Why She’s Top 40: She brings life-saving healthcare to those who need it most.
Klaudia Zabrzenski always wanted to work in healthcare, but prescribing medicine wasn’t enough. She wanted deeper relationships with her patients. “I never wanted to be stuck in an office, or behind a counter,” she says. “I wanted to do something different, to get out and make an impact.”
She decided to become a pharmacist and, during school at the University of Alberta, worked at the Mint Health and Drugs Community Members Pharmacy. Based in downtown Edmonton, the pharmacy already shared Zabrzenski’s get-up-and-go attitude, and was thinking of ways to reach inner-city patients who couldn’t reach back. She worked with fellow graduate and Top 40 recipient Essi Salokangas to start the Adherence and Community Engagement (ACE) team, which brings care directly to people with HIV/AIDS who can’t get the care they need.
Team members meet clients at clinics, their homes or even on the streets, to make sure they’re keeping up with their medications. The team deals with homelessness and mental-health issues, and the fact that “many patients had negative experiences with health care, whether it was stigma from HIV, addictions or homelessness, and many feel stigmatized by the system.” This meant they had to educate both clients and clinics, while learning on the fly, and Zabrzenski admits they initially stumbled. “The start was challenging,” she says. “Clinics were slow to send clients at first, some more difficult than others, and we could tell they were testing us to see if we’d be successful. But now, we have great relationships with clinics and we’ve built up street cred, so to speak, with clients, through word of mouth.”