Pharmacy U

Deb Saltmarche. Looking beyond our individual interests


Deb Saltmarche has extensive experience in provincial and national associations, corporate retail, eHealth and pharmacy information technology, and pharmacy management and practice. She is responsible for professional and regulatory affairs for Shoppers Drug Mart Ontario, and for national issues. “My role is strategic, working both with external stakeholders and internally to support teams across the business who, in turn, support our community pharmacists,” explains Deb.


Education: Aston University, Birmingham, England (Pharmacy)

Current role: Senior Director Professional Affairs, Shoppers Drug Mart Corporation; Past Chair, Ontario Pharmacists Association, Board of Directors, Toronto


When you graduated, what did you envision for your future? Did your career path take any unexpected turns?

My vision of what I’d be doing and how I could best contribute has evolved. Over the last 10 years, pharmacists have had to reinvent themselves and adapt to changing circumstances. The stable environment I expected when I graduated no longer exists. There is an important focus today on integrating pharmacy more broadly into healthcare. Traditionally, there was not much cross-collaboration among community pharmacists and other healthcare providers – we were accustomed to working in our own silos. Expanded scope has helped to change that, but it’s an ongoing process and we are continuing to respond to this transition by developing and implementing solutions.

What is or has been your greatest challenge as a leader in the pharmacy sector?

My goal is to help set direction to benefit pharmacists and patients. The challenge is getting the different players within the pharmacy sector to recognize their common ground. We need to understand there is a unified landscape in which we all work while recognizing that everyone also has their own specific context. We need to look beyond our individual interests and pursue a focus on our commonalities and shared goals.
Another challenge for pharmacy leaders is how government views the sector. My work at OPA has helped reposition the profession as a collaborative partner prepared to work with government in managing change to the health system that is inevitable if its sustainability is to be maintained.

Pharmacy leadership needs to leverage this hard-won position and build on it, demonstrating creativity and innovation while continuing to earn trust. It’s a far cry from a decade ago when we were essentially a reactive health stakeholder. While we’ve come a great distance in anticipating and addressing issues, there’s still a long way to go.

What do you think will be the biggest opportunities for pharmacy in the next decade?

There are many. We have not, for example, fully integrated expanded scope into our practices. This is an exciting, crucial time to capitalize on that, with significant benefits for pharmacists who innovate and lead, and for their patients. Another area is funding. Pharmacists have always been reticent about seeking fair compensation directly from our patients, traditionally relying on government to identify and cost pharmacy services. This is a restrictive view – we have to re-examine our untapped potential as community pharmacists and health professionals.

What would you tell new graduates about the importance of establishing partnerships in these changing times?

Start by breaking down barriers within our own sector. Help identify shared interests. Build and maintain your professional network. Take that one step further and establish sustained, substantive, partnerships with other healthcare providers.

What can pharmacists do to become more accomplished partners?

Continue to expand focus on broader health issues and become part of the patient’s broader healthcare team. Some pharmacists do that intuitively or because of opportunities presented, but it’s an approach that is new to many. Partnerships, however, are not optional – we must seize on the tremendous opportunity they offer.


Leaders in Pharmacy, including this independently written article, is supported by Pfizer Canada.