MedEssist CEO Joella Almeida (BA 2018) on community pharmacies, Shopify and health-care privatization

September 3, 2022 by Toronto Star Brennan Doherty

Joella Almeida’s (BA 2018) resume spans the e-commerce and payment industries, but she always knew she wanted to be in health care. It was in her blood, or, at the very least, in her extended family. “My grandfather was a pharmacist, my mother-in-law’s a pharmacist,” she says. “I’ve somehow been around pharmacists my whole life.”

Between her and co-founder Michael Do, also a pharmacist, MedEssist was born in 2018 and entered the University of Toronto’s Health Innovation Hub accelerator the following year. The technology company helps brick-and-mortar pharmacies offer their services through an accessible online portal. Pharmacies do a lot more than sell vitamin supplements and fill prescriptions these days — they can prescribe for “minor ailments,” ranging from influenza to migraines in some provinces, without a doctor.

Ontario’s new minor ailments list for next year includes sprains, uncomplicated UTIs and hemorrhoids — and the new rules couldn’t come sooner. With burnout and uncompetitive nursing-staff pay stretching Ontario’s medical system beyond its limits, Ontarians looking for treatment need every avenue they can access.

A fierce debate is also raging around the involvement of private medical companies in Ontario’s health-care system as a whole — but Almeida says Canadians are looking for more options to get the help they need.

Read the full interview here