(Clare Rayment/Kitimat Northern Sentinel)
Paul Sherman works as a pharmacist, but outside of work, he’s an avid traveller, a single dad, and a guy who really enjoys outdoor sports.

(Clare Rayment/Kitimat Northern Sentinel) Paul Sherman works as a pharmacist, but outside of work, he’s an avid traveller, a single dad, and a guy who really enjoys outdoor sports.

In Our Valley: Paul Sherman

Having a real impact in the health and lives of others — and his own — is why Sherman does what he does

An avid traveller, a long boarder, and a lover of the outdoors, Paul Sherman tries to find ways to prioritize his own health, as much as he prioritizes the health of others.

Sherman has been involved with the pharmacy industry since he was young, as his dad was a pharmacist and his parents owned their own business in Saskatchewan, where he grew up.

“So I kind of grew up working my way through the ranks of everything from, like, stock boy, to, you know, doing the floors, to deliveries, to being a technician, to actually going to school after and becoming a pharmacist [myself].”

Sherman said his dad always showed him how important it was to be respectful of patients and get to know them as people, not just patients, to make the experience and vulnerability of the situation more comfortable for both parties.

“Pharmacists and people who take these kind of roles, they kind of have to know a little bit about everything. You know, my dad always said…‘You know, to be a good pharmacist, you have to know how many bushels of grain fit in a grain elevator.’ Because you need to relate to who is coming in there talking to you,” Sherman said.

“You know, if you’re using some type of language that goes over their head, and you’re talking down to them or over them, that doesn’t benefit them,” he added. “There’s no interaction, there’s no connection, they don’t feel like they’re getting anything from it, you know? So you gave them some pills. That doesn’t mean that you improved their health.”

Sherman’s patient-pharmacist interaction and the impact he has on his patients’ health is the most important part of his work. Whether that’s actually prescribing something, or just giving them a chance to talk, Sherman works in a more holistic manner to try to give the appropriate treatment for what the patient needs at that moment.

“It could be something really small. It could something as small as, like, giving somebody a hug. I know we don’t really do that so much right now with COVID…but I think people need more of those kind of real interactions. It’s a part of health,” he said. “Even just looking somebody in the eye and talking to them and listening and hearing what they have to say. Maybe I’m not giving any advice at all, but maybe the advice you’re giving is just time and space so that they can share what they need to and release what they have to. That’s part of health.”

Sherman’s degree combined pharmacology and nutrition, helping him learn more about the natural side of health and how natural remedies and more modern Western medicine could work together for health, rather than as opposing solutions.

“I saw that [natural medicine] had validity for certain situations, certain people, certain conditions and people want choices. And options. And it’s kind of like, as a pharmacist, we’re a guide to help an individual make a positive health choice, but it’s up to that individual to make that choice and follow through. Because they’re the director of their own health,” he said.

“I always found it was best practice to give people options, discuss with them, you know, different potential therapies that are actually valid, not just, you know, selling product,” he added. “I’ve never been a good business person when it comes to that side of things. I’m not a seller.”

When he opened up his pharmacy in Kitimat in 2014, Sherman vowed that he wasn’t going to change his ethics or his core on how he practiced and treated people for any sort of financial gain, because it’s people that got him into the pharmacy industry in the first place.

“If we made a whole bunch of money one day and didn’t help anybody, that wasn’t really that great of a day. But if I helped a whole bunch of people and really made impact, I go home feeling rewarded,” he said. “And we could’ve made nothing that day and I’ll be like, that was a really good day, I feel really satisfied, I did something positive in someone else’s life. That’s what keeps me in pharmacy, is that reward cycle.”

And while Sherman loves his job, it does make him burn out often, especially when he starts prioritizing the health of others over his own and making himself constantly available.

“I feel used sometimes,” Sherman said. “Sometimes I feel like I mostly get all about like, ‘Oh, you’re the pharmacist’ and questions about that. And I’m like, actually I’m Paul.”

When meeting new people around town, he often finds they know of him or know who he is, but sometimes feels that they only base their thoughts on the work version of him, without trying to get to know the person he is outside of work.

“That doesn’t really bother me, they can have any opinion they want. The only thing that bothers me is, like, I’m like, okay, I’m more than — I’m not just a pharmacist. That’s my job. You know, as opposed to meeting me as a person.”

In his free time, Sherman likes to long board and has gone down Haisla Hill, Kuldo Extension, and Lahakas Hill.

“So I’m proud to say I’ve done them all — and survived them all!”

Sherman is also an avid traveller, but also a single father of three children in their late-teens, and said he hasn’t had the chance to travel again until recently, since his children are now a bit older and better able to care for themselves.

Earlier this year, Sherman travelled to the Philippines, Hawaii, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Spain — all in a span of about three months — and managed to make it back just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world on a large scale.

He had plans to travel to Iceland and Vietnam this year, but they were obviously put on hold due to the pandemic.

“I really like travelling, but that’s kind of on hold at the moment. So, I’m self-discovering new things that I don’t even know that I like yet.”

He’s started painting more this year, as well as trail running and doing parkour through the forests.

“Parkouring in the forest is, like, so much fun. It’s like the best thing I did this year, I think. One of the best things, even though I travelled,” he said. “And I did some crazy stuff that I should’ve, like, twisted my ankle or broke my knee or whatever. I only fell once, I had a couple close calls, but I still would do it because it’s fun.”

Going forward, one of Sherman’s interests, both personally and work-wise, is to learn about more natural, traditional remedies and medicines, especially in an area of the world that is so rich with mushrooms and other herbs and plants that have helped treat injuries and illnesses for many years.

“There’s validity to it. I mean, they’ve been used for thousands and thousands of years with success, right? And I think that a lot of Western medicine is really behind the times when it comes to the potentials of what’s actually in nature.”

However, Sherman said as long as he’s helping people and having an impact in their lives, he’s happy.

“I try to earn people’s respect by respecting them back,” he said. “Treat people as real people, as normal people, with dignity and respect and caring, and you’re already halfway there in giving them the help that they need.”


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