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Hamilton Health Sciences Home
May 26, 2016

Introducing… a clinical pharmacist

John Wiernikowski is a clinical pharmacist in pediatric hematology and oncology at McMaster Children’s Hospital. He has worked at HHS for 29 years.

Favourite colour: green / book: Lord of the Rings Trilogy / vacation spot: Jamaica / music: everything but rap / food: a good BBQ steak / holiday: Christmas

Tell us about your first day at HHS.
I was a nervous wreck! I had to start learning to prepare chemotherapy for patients ranging in age from about 8 months to 16 years of age, and dealing with a class of drugs that is hands down the most toxic we deal with as pharmacists. Fortunately, I was supported by a great mentor that was leaving the position, and a wonderful group of physicians, nurses, and allied health professionals that were very patient with me and eager to teach me.

What do you love most about your job?
I love that the pharmacist role on our team has evolved so that my colleagues and I play a very active and integral part in the pharmacotherapy our patents receive. There have been and continue to be significant advances in drug development for cancer that make this a very interesting and exciting job to have.

What do you wish you had more time for at work?
Truly, I wish I had more time every day to tell my co-workers how great they ALL are and how much I respect and admire what they do. Almost every day, I witness my colleagues going above and beyond expectations. This is especially true of my nursing colleagues who spend the greatest amount of hands on time caring for these children and their families. They are there through it all.

What do you eat to keep you energized at work?
I really don’t eat much at work. Coffee fuels me. Much Coffee!

When you tell people what you do, how do they usually react?
The usual reaction is “You work with children with cancer? How sad!” To which my usual response is: Yes, a child getting cancer is always sad, but, more than 80% of children we treat are cured! So there are many more happy endings than sad ones.

What are your career goals?
Since I’m now closer to retirement than start of career, let’s just say that before I retire, I’d like to make a meaningful impact on getting children with cancer in low and middle income countries better access to the medicines they need.