Open to Opportunity
That’s the simple advice Ashley Walus [B.Sc.Pharm/11, MBA/20] would give to today’s students at the College of Pharmacy.
“Saying yes has opened my eyes to so many experiences that I thought weren’t for me,” says the accomplished 2011 alumna, who has worked for more than a decade in pharmacy roles with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA).
When Walus was a pharmacy student, she initially didn’t want to volunteer at the Winnipeg Interprofessional Student-Run Health (WISH) Clinic, which provides free community health services and walk-in care on Sundays at Mount Carmel Clinic. She felt intimidated by the idea of working in the city’s North End.
Finally, she decided to try it. Once she started working with the community, all her worries evaporated. “I’ve been involved for over 15 years now,” she says.
Walus, who grew up in Winnipeg, has a passion for interdisciplinary work, collaboration and leadership. Now a volunteer mentor at the WISH Clinic, she says the key skill she tries to pass on to students is to “meet people where they are” – that is, adapt care to the patient’s current reality.
On one occasion, Walus recalls, a pharmacy student was coaching a patient on how to use his inhaler. The student reminded the patient not to store the inhaler anywhere that could get hot, like his car.
“The patient said, ‘But I live in my car.’’”
Walus took that moment to talk through a more patient-centred approach. “There’s what we know about medications and how we’re supposed to use them,” she says. “But what makes the most sense for this person?”
In her work with the WRHA, Walus is the regional pharmacy manager for educational services, as well as the site manager of the Grace Hospital pharmacy department. In her educational role, she works with pharmacy students, hospital residents and staff to ensure they learn and implement current best practices.
“I really enjoy enhancing pharmaceutical care at a health systems level,” she says.
Walus’s mentorship at the WISH Clinic is part of another role to which she said “yes” – part-time clinical teacher at the UM College of Pharmacy. She also gives an annual lecture at the college on hospital pharmacy management.
“I learned from many professors and instructors who laid the foundation for my professional journey,” she says. “I hope that in some small way, I can help do that for the next generation.”
While working full time, Walus completed a master of business administration at UM, with a double major in health-care administration and leadership and organizations. She graduated in 2020 with the gold medal for the highest standing in the MBA program.
She found the interdisciplinary nature of the program especially rewarding. “It gave me alternative approaches to thinking through problems and a better sense of how professionals from all different types of backgrounds look at issues.”
Walus has no plans to stop saying yes. She is the current president-elect of the Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacists.
“I want to advocate for hospital pharmacy professionals on a national stage to ensure that we cement ourselves as essential clinicians in hospitals and health systems,” she says.