Distinguished Service Award Corner: Bill Wilson

By: Chris Doody


This column features another of the many great hospital pharmacists of the last 40 years, Bill Wilson (DSA 1992). Bill grew up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and graduated in pharmacy from the University of Saskatchewan in 1969. He began his career at North York General Hospital and then worked at York Finch Hospital for two years; in 1973, he became a supervisor at the Toronto General Hospital. In 1978, he became the Assistant Head to the Pharmacy at Sunnybrook Medical Centre, moving up to Associate Head in 1982. In 1984, he was named Lecturer at the Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Toronto, where he won several awards. In 1992, he formed Wilpharm Consultants for pharmacy services consultations. In 1993, he accepted the position of Director of Pharmacy at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, from which he retired last June.

I would challenge anyone to find a more involved person in pharmacy. During his career, Bill was heavily involved with CSHP; after many years as Director of Finance, he became President in 1987 until 1988. He was voted president of the Ontario Branch in 1997 until 1998, working tirelessly for the Ontario Branch while also being involved on many committees. He was also very active with CPhA, becoming president in 1995 until 1996. He has been a member of the Board of the Ontario Pharmacists Association. He has also been Chair of the Canadian Hospital Pharmacy Residency Board and Chair of the Hospital Pharmacy Residency Forum of Ontario. From 1998 to 1999, he served as Chair of the Directors of Pharmacy of Metro Toronto.

In addition to the DSA, he was named a Centennial Pharmacist (CPhA), received the CPhA Meritorious Service Award, obtained CSHP Fellowship in 1994, OPA Life Membership, the Ontario Branch–CSHP Gordon Murray Award for sustained contribution, and in 1999, he received the Ontario Branch Award for teaching and mentorship. In 2013, the Branch created the Bill Wilson Patient Safety Award in his honour. In 2014, he received a Centennial Alumni of Influence Award from the University of Saskatchewan's College of Pharmacy and Nutrition.

Bill is a social animal who is widely known for his friendly, welcoming personality, his constant smile, and his positive attitude about life and pharmacy, which he enjoys sharing with others.

Interviewer (WM): Bill, I can not recall ever reading a CV of someone so heavily involved in pharmacy organizations. How did you do it?

BW: As you can see from my résumé, I had difficulty with the word NO. I initially got involved because someone asked if I would like to sit on a committee. Over the years, I got more and more involved because I got to work with so many colleagues and friends who were focused on advancing pharmacy practice. The more involved I became, the more I wanted to be part of helping to advance pharmacy practice. It was a great learning experience; it broadened my outlook on pharmacy and I was able to take these learnings back to my practice sites. It was also an opportunity to give back. I could not have been so involved without the support of my employers, my staff, but most importantly, my family. I recall many long days and many weekends involved in pharmacy activities, but it really didn’t seem like work because of the opportunity to be involved with so many colleagues all working towards the same goals.

WM: You have been on the administrative end of hospital pharmacy for most of your career. What did you consider the largest challenges of your time?

BW: Over my 47 years in practice, I have seen enormous changes in hospital pharmacy practice and in the role of the pharmacist and of the technician. Technological advances have also changed the manner in which pharmacy services are delivered in hospitals. Specifically, these have resulted in important advances in patient-focused care as well as innovations in drug distribution. We were never satisfied with the rate of change, but over time the innovations have been significant. I think one challenge was convincing the organizations that professional pharmacist services could be cost effective as well as provide significant improvements in ensuring safe patient outcomes against the continuous backdrop of increasingly complex medication therapy. The second challenge was convincing ourselves that we had the knowledge and skills to fulfill these important clinical roles. We have been able to move forward thanks to many forward thinking pharmacy leaders, the advent of residency training, and changes to pharmacy curriculum. We never seem to be satisfied, which is a good thing as we move to further advance the profession to enhance patient care and patient safety.

WM: Why do you think you were awarded the Distinguished Service Award?

BW: I think this is the hardest question to answer. Perhaps it was because of my exceptional hosting skills in the hospitality suite but more likely, I think it was because of my service to CSHP over many years and the body of work in which I was involved. There have been many achievements at CSHP during my career and I am honoured to have been a part of some of them; however, it has been the work of so many people working together that has moved the profession forward. It was a privilege to have had the opportunity to participate. Receiving the Award was a great honour.

WM:  I appreciate that you have just retired, but what do you perceive as the major challenge(s) for today’s hospital pharmacist?

BW: With advances in medical care, the aging population, and consumer demands, healthcare organizations continue to be under significant pressure due to the tightening of government funding coupled with the payer and consumer demand to increase quality. Hospital pharmacy practice needs more research focused on the unique contributions of pharmacists to patient safety outcomes and how technological advances can improve both cost and quality. Pressures to reduce costs including the substitution of professional staff with less expensive labour will continue. We must be able to clearly articulate the contribution of pharmacy services to patient care. We must embrace the increased use of technology and continuous quality improvement in order to move forward.

WM: Are there any lessons you have learned that you would like to pass along to today’s practitioners?

There are a number of learnings that have really helped me:

  • Number one is always put the patient first and be a patient advocate.
  • Never stop learning and embrace change.
  • Be a team player both professionally and personally.
  • I learned early in my career to network, which has been an enormous benefit to me both personally and professionally.
  • Develop a passion for patient care and pharmacy practice but be balanced in your thinking and be open to new ideas.
  • Be willing to teach students at any level. I have learned as much from them as they have from me.
  • Get involved and take advantage of opportunities when they arise.
  • Work hard but also have fun along the way.

Bill has retired, but remains involved; after many years in Oshawa, he has settled in Burlington, Ontario.