The School of Pharmacy's new dean talks research, teaching, and the future of pharmacy
It was quite an adventure for Dr. Carlo Marra to depart the warmth of Canada’s west coast to the frigid east coast rain, drizzle and fog.
But for Dr. Marra, who began his term as dean of the School of Pharmacy on June 1, the people were warm enough to compensate for the weather.
“The people were by far and away the most important factor in deciding to come,” he says. “The chance to work with such a vibrant, energetic group of people was something that I couldn’t pass up. Moving from coast to coast and experiencing another beautiful province in Canada was a major draw. I would love to learn as much about Newfoundland as I can and fully embrace the culture here.”
But there is much more to the move.
Below, Dr. Marra shares his thoughts on research, teaching, and the future of pharmacy and healthcare.
Before joining Memorial, you were actively involved with some high-profile research organizations via your role at the University of British Columbia (UBC). Will you continue to develop these relationships in your new role?
I will most definitely be continuing to contribute to research. Both ARC (Arthritis Research Centre) and CORE (Centre for Outcomes Research and Evaluation) have been very important in developing my research program over the past decade. I would very much like to seek opportunities for our school to collaborate with these and other prolific groups.
You will not only be the dean, but also a professor. What will you be teaching?
I would like to teach some lectures in the pharmacy research and evaluation courses where my epidemiology, health outcomes and epidemiology expertise could be an asset.
For those of us who may not know, what does ‘epidemiology’ mean?
It studies the patterns, causes and effects of health and disease conditions in defined populations. It also helps inform policy decisions – it’s the basis of public health, really. By identifying risk factors for disease, it targets for preventive healthcare.
The pharmacy profession has some big changes in its future, with pharmacists having more responsibilities as part of their practice. Can you talk about some of the lesser-known responsibilities and the expanding roles of pharmacists in healthcare?
In many provinces, pharmacists administer injections such as vaccinations, offer drug store clinics that include blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol testing, give presentations to community organizations on medication use, perform medication reviews to ensure that patients are prescribed the right medications and are taking them as they should, extend prescriptions, provide smoking cessation counseling, offer safe disposal of expired medications, advocate with government for client medication coverage, and so much more.
Do you feel that pharmacists can help alleviate costs in the healthcare system?
Yes, in a variety of ways. Through medication management, pharmacists can ensure the appropriateness of therapy and help with non-adherence. And through regular monitoring for safety and effectiveness, pharmacists can help improve health outcomes. By doing these things, the healthcare system could be used more efficiently and serious adverse events could be avoided.
Do you see many differences in the way pharmacists operate in British Columbia versus Newfoundland and Labrador?
BC has had a few of the expanded scope items in practice for a few years. It is exciting to see and be part of Newfoundland adopting these new items into practice regulations, thus increasing pharmacists’ scope of practice.
Speaking of the future and expanded scope of practice, I understand that the School of Pharmacy is about to embark on a complete curriculum redesign, to accommodate an Entry-to-Practice level Pharm D program? Can you tell us what that means?
Yes. As of 2020, all pharmacy schools in Canada will be required to offer the PharmD program, which allows new pharmacists to have the highest level of education that exists for pharmacists. As the program is now, students complete a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy, and then complete the one-year PharmD program at another institution. We are hoping that starting in the fall of 2017, avoiding unforeseen delays, that Memorial’s School of Pharmacy will also offer this program. Our faculty member, Dr. Lisa Bishop, is leading this process. It’s a very exciting time for the school and I’m thrilled to be here for it.