Cover Story

Farid Wassef, BSc Pharm, RPh

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June, 2013    |

Bridging the gap

Farid Wassef is a second generation pharmacist born and raised in the Stouffville, Ontario area. The pharmacy was first opened by Farid’s father in 1974, which Farid undertook management of in 1989. In 2006, Farid felt it appropriate to merge with the local IGA pharmacy team, and has been partnered with them since. Farid tells a tale that is familiar to IHP readers, of an interest in something other than conventional medicine from an early stage of training, his personal interest leading him to seminars hosted by the likes of Wright and Gaby, and culminating in the decision to offer services of integrative medicine very early on in his career. The very unique twist to this story is that Farid is offering these services as a pharmacist, not the designation(s) we are accustomed to as a provider of integrative medicine.

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Screen Shot 2014-06-27 at 4.46.04 PMFarid Wassef is a second generation pharmacist who has worked and lived in Stouffville, Ontario for over 40 years. The family pharmacy was owned by Farid’s father Lou in 1974, which Farid took over in 1989 upon graduation. In 1993, Farid opened a patient consultation practice, which involved integrating lifestyle changes, nutrition, and natural health products with pharmaceutical care. In 2006, Farid merged his pharmacy with his colleague’s at Stouffville IDA Pharmacy, where Farid continues to practice integrative medicine. Farid graduated from the prestigious Massachusetts College of Pharmacy in 1989 and quickly undertook the role of management of the family pharmacy. By 1993, Farid had built an office within the pharmacy and was actively seeing patients.

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“I was very frustrated by a model that only allowed a couple of minutes to interact with a patient at the pharmacy counter” describes Farid. “That doesn’t provide the opportunity for any sort of counselling whatsoever!” It was surprising to hear this familiar story from a pharmacist! I was personally unaware of how a pharmacist would justify the practice of integrative medicine under the license of a pharmacist… Farid was eager to clarify. “Within the scope of practice of pharmacy, a pharmacist is permitted to counsel on prevention and treatment of disease, counsel on diet, lifestyle, nutritional/ nutraceutical supplements, botanical medicines, and of course pharmaceutical drugs. While pharmacist may not be permitted the act of diagnosis, I found many MD’s in the Stouffville and surrounding area eager to collaborate with an objective and evidence- based person providing good information on natural medicines. Through these collaborations we were able to offer patients a broad array of integrative diagnostic techniques in addition to standard laboratory procedures.”

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Farid was not satisfied with his role as pharmacist and practitioner… He was driven to spread the word to other pharmacists, MD’s, and anyone else who would listen as to the power of diet and lifestyle in health promotion, disease prevention, and disease treatment, and eager to educate his fellow pharmacists as to the role they can and should be playing in their patients care. Working with the Institute of Functional Medicine (whom Farid credits with providing most of the training he relies upon as a practitioner of integrative medicine), Farid created a continuing education curriculum for pharmacists to receive training in integrative medicine. He has likewise lectured across North America to predominantly pharmacists and MD’s regarding application of integrative medicine, and methods through which integrative minded pharmacists can successfully collaborate with MD’s in their community. His immense efforts to move the discipline of integrative medicine forward earned him the 2006 award for Canadian Pharmacist of the Year.

Screen Shot 2014-06-27 at 4.47.05 PMWhile juggling the roles of a pharmacy manager, seeing 80+ patients per week, authoring over 200 articles, CE courses, and books (including Breaking the Age Barrier – Strategies for Optimal Health, Longevity, and Energy published by Penguin in 2003), and his ongoing industry consulting and speaking engagements, yet another intriguing path caught Farid’s eye; politics. The idea of impacting healthcare from a “top down” approach made a lot of sense to him! Farid slowly moulded his career to be able to take on the workload politics would entail; he sold ownership of the pharmacy and merged with the local IDA team, where he maintains an office and his practice to this day… He cut back on time with patients, yet maintains an important practice within the Stouffville IDA pharmacy, and continues to welcome public speaking arrangements, although at a reduced rate than in the past. It was 2009 when Farid first actively participated in a political role, attempting to block proposed cuts to the healthcare system (that subsequently came into effect in 2010). The final straw that brought Farid to action was the interpretation that the $1.2 billion e-health scandal is what necessitated healthcare cuts in the first place!

From left to right: Rob, Donna, Joyce, Farid, Kathy, Dianne.

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“I was very frustrated by a model that only allowed a couple of minutes to interact with a patient at the pharmacy counter”

 

 

 

The PC party of Ontario approached Farid in 2010 after witnessing his passion and determination to effect change, and in 2011 he secured his nomination as the PC candidate for the riding of Stouffville, Markham, Richmond Hill, and King townships. He lost the 2011 election to the incumbent Liberal candidate. Farid Wassef has been re-nominated and will stand in the next general election as the PC Candidate of Oak Ridges-Markham for Member of Provincial Parliament. Farid is determined to improve our healthcare system, which he believes should focus more on disease prevention and extending an individual’s functional health span.

It was a special experience to visit the Stouffville IDA where Farid continues to base himself and see patients. The pharmacy runs as any conventional pharmacy can be expected to run, yet adjacent to where the pharmacists operate is a segregated office area where Farid conducts patient visits. In the absence of Farid’s influence over the years, the pharmacy team likely would have little to zero interest in integrative medicine. Yet through years of observation of Farid’s practice, the entire pharmacy team at Stouffville IDA has a unique, welldeveloped, intrigue/ interest in the role of integrative medicine in today’s healthcare system. Also of tremendous interest were the unique offerings of natural health products by the pharmacy. Brands not typically associated with pharmacy were made available for the public, clearly guided by Farid over the years yet managed by the conventionally practicing pharmacists of the facility. Also, and near to my heart, the current owner of the facility is a fan of history of medicine. His pharmacy is lined with paraphernalia and artifacts from generations of pharmacists, including tincture bottles that must be over 100 years old, historical instruments of the profession, and photos of a graduating class of pharmacists from the very early 1900’s.

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Apparently the individual who founded the first ever pharmacy in Stouffville is pictured in the photo. IHP is grateful to Farid Wasef and the entire Stouffville IDA team for taking the time to allow us to showcase their efforts to you. Farid may not have the expected credentials of a practitioner of integrative medicine, yet he delivers the service at a level equal to and beyond that of anyone in the field. Like so many professionals IHP has had the privilege of showcasing, the practice of integrative medicine begins, grows, and thrives through one common seed; passion! Passion to help others, to solve mysteries common- place answers simply don’t make sense for, and ultimately to achieve maximal positive impact for people using the least invasive strategy available. Farid has educated thousands of healthcare providers in this area. He has now turned his attention to the political arena, in hopes of bringing further change through legislation, hopeful the clinical aspect of thing resides in good hands. We wish you much success Farid in helping to bring healthcare reform we at IHP agree is desperately required.

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