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Pharmacy alum recognized for volunteer work in Indigenous communities

Amanda Michano wins the Rexall Pharmacy Group Community Involvement 2022 Award

Andrea Edginton, Hallman director at Waterloo Pharmacy with Amanda Michano
Andrea Edginton, Hallman director at Waterloo Pharmacy with Amanda Michano

Growing up on a reserve, Amanda Michano’s (PharmD ’22) dream of working in health care was sparked by a visit from a pharmacist.

“I was in awe of the pharmacist who came to help me understand how to use my inhaler for my asthma,” Michano says. “It was in that moment that I knew I wanted to help teach people how to use their medication.”

Michano is the 2022 Rexall Pharmacy Group Community Involvement Award recipient. The award is given to Black or Indigenous undergraduate students with a strong volunteer involvement in their community while demonstrating the values of integrity, accountability, respect and excellence.

“Receiving this award has allowed me to feel proud of the work that I have done and has inspired me to continue serving my community. I am grateful to Rexall for their commitment to helping Indigenous and other marginalized communities,” Michano says.

Now graduated from Waterloo Pharmacy, Michano reflects on her educational journey from Pays Plat First Nation to Kitchener-Waterloo.

Full circle moment

To become a pharmacist Michano knew she would have to move away from her Pays Plat First Nation reserve outside of Thunder Bay.

Children who want to pursue a secondary and post-secondary education that live on a reserve are forced to face a harsh reality — the requirement to move far away from home. Michano was fortunate that her reserve is only a two-hour drive from the nearest University.

“Other students in northern Ontario communities must fully move away from their families to pursue higher education,” says Michano.

Michano focused on pursuing the sciences to get into Waterloo Pharmacy. It was during her fourth-year rotations though that she went back to Thunder Bay.

 “It was there that I was able to go to the reserves, sit down with people and help them understand their medications the way I hoped I would as a child,” Michano says.

Michano had the opportunity to shadow a pharmacist from Dilico Anishinabek Family Health Team for a week. She travelled along the north shore of Lake Superior to visit Pic Mobert and Pic River First Nation, the two communities where her family resides.

“My pharmacist supervisor explained how he would drive to the reserves to teach community members about their medications for the last 20 years. He knew my foster parents by name. It was then that I realized that he was probably the pharmacist who taught me how to use my asthma medication,” Michano says.

“I couldn’t believe it. Of all the people I could have been paired with, I met the person years later who inspired me to pursue pharmacy.”

Volunteering in her communities

Prior to pharmacy school Michano mentored Indigenous high school students through the Lakehead Aboriginal Mentorship Program (AMP) across the Thunder Bay region. In this role she assisted students with post-secondary learning opportunities and helped them network and build positive connections.

“Volunteering is important to me because I know that any amount of time dedicated to my community can have a significant impact,” Michano says. “My volunteering opportunities have been incredibly rewarding and have provided me with a sense of accomplishment.”

Additionally, Michano volunteered as the Lead Outreach Coordinator at AMP where she connected Indigenous culture and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) concepts to foster an inclusive learning environment.

“To me, one common thread between my own cultural, professional and local communities is the sense of wanting to belong and being supportive of each other. When giving back to my community, I try to incorporate these ideas alongside the seven grandfather teachings in Anishinaabe culture.”

Throughout pharmacy school, Michano volunteered at St. John’s Kitchen in Kitchener. This was an eye-opening experience for her, “I learned how uncomfortable I was at times around this population even though I had been taught better than that.”

It was through her volunteering that she had the opportunity to get to know the community and learned how to move past her preconceived fears.

“Since graduating, I have been focusing on jump-starting my career as a pharmacist in the Kitchener-Waterloo area and I hope to soon shift that focus to serving the local community at St. John’s Kitchen in Kitchener"

The Rexall Pharmacy Group Community Involvement Award was established to support Black and Indigenous students who demonstrate a strong commitment to their communities.

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