Pharmacist of the Year’s “pioneering role” in Tokoroa

The Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand is delighted to announce Helen Cant from Tokoroa, as the winner of the Pharmacist of the Year Award 2018.

Fellow pharmacist, Helen Morton, from Te Rengarenga Medical Centre explains why she nominated Helen for the award. “Helen has been a pharmacist since 1981. During that time, she has always promoted the pharmacy profession, whether making the case for more clinical pharmacists when she was a manager at Tauranga Hospital or taking her current pioneering role, working across both general practices in Tokoroa as a clinical pharmacist.”

“Even in her current role she has endeavored to constantly innovate and expand her practice so that she is now recognised within the South Waikato community as an expert in her field, type 2 diabetes, with an ability to listen to patients and explain things in a way that they can understand and apply.”

The judges, represented by the Ministry of Health, New Zealand Medical Association, District Health Boards, NZ Hospital Pharmacists’ Association and the Pharmaceutical Society felt Helen was “a fine example of an exemplary pharmacist.”

The panel were impressed by Helen’s level of commitment at grassroots level in engaging and influencing other health professionals in her area by improving patient contact and outcomes through her recent completion of the pharmacy prescribers’ course.

Helen has had to prove herself to professionals and patients. “She has achieved this with remarkable success, to the extent that the most critical of professionals refer their medically complex and challenging patients to her as a matter of routine,” states Dr Timothy Chen from Tokoroa Family Health.

In 2018, Helen qualified as a pharmacist prescriber. This is quite an achievement, since there were only 20 qualified pharmacist prescribers in New Zealand, as at 30 June 2018.

A pharmacist prescriber is a specialist pharmacist working in a multi-disciplinary clinical health team trained to prescribe medicines. The pharmacist prescriber qualification allows experienced clinical pharmacists to use their extensive training and knowledge of medicines and their management. This means better, sooner and more convenient access to services for patients.

Born in 1957 in Quebec, Canada, Helen moved to New Zealand in 1972 and completed a Bachelor of Pharmacy at Otago University in Dunedin.

From 1980-1984 Helen worked at Grant’s the Chemists in Gore. In 1984 she moved to Tauranga and worked as a locum pharmacist. Then, in 1997, she moved to Cambridge and worked as a community pharmacist. From 2001-2013 Helen worked as a hospital pharmacist for both Waikato and Bay of Plenty District Health Boards.

Since 2013 Helen has worked as a clinical pharmacist with both general practices in Tokoroa serving a community of about 17,000 people.

Helen’s areas of interest are Type 2 Diabetes, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)/asthma, thyroid disease, complex multi-morbidities, medication error, health education, health literacy, equity in healthcare, promoting excellence and service improvement.

Drs Timothy and Kirstie Chen, General Practitioners at Tokoroa Family Health where Helen works as a clinical pharmacist emigrated from the United Kingdom in 2016. “Clinical pharmacists working in general practices there was still a rarity, but Helen is an exemplar. Her work definitely improves patient outcomes, both through her direct patient contact and through the up-skilling and education of staff that she works with,” says Dr Chen.

Helen communicates with patients in a way that leads to sustained change explains Dr Chen. “There are many examples of patients who feedback that they finally understand their disease/illness and treatment, and subsequently happily take their medications. There is certainly evidence of improved diabetes control, medication compliance, reduced exacerbations of chronic respiratory disease, etc. and she has only just got started!”

Helen has also played a key role in supporting Tokoroa Family Health to improve their service to the local population. “Our practice has successfully achieved Cornerstone Accreditation in the last 3 months. Helen was instrumental in helping us improve our policies, protocols and procedures, all of which have led to improved patient care/safety and governance.”

According to Dr Chen, there is no doubt that Helen Cant deserves the title of Pharmacist of the Year 2018. “Helen is exceptional! Her knowledge of pharmaceuticals is unparalleled. If all other clinical pharmacists could do what she does, the profession has a very bright future.”

Helen will be presented with her award at the Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand’s gala awards dinner which is being held as part of the Society’s two-day conference “Towards Integrated Health” in Auckland on Saturday 10th August.

The Society will also be celebrating other leaders within the pharmacy profession at the gala awards dinner with the presentation of Fellowship Awards to Clare Hynd, Sandhaya (Sandy) Bhawan and Graeme Smith; the Gold Medal Award to Dr Linda Bryant; and Services to Māori Awards being presented to Mary Roberts and Darryn Russell.