A Vancouver pharmacist who has come from behind the counter to being on the frontline of that city’s opioid addiction crisis has been named the 2017 Canadian Pharmacist of the Year.
Craig Plain, a pharmacist at the Pier Health Resource Centre, leads a clinically focused practice in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, an area with high rates of homelessness, substance abuse, mental illness and overdoses.
“CPhA is very proud to recognize the significant contributions Craig Plain has made to the pharmacy profession,” said Alistair Bursey, Chair, Canadian Pharmacists Association, in a news release. “In the face of a national opioid epidemic, Craig’s tireless commitment to some of the most vulnerable patients in the country is demonstrating the power that innovative community pharmacy can have in improving health outcomes for at-risk populations. “
Pier Health’s model is designed to encourage long-term relationships with patients. “By putting the talk with the pharmacist first, we can spend more time upfront with the patient to listen to them, educate them and provide positive reinforcement,” explained Plain.
Though the pharmacy sees about 150 patients a day, Plain doesn’t wait for his patients to come to him. Committed to ensuring that patients adhere to their medication programs, Plain has been active in community outreach, regularly travelling to residences, homeless shelters and even parks or alleys where patients may be found. He has worked diligently to help residents to stick to their medication programs, resulting in a more stable and improved quality of life.
“What I enjoy about working at Pier Health is the connection to the residents,” said Plain. “Their stories range from heartbreaking, tragic and depressing to humorous, animated, lively, optimistic and mind-blowing. Pier Health tries to provide an environment most conducive to trust and compassion so we can hear their stories.”
Pier Health was the first pharmacy in BC to distribute free naloxone kits and training, and Plain and his team have successfully administered emergency injections on three occasions. Working in partnership with Vancouver’s St. Paul’s Hospital, Plain is the only pharmacist in BC authorized to administer anti-psychosis injections, giving patients greater flexibility and increasing adherence success. His clinical documentation provides the University of British Columbia’s psychiatry research team with invaluable research and statistics on the local population to address the community’s ongoing needs for accessible health services.
Craig is a 2005 pharmacy graduate from the University of British Columbia (UBC). He is a recipient of the BCPhA Ben Gant Innovative Practice Award and mentors several UBC pharmacy students each year, inspiring them to rethink and reshape their vision of what is possible for the pharmacy profession.
The Canadian Pharmacist of the Year Award is given annually by the Canadian Pharmacists Association to recognize a pharmacist who demonstrates leadership and exemplifies the evolution of the pharmacy profession toward an expanded role in health care.
Craig will be honoured alongside other CPhA Award winners at the Canadian Pharmacists Conference awards ceremony on June 2 in Quebec City.