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Steve Long earns ACP Honorary Life Membership

June 26, 2019
The Calgary-based pharmacy leader is one of two recipients of the highest honour the college can bestow.

Steve Long is the first person to tell you that he’s an emotional guy. It runs in his family, he says. So, when Steve found out he was one of two recipients of the ACP Honorary Life Membership for 2019, he was overcome with emotion.

“I was totally surprised,” said Steve, fighting back tears. “It’s totally humbling to have colleagues come forward and put your name forth for such a prestigious honour, knowing many of those who have received it before and their contributions.”

As a former director of pharmacy for the Calgary Regional Health Authority and executive director for Alberta Health, Steve’s list of accomplishments matches his surname—long—particularly for those in Calgary. He helped implement new technologies to hospital pharmacies, contributed to the building of Calgary’s central production facility, and helped plan for pharmacy services at both the Alberta Children’s Hospital and the South Health Campus Hospital.

What really stands out for Steve is the change in practice he contributed to over the years.

“We worked very hard, when I started at the Rockyview, to change practice, to move practice forward,” he said. “How do you get pharmacists out of the basement and on to the units? To do that, you need the support of assistants and technicians, and you need the pharmacists to be accountable for their practice, because physicians and nurses wouldn’t tolerate it otherwise.”

Steve is also credited for promoting a culture of safety and increased awareness of risks and medication incidents. This followed a tragic medication error in a Calgary hospital in 2004. Following the incident, Steve requested an independent review of the pharmacy’s operations—the recommendations formed the foundation for many medication safety initiatives locally, nationally, and internationally.

“No pharmacist, no health professional, shows up in the morning thinking they want to do harm today,” he said. “Unfortunately, bad things happen sometimes to good people. Our systems are designed that if there’s a flaw, the flaw will eventually be uncovered, and someone will be harmed. The challenge is to step back from that and determine if the harm was intentional, or the harm was an honest mistake. We had the unfortunate circumstance of having two patients die under our care in 2004. That was very hard for all of us. But if you’re going to be accountable for your practice and accountable to your patients, you need to come forward and take responsibility for that. Essentially, that’s what we did.”

While Steve believes pharmacy has come a long way, he insists there is more to be done.

“My hope from the legacy perspective is that pharmacists will become more accountable and more focused on assessment, care planning, and outcomes, and viewed as an active participant by the rest of the team in that process, and that technicians will be recognized to support that practice as we go forward,” he said. “We’ve made great strides over the 39 years that I’ve been engaged in this practice and I’m sure that over the years to come there will be others who will follow that will do great things, too.”

In our next issue of the Link, we’ll feature the second recipient of the Honorary Life Membership, Linda Poloway.