My Perspective Working at OPA: Building Momentum and Keeping the Ball Rolling

Since I started my pharmacy journey in 2022, I noticed a consistent buzz in both my academic classes and at the pharmacy about the excitement and significance of the present moment in the pharmacy profession. This air of excitement was largely due to the ongoing transformations within the field in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as approval to administer COVID-19 vaccinations, prescribing authority for nirmatrelvir/ritonavir (Paxlovid), and the long-awaited approval for minor ailments prescribing that was implemented at the beginning of 2023. I began feeling more and more excited to be a part of this budding profession and decided I wanted to learn more about what drives these changes. Witnessing this forward momentum, I was eager to actively contribute and keep the ball rolling by joining OPA myself for my second co-op term.   



Caitlin Philbrook,

University of Waterloo, Class of 2025

Once I started in the Professional Affairs team at OPA, I quickly learned that these changes and progress were made possible thanks to the hard work of the people at OPA working tirelessly behind the scenes, submitting proposal after proposal and recommendation upon recommendation. The team is dedicated to driving positive change through their advocacy work to influence regulatory updates and policy improvements. I also saw how they further supported members through the development of practice tools and resources. Throughout my onboarding experience, I was simultaneously inspired to see the work that had been successful in achieving change and in awe at the expanse of priorities that the department was actively working towards. This drove me to want to be part of that process, to keep the momentum going and help wherever I could.  


I began my placement by assisting on several tasks that gave me a glimpse into how OPA supports its members and advances the profession. I worked on updating the screening questions/consent form/documentation templates used for the Universal Influenza Immunization Program (UIIP), which helps to support pharmacy professionals during one of the busiest times of the year. Additionally, I completed a jurisdictional scan evaluating provincial funding for COVID-19 testing in pharmacies across Canada in addition to contributing to other projects and tools, both for internal purposes and for external partners that were looking to OPA for trusted and reliable information. Through weekly meetings with the Professional Affairs team, I saw how the team collaborated to ensure OPA was achieving its goal of supporting pharmacy professionals and advancing the pharmacy profession. 


By the second month of my co-op, I was ready to start a larger project to contribute to OPA’s advocacy initiatives. One of OPA’s ongoing priorities is to advocate for an increase to the current Ontario Drug Benefit (ODB) dispensing fees as these fees have been unchanged since 2014. To ensure the economic sustainability of the profession, OPA has recommended the dispensing fees be increased in line with cost of living increases to ensure they are fair, reasonable, and reflective of the services provided. I was excited to contribute to this ongoing work to support pharmacy professionals in receiving fair compensation for the incredible work they are doing. I worked on research in the form of a jurisdictional scan, literature review, etc. and identified some additional areas where further research would be required to fill knowledge gaps and help inform the ongoing discussions about dispensing fees. I learned that the journey of advocacy is not always straightforward, and requires flexibility, collaboration, sharing of ideas, and continuous reflection to determine the best way forward. I was proud of the work I contributed to this initiative, and it felt rewarding to be a part of this exciting, albeit challenging, ball-rolling process. 


In addition to the dispensing fee project, I was able to witness the ongoing ideas and proposals that would continue to shape the future of the pharmacy profession. I was fortunate enough to see the inception of some projects that would be beginning to take shape in 2024, along with some that would be ready to launch, such as the Opioid and Pain Management in Pharmacies Program that will begin recruitment in January 2024. Furthermore, I witnessed not only the expansion of scope for minor ailments in October, which included the addition of six new conditions, but also the work to potentially expand scope even further with the addition of other minor ailments or conditions hopefully in the near future. The success and rapid growth of the minor ailments program shows how pharmacists have eagerly taken on this crucial role to help deliver the best possible care to their patients, and how the public have embraced this expanded role of pharmacists. I cannot wait to see how this program continues to expand and what the future holds for the pharmacy profession.  


For the past four months, I have been so thankful to work alongside so many dedicated, knowledgeable, and skilled people who are committed to the profession and continue to push it forward. This co-op experience was new territory for me, having only worked in hospital and community settings previously. However, I was supported every step of the way by an amazing team who showed me how small, day-to-day efforts can create big changes. Going forward in my pharmacy career, this experience has given me a wealth of knowledge, and I feel empowered to continue advocating for change and making a positive impact in the field of pharmacy. I believe the future of pharmacy is bright and in capable hands with OPA at the forefront of advancing the profession. 


Written by:

Caitlin Philbrook

University of Waterloo, Class of 2025

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