Pharmacy grad ready for adventure

Like most Vancouverites, Bobby Taylor cheered himself hoarse during the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. But as a Paralympic medalist and a volunteer at Whistler, Taylor enjoyed a ringside seat.

“I could enter the field of play and it was like old times with my teammates,” says Taylor, who worked on the crew that painted the blue lines bordering the ski course. “A highlight was watching Lauren Woolstencroft win her fifth gold medal during her fifth race.”

Being so close to the action was a poignant flashback to his own competitive ski racing days, says Taylor, who graduates from the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences this month.

Between 2004 and 2006, Taylor was a member of Canada’s para-alpine ski team as guide to his legally blind partner, Chris Williamson. They won Paralympic bronze and silver. With six per cent vision, Williamson would navigate by looking for Taylor as the shape that preceded him down the slope. The two would communicate via radio microphone and an earpiece.

Taylor had to make sure he was centimetres apart from Williamson during a slalom, a distance that would increase up to 30 metres for events like downhill.

“Depending on the race, we’d sometimes be reaching speeds of 110 kilometres an hour,” recalls Taylor.

Ski racing came easily to Taylor, a West Vancouver native who took his first lessons on Cypress Mountain. His agility and prowess won him a ski-racing scholarship at the University of Alaska where he earned a BSc in biology in 1999.

While volunteering at the Paralympics this March, Taylor glimpsed possible career options that combine sports and pharmaceutical sciences. He was able to visit the “polyclinic” at Whistler’s Olympic Village. These mini hospitals are equipped with emergency care, dental clinic, labs and pharmacy to provide athletes with top-notch medical attention,“It was great to see what happens behind the scenes and especially how a pharmacist works in that setting.”

And now Taylor will gain further insights into his new profession as he has won a coveted spot with the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority for a year-long residency at a hospital pharmacy.

“A lot of people think the job is about counting pills or mixing potions, but it’s really more about using our knowledge of therapeutics and pharmacology to ensure patients are getting appropriate medication”
Taylor zeroed in on UBC when it came to pursuing a pharmaceutical sciences degree. “There are other faculties across Canada offering similar programs, but this is where I want to be.”

UBC has always been part of his life, explains Taylor. As a child, he frequently visited his father, Steve Taylor, who taught in the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture before his retirement.

Taylor says he will no doubt find great adventures and rich life experiences in the healthcare field. “My nature is that whatever I do, I like to give it all I have.”

Apart from the ski racing, Taylor has also travelled the world, taught English in Japan, worked on a commercial fishing boat and has self-published a book of his photography featuring B.C.’s remarkable coastline.