université de montréal offers a bridging program for foreign-trained
pharmacists: the programme de qualification en pharmacie, or QeP. Since
the QeP’s inception in 2011-12, a total of 107 candidates have graduated.
The current cohort is 35, selected from 121 who applied. The QeP must admit
at least 25 participants in order to receive an annual subsidy from Quebec’s
Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Diversité et de l’Inclusion.
The program runs 16 months and requires participants to earn up
to 64 credits, though the number can be much lower, depending on the
assessment of academic qualifications by the Ordre des pharmaciens du
Québec (OPQ). The foreign-trained pharmacists on average pay $1,600
in tuition, the same amount per credit that Quebec students pay for U de
M’s pharmacy degree program.
The QeP is one of two routes foreign-trained pharmacists can follow
to become licensed in Quebec. The other is to pass the country-wide exam
administered by the Pharmacy Examining Board of Canada. “Their success rate is not all that high, so a number of candidates decide to apply to
the QeP,” says Marie-Claude Vanier, director of the QeP. The QeP itself has
an overall success rate of 88 percent.
QeP internships are provided in hospitals and retail pharmacies. A
one-week placement in first year is followed by two eight-week intern-
ships in second year. “It’s always a challenge to find enough internships
for the students,” says Ms. Vanier. “But what really limits our intake is the
number of available laboratory spaces for them to practise.”
Completion of the QeP does not by itself entitle graduates to practise in
Quebec. The final step in that process is an internship mandated by the Or-
dre des pharmaciens. It is both lengthy and unpaid, and the graduates have
to find these internships themselves, without help from the Ordre or QeP.
Ever Andres Herrera Cantor, 31, and his wife, Maria Fernanda Castro
Herrera, 29, were pharmacists in Colombia for four years before emigrat-
ing to Quebec in 2013. They were seeking an improved quality of life and
a more patient-oriented practice than was possible in Colombia.
Through his involvement with Colombia’s pharmacists’ council, Mr.
Herrera Cantor had met pharmacists from other countries and decided
Canada offered the best prospects. “At the time, it was easier and quicker
to come to Quebec than to other provinces, and we were familiar with the
QeP,” he says.
It took six months to gain the Ordre’s approval to apply for the QeP.
Before starting the program in January 2015, the couple managed to find
part-time work in their field – he as a technician in a pharmacy, she with
a pharmaceutical company – while studying to upgrade the basic-level
French they had learned in Colombia.
They’ve found the QeP to be a very demanding but valuable program.
“It’s pretty intense, you have to put aside everything for school,” says Ms.
Castro Herrera. Still, doing the program as a couple has an advantage, she
says. “When one of us doesn’t understand something, the other can help.”
After completing the QeP, Mr. Herrera Cantor wants to acquire experience and savings as a staff pharmacist, then become a pharmacy owner.
Ms. Castro Herrera, for her part, wants to complete her remaining internships before deciding on her career niche. Pharmacy
Université de Montréal
“It’s pretty intense, you have to put
aside everything for school.”
Maria Fernanda Castro Herrera
92% of Canadian-born
individuals who studied
medicine were working
as doctors in 2006.
Only 56% of immigrants
with the same field of
study were practising
in the profession.