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Top marks for new graduate

July 9, 2024
Portrait of Gavin Schalk
Gavin Schalk is the 2024 Gold Medal Award recipient.

Gavin Schalk always had an interest in pursuing a career in health care, but it was a high school teacher who encouraged him to consider pharmacy.

“I knew I wanted to do something in health care, so after one teacher recommended pharmacy for me, I took a pharmacology course during my undergraduate degree and kind of fell in love with the science of it,” said Gavin.

His experience in the pharmacology course confirmed his teacher’s hunch—Gavin knew pharmacy was the right fit for him. From there, he made the decision to pursue his PharmD through the University of Alberta’s (U of A) Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

In pharmacy, he found the perfect balance between considering evidence and working directly with patients to achieve their health goals.

“Pharmacy combines my love for chemistry and math with the ability to provide care directly to patients and have those day-to-day interactions where you can get to know your patients to build trust and really help them,” said Gavin.

Gavin’s passion for pharmacy and commitment to his studies required dedication and hard work.

“I definitely worked hard because I knew studying would provide me with the knowledge I needed to become the best pharmacist I could be,” he said.

Gavin’s dedication was rewarded—his academic accomplishments were recognized with a number of scholarships and awards, including the Alberta Premier’s Silver Medal, the Louise McKinney Post-Secondary Scholarship, and the Dr. Sek C Yuen Prize. Gavin’s academic success culminated when he graduated in 2024 with the highest academic standing.

Gavin felt honoured when he learned that he had achieved top marks in his graduating class.

“I was surprised and very humbled,” he said. “It was definitely rewarding to know my hard work had paid off.”

In recognition of this outstanding accomplishment, Gavin will receive a gold medal and a one-year paid practice permit once he is admitted to ACP’s clinical pharmacist register.

While Gavin is proud of his academic accomplishments, when he reflected on his time at the U of A, he felt the most rewarding part of his education was making connections.

“For me, the best part was meeting all the people along the way and making lifelong friendships,” said Gavin. “We experienced a lot of challenges together and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to do it with—I’m looking forward to seeing where everyone goes on their own professional journeys.”

For Gavin, the next part of his journey will take him to Lloydminster.

“I am looking forward to serving a rural community,” said Gavin. “I hope to fill a healthcare need in a more remote community and help make sure rural patients have someone looking out for them.”

During his studies, Gavin completed a clinical placement in Lethbridge and the community-oriented culture made him want to return to rural practice.

“You get to know the doctors really well and there’s a strong sense of collaboration,” said Gavin. “I also found there are good opportunities for pharmacists to practise to our full scope because there is a high need for healthcare providers in rural areas.”

Gavin is eager to apply for his additional prescribing authorization (APA) so he can better serve patients.

“I think having my APA will help me practise to my full scope and enable me to better address rural healthcare needs.”

Gavin also looks forward to seeing what comes next for the pharmacy professions.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how pharmacy continues to evolve and what we, as pharmacy professionals, will be able to contribute to the healthcare system.”