Dr. Jaris Swidrovich was recently interviewed by the College of Pharmacy’s Native American affinity group facilitator and P3 student, Renee Roberts. Dr. Swidrovich identifies as Canada's first self-identified First Nations Doctor of Pharmacy. We are grateful for his time and willingness to share this conversation.
What inspired you to pursue a career in pharmacy and in teaching?
Pharmacy happened almost by accident for me. I was initially enrolled in university to become a high school drama teacher, then switched to a path toward medicine. I later stumbled upon pharmacy and the rest is history. I have had a passion for teaching for a very long time and, although I am not a high school drama teacher as I originally planned, I have found a home in pharmacy and teaching pharmacy.
What was your path to pharmacy?
Without any health professionals in my immediate or extended families, pharmacy was really quite random for me. After two years of arts and science courses to prepare to apply to medicine, I quite randomly applied to pharmacy and was accepted. The pharmacy curriculum at the time was in need of changes and I found it difficult to see where I fit in within the health care system. I ended up applying to medicine during my third year of pharmacy and was accepted. I requested a one year deferral to be able to finish my pharmacy degree, which was accepted. Interestingly enough, though, I finally experienced hospital pharmacy in my fourth and final year of pharmacy and chose to stay on my pharmacy path and declined my medical school acceptance.
What is your take on the importance of increasing Native American representation within the scope of pharmacy?
This is incredibly critical. I am so happy to see equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives increasing the participation, representation, and exposure for many folks who belong to groups that are not typically represented; however, much more needs to be done for Native American and Indigenous Peoples. We are the First Peoples of Turtle Island and we belong in all places and spaces, including the profession of Pharmacy.
What is your opinion on what can be done to improve the representation within pharmacy?
There is an overwhelming and endless number of ways to achieve this. Some of these initiatives, however, include dedicated recruitment, active retention, and ongoing celebration and recognition of Native American Peoples in faculties and other organizations of pharmacy. The same must be done for graduate programs in pharmacy so that we may see more Native American faculty members in pharmacy across the country and internationally, which will accelerate necessary changes and also provide a medium for Native American students to see themselves reflected in the profession of pharmacy.
What has your experience been as the first Native American PharmD and sole Native American faculty member in Canada?
It has been rewarding, special, and also quite challenging. I have never had a Native American / Indigenous pharmacy mentor in the profession and on the academic side of pharmacy, so in many ways I have been forging my own path. We know that disruption is necessary to make change and, unfortunately, that disruption is not always welcomed and is often met with resistance. I am so thrilled to be seeing more and more Native American / Indigenous folks graduate from PharmD programs across North America and I am always happy to take on the role of a mentor (and mentee!) for such folks – wherever they are.
Is there any other message or information you would like to share with the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy?
I would like to thank them for engaging and taking the time to read this. I am always happy to connect via social media, too, where I can be found creating and sharing important content in this area and related areas. You can find me on Twitter at @JarisSwidrovich and Instagram at @jarisoftheprairies.