Pharmacy Check-in: Meet Jaris Swidrovich
Jaris Swidrovich, BSP, PharmD, PhD(c), AAHIVP, RPh (he/they)
Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream, Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON
Dr. Jaris Swidrovich is an Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream, and Indigenous Engagement Lead in the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Toronto where he carries out research, teaching and various administrative roles. He is a queer, Two Spirit, disabled, Saulteaux and Ukrainian pharmacist from Yellow Quill First Nation. His mother was a 60s Scoop Survivor, and both his grandmother and great-grandmother were residential school survivors. Dr. Swidrovich is the founder and chair of the Indigenous Pharmacy Professionals of Canada.
Q&A with Jaris
We caught up with Jaris during Indigenous History Month to talk about his practice and how education is a critical first step in providing safe, inclusive health care to Indigenous communities.
What is the #1 thing pharmacists can do to create a safe and inclusive space for Indigenous patients?
Education. Even the kindest and most well-meaning people can create an environment that is not safe or inclusive if such folks are uninformed, misinformed or not informed well enough. I encourage pharmacy professionals to seek educational opportunities, including books, podcasts, films, papers, presentations and to attend Indigenous events and ceremonies.
Why is culturally sensitive health care important, especially in a pharmacy setting?
Culturally sensitive health care is important in all settings, but that is not enough. We must move beyond cultural awareness, sensitivity and competency and progress to culturally safe care, which focuses on disrupting the power imbalance and hierarchy in health care and pharmacy. As the most accessible and often most trusted health professionals, we not only have an enormous opportunity to do well, but we also have an enormous opportunity to do poorly. Reflecting on and understanding why we see such large disparities in health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples in Canada is also critical to providing culturally sensitive and culturally safe care.
How can pharmacists play a greater role as advocates for inclusive and culturally sensitive health care, especially for the Indigenous community?
As pharmacists, we hold a lot of “power” in our communities and across the country. Millions of lives across Canada are dependent daily on our competence and service. We must consider the power we hold, especially as a national collective, and use our voices to effect change with respect to how our colonial systems, policies and procedures that affect Indigenous Peoples’ health. The poorer health outcomes for Indigenous Peoples in Canada are a result of past and present government policies and not due to any genetic or social inferiority. As such, we must focus on the systems and all social determinants of health, which will in turn contribute to more inclusive and culturally safe care for Indigenous communities.
What’s the biggest mistake health-care providers make in caring for Indigenous patients and how can they do better?
Assuming they know enough about Indigenous Peoples and our lived and living experiences. Our educational programs did not prepare us well enough to provide care for Indigenous Peoples that is safe, informed and equitable. So, health-care providers must make education a priority, otherwise we will always be provided with care that is “lesser than” for folks we do not know anything or enough about.
What is the most rewarding part of your pharmacy practice?
There is a theme here and it may be obvious: education! I am grateful to be a pharmacist, a clinician, a researcher and an educator. Each of these roles requires or contributes to education. My teachings are that my ways of thinking, knowing, being and doing should contribute to positive impact for the next 7 generations and I think being an academic pharmacist is a fantastic way to realize this responsibility.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your practice, or about anything else that is important to you?
I would like to encourage pharmacy professionals and all health-care professionals across the country to make or purchase an orange shirt for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30, which is also known as Orange Shirt Day. I will encourage folks to consider the shirt offered by the Indigenous Pharmacy Professionals of Canada, since all proceeds go to a fund for that is exclusively for Indigenous pharmacy professionals and students who are intergenerational survivors of Canada’s Indian Residential Schools. They can be purchased at www.awasisboutique.ca and orders close July 1!