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Barbara Farrell

Inspiring Confidence with Evidence First


This year has shown us how information can spread just as rapidly as a virus. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how crucial it is to have access to trustworthy and evidence-based health information. As vaccines started to roll out across Canada, with many of our health care workers at the front of the line, we understood how it was all too easy to be adrift in a sea of information.


In the spring of 2021, Bruyère launched an initiative to connect staff members who had questions about the COVID-19 vaccines with physicians, researchers, and pharmacists in order to get tailored and trusted information to those who needed it.


Barbara Farrell, pharmacist and researcher at Bruyère, was one of the of the team members picking up the phone.


“Dealing with something new like COVID-19 means the evidence is constantly changing,” Farrell shared. “Especially in the early stages, the information being generated and shared on a given day might be different a few weeks later.”


What Farrell realized was that, more than anything, people were searching for accurate up-to-date information from a trusted resource in order to make an informed decision. Whether it was to better understand the possibility of allergic reactions, discuss the effects of vaccination after a COVID infection, or to address concerns about potential side effects that had been prevalent in the media – the goal of this initiative was to provide every caller with enough information to be comfortable and informed in their decision.


Having an open dialogue is a cornerstone to promoting evidence-informed decision making. Having both clinical and research experience in making information accessible in plain language was the foundation to Farrell’s approach during her calls, but she acknowledged that finding trustworthy and complete information can be time-consuming even for an expert, and difficult to interpret for the average person.


The translation of evidence to useful and accessible information for the public can be instrumental in dispelling myths and providing advice for unique cases and concerns. Bruyère was lucky to have the expertise of these select team members – including Dr. Sanjay Acharya, Roland Halil, PharmD, Amy Hsu, PhD, Dr. Peter Lawlor, and Dr. Jill Rice – facilitating knowledge translation and fact-checking amidst the evolving landscape of evidence, guidelines, and recommendations.


Thanks to conversations with Farrell, staff members who spoke with her were able to confidently make their decision to receive the vaccine and discuss accommodations with the clinic to ensure a smooth and safe experience.


“The effort inspires confidence,” said Farrell. When a person has the information at hand in a way they can understand it, evidence is the basis for the best possible decisions and health outcomes for everyone.