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When a Pharmacist meets a Designer

What do you think might happen if a pharmacist and a designer met in a bar and really hit it off? Maybe the pharmacist would try to woo the designer with knowledge, logic and obscure facts. Or maybe the designer would float on over to the pharmacist, make eye contact from behind their trendy glasses and say “hello”. As things go on, I bet they’ll have enough to keep the conversation going well into the night…

Hi, I’m Maria! The newest member of the Design Lab team! We might’ve met already — in a virtual meeting, workshop, webinar or maybe walking around South Health Campus or the Foothills Medical Center in Calgary. Before joining the Lab, I was a clinical pharmacist in cardiology & cardio-oncology and clinical practice leader for over 12 years. I am so grateful to have worked with so many patients, families, fellow healthcare providers, leaders, colleagues and friends to help serve others in their health journey.

My superpower is my big extroverted energy! I love getting to know people during deep and meaningful conversations and listening to stories about what matters most to them. At a party, this might look like I am twirling around a room. Virtually, it means leaning way into the camera to make eye contact.

Discovering Design

My first dance with design was in my MBA program in 2020. There, I learned and applied the creative problem-solving process as my group worked with a client on a complex business problem. During the experience we spent time onsite with the client and his team to show care, watch them in action and ask questions about their joys, challenges and experiences at work. I was immediately drawn to the curiosity, compassion and power of design to connect so quickly and deeply with the people that are most affected by the problem.

Ok, Design. You’ve got my heart racing …

Then, I started bumping into design everywhere! At the i4 (Ideate. Incubate. Invigorate. Innovate) conference, during the Design Lab’s Virtual Design School and in IDEO U Storytelling Course. I was intoxicated by the exuberance, creativity, imagination and love of humanity that design brings. I admired how design drew inspiration from leadership, coaching, research, strategy, philosophy, science, art, comedy and nature (basically everywhere!) in their approach to life.

So, now, I’m hooked and dating Design!

Design Thinking Journey

So far, my relationship with Design has been filled with hope, excitement, optimism and risk-taking. I am in the ‘adopter’ stage of the design thinking practitioner’s journey, which looks a bit like the messy middle. I’ve enjoyed a few successes implementing design thinking principles into my leadership practice and project work. Such as, working with a group of frontline clinicians to create a leadership development strategy that could be smoothly incorporated into their current workflow. I also had a few attempts fall flat. Like, the deafening silence that followed asking a room full of pharmacists: “what do you dream about?”

I am so honoured & privileged to join Josh & Mark at the Lab — a pair of ‘grandmasters’ who generously share their knowledge, wisdom and resources to warmly welcome me to the team!

A healthy, long-lasting relationship with design will take vulnerability, dedication, patience and a growth mindset to flourish.

Overlap Between Leadership and Design

From my clinical, leadership and coaching practice experience, I noticed that some ideas, skills and principles mesh pretty well with design. For instance, leadership capabilities in healthcare that resonate with me are positivity, authenticity, emotional intelligence, fostering psychological safety, teamwork, developing others, service oriented and strategic/systems thinking. Similarly, a design thinker’s characteristics are empathy, collaboration, optimism, experimentalism and integrative thinking. Leadership and design are complementary, not competitive.

We go together like strawberries & cream!

Integrate, don’t Assimilate

What’s next? Well, I will keep working with the Lab as we are invited to partner with different groups to explore, understand, design and test possible solutions and recommend actions to help solve complex challenges in healthcare. I will integrate a foundation of clinical, leadership and academic experience, diverse relationships and genuine curiosity of the human experience into my evolving design practice. I am grateful and humbled by the level of engagement, trust and openness placed in us by the people I’ve been lucky enough to meet and start to work with so far!

Design, you’ve been here with me all along! I appreciate your flexibility, inclusivity, diversity and how you integrate so smoothly into different aspects of my own authentic identity.

Inside my Brain

Messy, isn’t it? That’s just because the left side needs room for logical thinking, analysis, probing, gathering and appraising data and to be verbose. And, the right side wants to dream, imagine, create with abandon, feel, sense and be playful. Through my relationship with design, I’ve had the chance to dive deeper into facets of myself. My personality, interests, relationships with people & the world.

So, if a pharmacist and a designer got together, their love child might look something like this:

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