PharmD for Pharmacists student Junaid Faruque gained experience in wide range of pharmacy practice, including taking care of critically ill COVID-19 patients

Junaid Faruque had been working in a community pharmacy throughout the pandemic while enrolled in the PharmD for Pharmacists program at U of T’s Leslie Dan Faculty of pharmacy. He had helped to vaccinate people, both in the pharmacy where he worked – which was one of the first pharmacies in the province to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine – and through mass vaccination clinics in Peel Region. But a rotation in the intensive care unit (ICU) gave him an entirely different view of how pharmacists are helping on the front lines.

“It was a challenging, steep learning curve in a profound environment, but you see the value that pharmacists can bring in a setting that is often not visible to the public,” says Faruque, who will graduate from the program this spring. “Critical care units are obviously closed off, but I was able to experience and contribute to this care firsthand.”

Born in Bangladesh, Faruque completed his entry-to-practice Master of Pharmacy degree at the University of Nottingham in England. He practised community pharmacy in England for several years, then moved to Canada in 2018, becoming a licensed pharmacist in Ontario and working at a community pharmacy in northern Scarborough.

When he started the PharmD for Pharmacists program in September 2019, one of his goals was to gain experience in hospital pharmacy. He started his rotation in the ICU at Kingston Health Sciences Centre in the fall of 2021, right at the beginning of the Omicron wave of the pandemic, when Kingston was being hit particularly hard by the virus.

He and his preceptor worked with patients with a variety of critical conditions, including critically ill patients with COVID-19. Under the supervision of his preceptor, he reviewed the treatment guidelines from Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table and applied them to the patient, while also monitoring for the many complications that could occur. The hospital was also treating patients from other provinces where hospital beds were full, which led to additional challenges with working with the patients’ families.

“It was complex, challenging and very new, but ultimately extremely fulfilling. I learned so much”

Faruque says that this rotation was one of the most profound and powerful experiences of the program. “It was complex, challenging and very new, but ultimately extremely fulfilling. I learned so much,” he says.

After the ICU rotation ended in November, he started his next rotation in the dual-diagnosis service and complex general psychiatry units at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences, in Whitby.

“I was able to see the power of interprofessional collaboration in the mental health care setting,” he says. “I was able to interact with patients directly, and I could see firsthand the value that pharmacists can bring to this setting and the difference that our interventions can make.”

PharmD for Pharmacists program offers breadth of experiences that open up career options

Faruque started the PharmD for Pharmacists program with the aim of gaining exposure to a wider breadth of pharmacy practice. He enjoyed community pharmacy and direct patient care but knew he wanted to challenge himself, explore different areas of practice, and advance his clinical and patient care skills.

“I feel like right from the first day, the goals I set for myself – gaining skills in hospital pharmacy, industry, research, critical appraisal and advanced clinical skills in key areas – were all checked off quite seamlessly, one by one,” he says. “The courses provided me with a strong foundation to build on and explore the different fields, and the courses and rotations together built on the real-life experience I had as a working pharmacist.”

Kathy Vu, director of the PharmD for Pharmacists program, says that despite the challenges of the pandemic, learners have demonstrated perseverance and resiliency to accomplish their goals.

“It is both inspiring and reassuring to witness the successes that Junaid has achieved for himself through the PharmD for Pharmacists program,” she says. “It is a true demonstration of perseverance and resiliency, and I am delighted that Junaid was able to take advantage of the opportunities that the program provided.”

Faruque says that the program helped to expose him to new areas of pharmacy in which he had no experience. Though not a focus of the program, he was interested in getting involved in research and was able to work with a team in Zurich, Switzerland, examining the cardiovascular safety of the osteoporosis drug romosozumab, which led to a publication in 2021.

“It gave me a taste of all that pharmacy has to offer, and then allowed me to think about where I see myself, what I want, and find out where my skills and interests align.”

In addition to his two hospital rotations, he also completed an indirect patient care rotation in the medical affairs department at Sanofi Pasteur, where he gained valuable skills in presenting scientific research and information. He enjoyed his rotation in industry so much that he applied for and was accepted to the industrial pharmacy residency focused on medical education in oncology at Sanofi Genzyme, which will start in September 2022. He credits his industry rotation, as well as the advanced coursework in oncology, with giving him many of the skills needed to apply for the residency.

As Faruque prepares for the residency this fall and the next phase of his career, he appreciates that he has had a variety of practical experiences throughout the program that opened up the options for his career.

“The program has allowed me to build on my experience as a community pharmacist, take what I already had and develop more technical and clinical skills, then allowed me to apply those skills in different practice areas,” he says. “It gave me a taste of all that pharmacy has to offer, and then allowed me to think about where I see myself, what I want, and find out where my skills and interests align.”

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