MSc PharmSci student Lesley Graham

What is your academic background and why is this area of research important?

I trained as a pharmacist in the UK where I completed a BSc in Pharmacy. I worked as a pharmacist for many years but during this time I also undertook a MSc in Health Policy, Planning and Financing at London School of Economics-London School of Health and Tropical Medicine. I was interested in how drug funding decisions were made in healthcare systems internationally. I used the knowledge from this program extensively in my pharmacist roles in the UK.

When training for my pharmacy license here in Ontario, I saw the way that opioids were being prescribed in acute pain and this really worried me as it was so different to my experience in the UK. My concerns were validated when I discovered the emerging body of research around the association of opioid prescribing in acute pain and problems such as leftover opioids in the home and long-term opioid use. I wanted to work in this area and subsequently found a research project here at the faculty. I am enrolled in the research MSc in Pharmaceutical Sciences where I have been developing and evaluating an educational program for community pharmacists on opioid stewardship in acute pain. This research is important as promoting the judicious use of opioids in acute pain is important in preventing people from becoming inadvertent long-term opioid users, some of whom may subsequently develop an opioid use disorder and helping reduce the exposure of young people to ‘unnecessary opioid-related risks’ at an age when they are more vulnerable to their addictive effects (for example, after routine dental surgery).

What led you to your current Supervisor’s lab?

My supervisor Beth Sproule is a legend in the field of mental health and addiction pharmacy. When I was asking around about working in this area, I came across one of her protégés, Maria Zhang who kindly connected me with her. I couldn’t believe my luck as she had just received funding to undertake the study I’m currently working on. Beth and Maria are involved in a wide variety of exciting research projects in mental health and addiction pharmacy so there is never a dull moment.

What are some of the challenges you had to overcome within your research?

I was a stay-at-home mum for several years before doing my MSc, and although it has been challenging it has also been incredibly stimulating. I struggled most with focusing my research objectives and writing concisely. My advisory committee has helped me navigate this, albeit sometimes painfully. Understanding research methodologies is also challenging and I would advise anyone beginning this program to enrol in courses that will help their research methods right at the beginning of their project.

How do you see your current research playing a role in your career?

I think that I will be able to use my analytical and evaluation skills in many areas linked to pharmacy practice and policy. I am hoping that I will be able to use my new skill set to do further research in pharmacy practice or coordinate projects in this field. I have also developed skills as an educator through my research and by working as a TA so I hope to use those skills as well.

What do you like to do when you are not working on research?

I am a mum of 3 kids and 2 cats so don’t have much spare time, but I love my early morning runs and late-night movies with friends. I also love to cross country ski with my family, and this has allowed me to embrace the cold Ontario winters!

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