve those who work in health care.”

Justin plans to work with the Alberta Pharmacy Students’ Association to develop a community education presentation on STBBI prevention and sexual health and find other opportunities to share their learnings with their healthcare peers.

“In the end, I think every healthcare professional really has the goal of providing the best possible care for their patients and to be able to do that, they need to be aware of new developments as we learn and develop more tools,” they said.

Looking towards the future, Justin hopes to work in an area where they can explore their passions, help patients, and continue to advocate for effective care and inclusion in pharmacy practice. Wherever their pharmacy career takes them, Justin’s dedication to lifelong learning and advocacy will continue to distinguish them as a leader in their profession.