Portrait of Assistant Professor Heather Kertland

Heather Kertland brings significant clinical experience in cardiology to push PharmD for Pharmacists learners to expand their knowledge

By: Eileen Hoftyzer

Heather Kertland, assistant professor (status) at U of T’s Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, brings her significant expertise in cardiovascular pharmacotherapy and a love of teaching to her cardiology courses.

“Like most educators, I enjoy the ‘aha’ moment and helping learners get to that moment,” says Kertland, a board-certified cardiology pharmacist who is the clinical pharmacy specialist/leader in the Heart, Vascular and Respiratory program at St. Michael’s Hospital. “I try to meet them where they are in their knowledge and advance their learning.”

Kertland earned a bachelor’s of science in pharmacy at the University of Toronto, followed by a pharmacy practice residency in Hamilton. After working for a couple of years, she returned to school and completed a Doctor of Pharmacy degree at Wayne State University and a research fellowship at Hartford Hospital, where she specialized in electrophysiology and acute cardiovascular therapeutics.

In the late 1990s, Kertland accepted a joint teaching and clinical role at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy and St. Michael’s Hospital (now part of Unity Health), and has been in the role for more than 20 years.

In her role at St. Michael’s Hospital, Kertland works with a team of health care professionals to care for patients in the cardiac intensive care unit, many of whom present with heart attacks, heart failure and life-threatening arrythmias. In addition to taking pharmacy learners on rotation, she is also highly involved in educating medical trainees, residents, nurses and patients about medications.

“St. Michael’s Hospital is a great working environment. Pharmacists are  highly regarded by the entire team at a systems level,” she says. “Everybody on the team is focused on trying to do the best for their patients – on individual basis but also at a systems level, physicians are willing to partner on projects to improve patient care and constantly thinking about how we can do better.”

Cardiology specialty requires continuous learning

In the PharmD for Pharmacists program at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, Kertland teaches contemporary therapeutic issues in cardiovascular diseases. She also teaches a second-year pharmacotherapy course focused on cardiovascular diseases in the PharmD program. Her depth of experience in cardiology gives her an important perspective in teaching.

“Like most educators, I enjoy the ‘aha’ moment and helping learners get to that moment."

“In cardiology, therapies are always changing, and having been in the area for a number of years, I’ve seen how therapies have changed over time. It is important to communicate that what I’m teaching is current state and it’s most likely going to change,” she says. “Continuous learning is so important in cardiology because there are constant advances. It’s exciting, but also intimidating to people new to the area.”

Kertland also carefully considers how to teach the course material to meet the needs of learners who bring a diversity of educational and professional experiences and who have varying knowledge of cardiology when they start the program.

“Learners in the PharmD for Pharmacists program may have been working in industry for a number of years, or they may have been practising internationally where the medical conditions they see are different from in those commonly seen in North America, or they could be practising in a cardiology clinic,” she says. “I make sure that each learner has a good understanding of the condition to meet the standards of the program, but I also create opportunities for those who are more knowledgeable to take their learning to next level.”

These opportunities include voluntary self-directed learning, where learners can do more reading on a controversial area in the field and discuss the topic with Kertland as a way to push their knowledge.

PharmD for Pharmacists degree a great time to explore new opportunities

As the new term begins, Kertland encourages new students to keep an open mind about what they may want to do after their degree is complete.

“It’s exciting to see students come into the program with thoughts of what they’re going to achieve and then come out with a completely different idea of their career,” she says. “This is a great time to take opportunities and explore what you can accomplish.”

More News