Registrar’s Message: Doing Our Part
2020 was an unforgettable year. As I reflect on the toll this virus has taken on our society, our country, and our province, as well as on our personal lives, one thing remains clear: each and every one of us must continue to do our part to help save the lives of those most vulnerable to this virus while we move towards immunization for all British Columbians.
It’s now been over a year since the first cases of COVID-19 were identified, and all our lives were upended as we came together and did our part to help control its spread. It’s hard to fathom that there have now been more than 100 million cases and 2 million deaths worldwide at the hands of this deadly virus.
Doing our part to curb the spread of this virus is one of the most important societal interventions that we have had to commit to in our lifetime. As a society, we need to continue to follow the orders and advice of our public health leaders. This means continuing to practice physical distancing; wearing masks; not socializing with people outside of our immediate households; avoiding non-essential travel; and following safety protocols in our workplaces. I know it’s been difficult and many of us are tired, but these restrictions are a vital and necessary measure to ensure the health and well-being of both our country, and the world.
Though these changes have been stressful, something I’ve been trying to remember lately is that you can find happiness, while at the same time being concerned about everything that’s going on in the world. Many of us are getting outside more and appreciating nature; keeping in touch with friends and family (virtually of course); and hopefully taking the opportunity to catch-up on the hobbies, interests and relationships that are most important to us.
Doing our part as health professionals has meant dealing with overwhelming quantities of COVID-19 information, guidance and recommendations, and working quickly to adapt to them in order to continue to provide high-quality patient care.
This is the part we play. Like all health care providers, pharmacy professionals have a sworn duty to serve and protect the public with integrity and, as such, have earned the trust of many. People will follow our lead, and it is important that we honour this responsibility and understand our commitment to reassure our patients and to act in their best interests. I know that responding to this pandemic has been a drastic departure from normal practice for many of us, but we can only emerge from this crisis by continuing to do our part.
Beyond the pandemic, 2020 also highlighted a number of other social issues that require us to take immediate and sustained action. Like you, I mourned with Black Communities and allies across the US, Canada and abroad, for the victims of police brutality and systemic racism. Closer to home, I was shocked and disheartened to learn about the irrefutable evidence for Indigenous-specific racism within our healthcare system.
I’ve heard some say that racism isn’t a problem in our country, but countless others can attest to the racism experienced by BIPOC communities. It’s present in all levels of Canadian society, and we all need to do our part to understand its extent and its effects. In a recent article in Ottawa Life Magazine, Daniel Quan-Watson responds to those who deny the existence of racism in Canada. As an Asian-Canadian, Quan-Watson’s words resonated loudly with me. Many tend to think of racism as sudden fits of rage or outward expressions of discrimination, and while it can certainly be both of those things, it’s often much more subtle.
I’ve been encouraged by some of the actions taken by our leaders – such as Mary-Ellen Turpel Lafond’s In Plain Sight report – to address racial injustice however, the fact still remains, that leadership as a whole, needs to change. Leaders need to change.
As a Japanese Canadian fortunate enough to have held a number of leadership roles throughout my career, I have long been struck by the lack of diversity in our public offices. I was the first non-white President of the CPBC Council and am the first non-white CPBC Registrar. And though I’m honoured to hold these distinctions, my experiences prove that racial exclusion is real. It proves that maybe our anti-racism and diversity policies aren’t strong enough and that we need to do our part to speak out against racism in all its forms, and support BIPOC leadership at all levels of our society.
Health care is no exception. Racial discrimination and oppression are some of the most significant determinants of health outcomes in Canada and they need to be addressed at all levels of our health system. We need to work together to identify and establish a deliberate and comprehensive approach to positive change in order to eliminate the effects of racism within our society.
I’m writing this during Black History Month, which of course takes on an even greater significance after the events of last year. The 2021 theme of Black History Month in Canada is “The Future is Now,” which reminds us to support today’s Black Communities, keep the conversation going, and do our part to learn about the issues, history and current realities of racism in Canada. It reminds us that our commitment to standing against racial injustice is only just getting started.
2020 was an incredibly challenging year that pushed many of us to our limits, and 2021 looks poised to present its own challenges. The good news is that the past year has taught us the strength of collective action. It has shown us that even small actions by individuals can have a major effect on our society and our communities, as long as we agree to work together. With that, I encourage you all to stay the course and continue to do your part.
Bob Nakagawa, B.Sc.(Pharm.), ACPR, FCSHP, RPh
Registrar and CEO
College of Pharmacists of British Columbia