The Diabetes Pharmacists Network Leaves a Lasting Legacy

December 11, 2020
By Krista Lamb


After eight years and countless successful programs, the BBDC’s Diabetes Pharmacists Network (DPN) will be ending at the end of 2020.

The DPN, directed by Dr. Lori MacCallum, has had an enormous impact on the education and support of pharmacists across the country, and the care of people with diabetes. This innovative program changed how pharmacists learned about diabetes care and medications, with patients being at the heart of the program.

“It was about finding the gaps,” says MacCallum. “It wasn’t just explaining medications, it was about diabetes care holistically. We did programs on lifestyle and nutrition and exercise and smoking cessation as well. The content was narrowed down to exactly what busy pharmacists need to know. And it was also done in a way that was innovative, in that we did videos and animation and one pagers, and one-on-one interviews. We provided content in the ways that people learn, and a way they could learn on their own time, on their computer, on their iPad, or on their phone.”

Pharmacists and health care providers who used the program were unanimous in their positive response. MacCallum recalls getting emails every week from those who had used the DPN to help prepare for exams or work with a patient.

“Being a part of the Diabetes Pharmacists Network as a student has pushed me to see the impact pharmacists can have on patient care and has challenged me to move from the more traditional roles pharmacists play on the healthcare team,” says Rana Khafagy, who did part of her training with MacCallum and is now a practicing pharmacist. “I have taken these experiences and challenges into my own career as a pharmacist, where I am more involved in guideline development, education and research. I challenge every pharmacist, as the DPN has challenged me, to exemplify best practices and think beyond an individual patient.”

The support of the pharmacy community inspired the DPN team to continue to produce helpful content, like two editions of the BBDC Guidebook on Diabetes Management, a popular resource textbook aimed at pharmacists and other health care providers.

photo of Lori MacCallum gifting pharmacy students with the Guidebook

Each product the DPN produced and every event they put on had one specific focus: helping people with diabetes by supporting and empowering pharmacists. And MacCallum was inspired by how engaged pharmacists were around this goal. Many went on to become certified diabetes educators, and MacCallum knows that others became more confident in working with those living with diabetes. “People still contact me and say how much they enjoyed working on the type of projects we did, and helping people.”

The DPN team also published research, including a paper in the journal Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy. The paper, Pharmacists report lack of reinforcement and the work environment as the biggest barriers to routine monitoring and follow-up for people with diabetes: A survey of community pharmacists, sought to explain what both enables and prevents pharmacists from practicing at their full scope in order to optimize outcomes for people with diabetes.

MacCallum and her team found that pharmacists wanted to do more, but they faced barriers in doing follow-up care. “We identified problems with pharmacists being able to follow up with people with diabetes because of the practice environment and too many competing priorities,” say MacCallum. “They want to do this, and when they do it, patients benefit.”

The hope is that this research will continue to inform work in pharmacies moving forward, especially as an increasing number of pharmacists provide health care services, like administering vaccines.

photo of Dr. Lori MacCallum interviewing Dr. Ross Tsuyuki

As with so many of the DPN programs, this research leaves a lasting and positive legacy. “The Diabetes Pharmacists Network has been an exceptional program from its inception,” says Gary Lewis, Director of the Banting & Best Diabetes Centre. “What Lori and her team have been able to achieve in terms of supporting improved education on diabetes for pharmacists and the impact that has had on people living with diabetes is significant. While the BBDC is no longer able to continue the program, I know that those who have used the DPN resources and programming will continue to reap the benefits of what they have learned.”

For MacCallum, the end of the program is bittersweet. She has seen so much good come from the resources and information the DPN provided and she is immensely proud of the talented students and administrative staff that have supported the program throughout the years. She has also been inspired by the tremendous support and partnership of those outside the field of pharmacy. “It started off as a program of education for pharmacists,” she says. Now our modules, and our books are used by GPs, nurses, dieticians… so even though it was called the Diabetes Pharmacists Network, it was for all healthcare professionals.”