Portrait of 2T2 PharmD Valedictorian Simran Sharma

Simran Sharma advocated for pharmacy students at local, provincial, and national levels

Simran Sharma, valedictorian of the 2T2 graduating PharmD class, will be speaking at the podium on her own at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy’s Class of 2T2 graduation reception and awards ceremony. But she knows just how important the support of family, friends, and her fellow students has been to getting her there.

“The student community and friends were absolutely integral. Having peers who would lend a helping hand, or a listening ear helped make the past four years a little less challenging,” says Sharma. “We’re better equipped to care for our patients if we’re cared for ourselves – whether we’re getting that support from family, friends, or classmates. I couldn’t have done this without a strong community, especially in the face of a global pandemic.”

Sharma was born in India, moving to Ontario with her family when she was about 12 years old, in part because her brother had health issues that were being treated at the Hospital for Sick Children. She specialized in biochemistry at Queen’s University and had done some lab-based research, but when considering her career options, she knew she wanted to have a closer connection to patients.

“As much as I enjoyed research, I needed to be closer to people and see what my impact would be, and that’s what brought me to health care,” she says. “Looking around at my loved ones, I recognized the role medications played in their health, and how important it was that someone was managing them. I wanted to learn to do that for others.”

In 2018, Sharma started a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy. From the beginning, she was driven to learn from each person she met and hoped to be an active part of the student community.

During her degree, she participated in student groups that she was passionate about, such as the Initiative for Mental Health Awareness in Pharmacy (IMHAP). Through her training as a residence advisor at Queen’s University and U of T, she helped support students navigate their first years in university and was very vocal with her classmates about the importance of mental health.

She also became particularly interested in student advocacy, holding leadership roles in the local and national CAPSI (Canadian Association of Pharmacy Students and Interns) committees and the U of T-Ontario Pharmacy Association (OPA) student chapter. She advocated for student-specific professional development opportunities and resources, fair student compensation practices, and tools to support student COVID vaccinations and safety during the pandemic.

“Through advocacy, I wanted to empower our class to create the future of pharmacy that we envision, to ask for what we need in order to practice in a way that brings value to our lives and allows us to bring value to our patients’ lives,” she says. “Advocacy can be slow going, but I always wanted my classmates’ perspectives and opinions so I could work to amplify their voices.”

Sharma also completed the recently launched Certificate in Global Studies in Pharmacy, which gave her a new perspective on vulnerable populations that she hopes to apply in her future career. And she has received several awards recognizing her volunteering and leadership, most recently the Dean Donald Perrier Award from the Undergraduate Pharmacy Society and the U of T 2022 Student Leadership Award.

PharmD degree just the beginning of lifelong education

In September, Sharma will be starting an industrial residency in the Medical Affairs and Strategic Operations departments at Novo Nordisk, gaining experience in other ways of improving patient access to life-saving medicines. She’s looking forward to seeing a different side of pharmacy and honing a different skill set from the patient-facing roles she’s experienced during rotations. She plans to continue working in community pharmacy part-time to maintain the connection with patients.

We get to keep learning and growing into our potential, and finding who we are as people and practitioners.”

As Sharma looks toward the next stage of her career, she is open to the many possibilities pharmacy provides and she plans to continue being active in advocacy for the profession. She says that her experience learning from experts in different specialities has made her well equipped to take on a range of professional challenges.

“We’ve learned how to analyze problems and look for answers. But our education doesn’t end here. We get to keep learning and growing into our potential, and finding who we are as people and practitioners,” she says.

“Being part of this community has been a true pleasure and I look forward to seeing the incredible things we accomplish in the years ahead – each with our own flair and perspective.”

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