PharmD students from Ontario’s two pharmacy schools took part in the annual Ontario Pharmacy Student Integrative Summit (OPSIS) last month to discuss the future of the profession through debate, competition and education.
Students from the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy (LDFP) and Waterloo Pharmacy organized and attended the virtual event, and this year’s conference theme — ‘Expanding the Horizon’ — carried special meaning for the organizers.
“We decided to use the theme from last year’s OPSIS that was regrettably cancelled due to COVID-19,” says Fabian Cretu, an OPSIS 2021 planning committee member and third-year LDFP PharmD student. “It was important for our committee to carry on the torch, and recognize all the hard work that went into last year’s conference that didn’t come to pass.”
The summit offers students more than an opportunity to put their clinical skills to the test — it provides a chance to meet and socialize with future colleagues from other schools. This year’s virtual format encouraged planners to build a social environment into the organizing process for the event, which traditionally runs in Niagara Falls.
“Making sure our peers felt engaged was really important to the planning team,” said Samantha Cesario, OPSIS 2021 planning committee member and third-year LDFP PharmD student. “We made a point of scheduling a games night and icebreaker events to make sure the social element wasn’t lost. We really wanted students to feel like they weren’t just sitting behind a screen, but constantly interacting with others.”
Pharmacy looking forward
Global events of the past year impacted OPSIS 2021 in more ways than just a venue change: issues of social justice and the ongoing pandemic weighed on the minds of attendees, and encouraged discussions on how pharmacy can move forward to address these problems.
“We really wanted to focus on what pharmacy should look like moving forward, so we invited speakers who could present on topics that relate to current concerns,” says Cretu.
This included a presentation from Pharmasave on opening a pharmacy in the post-pandemic world, as well as talks from University of Alberta Pharmacy’s Dr. Ravina Sanghera on dermatological assessments in skin of colour, and LDFP’s Dr. Zubin Austin on the importance of interprofessional teams in delivering patient care.
In addition to keynote presentations, students participated in a series of case competitions and debates intended to test their clinical skills and challenge pre-conceived opinions. Cretu and Cesario say the case studies this year were challenging, but were proud to see students work together seamlessly to develop such detailed care plans.
“We were especially impressed by how convincing some of the debate arguments were,” says Cesario. “For some of the topics, the planning team thought it would be difficult to debate one side over the other, like in the case of whether universal pharmacare would be good for pharmacy, but we were so surprised how much the debates changed pre-conceived opinions.”
For both the planning committee and participating students, OPSIS is the one opportunity for future Ontario pharmacists to meet and get to know one another.
“Having the opportunity to meet and interact with your future colleagues is really important,” says Cesario. “We may attend different universities, but soon we’ll be pharmacists working alongside one another. Even though this year’s conference was virtual, we’re happy we didn’t miss out on the opportunity to build new professional relationships.”
OPSIS 2021 was supported in part by donors through the Shaping Student Life and Learning (SSLL) fund. Help support future educational initiatives for our students by giving today.
By: Steve Southon
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