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Largest‑ever gift to Dal's Faculty of Health aims to improve access to quality care

Posted by Mark Campbell on June 16, 2023 in News
Brenda Merritt, Dean of the Faculty of Health, Jeff Leger, College of Pharmacy alum and President of Shoppers Drug Mart and Sonya Lockyer, President of Lifemark Health Group announced the gift. (Bruce Bottomley photo)
Brenda Merritt, Dean of the Faculty of Health, Jeff Leger, College of Pharmacy alum and President of Shoppers Drug Mart and Sonya Lockyer, President of Lifemark Health Group announced the gift. (Bruce Bottomley photo)

Shoppers Drug Mart has made a transformative $2.5 million gift to Dalhousie’s Faculty of Health to support diversity and inclusion in health education, and research that aligns with Nova Scotia’s health transformation agenda, Action for Health. And that could mean new and enhanced ways of delivering health care, creating a more efficient, modern, equitable, and respectful health ecosystem in Nova Scotia and beyond.

“We’re proud to support the Dalhousie Faculty of Health and the advancement of our shared vision and commitment to creating better access to quality health care for Canadians,” said Jeff Leger, President of Shoppers Drug Mart. Leger, who graduated with a pharmacy degree from Dal’s Faculty of Health in 1995, returned to campus to officially announce the gift.

“This donation will amplify the important work the Faculty of Health is doing to identify and fill gaps in the health care system, but more importantly, it will help fund future generations of health care professionals from diverse backgrounds. By investing in their future, we’re investing in a health care system that better represents the needs of our country.”

One-and-a-half million dollars will create scholarships for undergraduate students studying pharmacy, physiotherapy and occupational therapy who identify as Black Nova Scotians or Indigenous or who are from New Glasgow and/or North Sydney. The goal of these scholarships is to help break down existing barriers to health education and increase diversity in the health professions. There will also be bursaries to support students who are completing clinical placements in rural areas. This funding will make rural placements more accessible for students who could not otherwise manage the added expense of relocating to these communities.

Furthermore, one million dollars of the gift will support research that has the twin goals of understanding a bigger role for pharmacists, physiotherapists, and occupational therapists and a larger health system that includes them. This research could include identifying gaps in care that these professionals can fill on their own or as part of a larger team and exploring the concept of integrating them into clinical care teams. It could also look at the state of equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in health care and how to break down barriers both in the workforce and health education.

Tackling complexity

Brenda Merritt, dean of the Faculty of Health, says both the gift and the alignment of Shoppers Drug Mart and Dalhousie’s strategic priorities create a solid foundation for tackling the increasingly complex health care challenges facing society.

“We need more innovative collaborations and more diversity in perspectives to solve them,” she says. “Dal Health is thankful for the incredible support of Shoppers Drug Mart. This will help spark innovation in teaching, research and patient-centred care. It will also enable us to create exceptional learning opportunities for our students and strengthen our commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion. That has the potential to enhance the health and well-being of all Canadians.”

The gift will also help create a clear path for students to succeed by creating more opportunities for them, according to Susan Mansour, director of the College of Pharmacy, associate professor and assistant dean of the Faculty of Health.  

“This gift is going to have a significant impact on students in the College of Pharmacy,” she says. “Given the many pressures on pharmacy students in the current environment, student financial need has skyrocketed in the last few years. The need for pharmacists in the Maritimes is currently high and this gift will generously assist students in earning their degree and starting to contribute to health care.”

Dr. Shaun Boe, professor and associate dean (Research) at the Faculty of Health, believes Shoppers Drug Mart’s gift will enable research that empowers pharmacists, physiotherapists, and occupational therapists to provide care in ways that were not previously imagined. And that will contribute to a more efficient and effective health system that will benefit everyone.

“This is an opportunity for us to help address shortfalls in health care in innovative ways by enabling these professionals to work to the full scope of their practice,” he says. “It’s exciting to have access to funding so that we can explore how best to do this. I am really looking forward to seeing what this gift makes possible and how the solutions we develop at Dalhousie could be life changing for millions of Canadians.”