The relationship between Bright Plaza Pharmacy and their AmerisourceBergen business coach has proved invaluable during the pandemic and beyond.
Bright Plaza Pharmacy owner Dana Porter has been in the business for more than 20 years. As a member of the Good Neighbor Pharmacy network, she’s worked with several AmerisourceBergen Business Coaches through the years, but her relationship with current coach Kelley De La Fuente is probably her most special.
“They’ve all been helpful in reporting and providing information from AmerisourceBergen [that can] be helpful in managing your business,” Porter explained. “Kelley provides those same reports, but what we’ve been able to do is develop a relationship where we can communicate above and beyond those reports. Kelley and I have been able to take it to another level.”
Porter has owned Bright Plaza Pharmacy, located in Whittier, California, since 2016. The 3,500 square foot space has a large front-end that includes a section for durable medical equipment, greeting cards, and gifts, all in service of the pharmacy’s dynamic customer population. The 5-story building that houses the pharmacy is also home to multiple physician’s offices and is located next door to an urgent care, positioning the pharmacy as an important resource for this provider community, in addition to the Whittier community at large.
“We offer a [medication synchronization program], we have text refills and mobile refills, and—I think more than anything else—we offer services that are individualized to each patient,” Porter explained. “We know each patient when they come in, we deliver to their homes, we have the products in the front-end that are for those patients. We stock the products that they’re asking for and we’re able to help them when they need something.”
Porter credits her relationship with De La Fuente as an integral part of making sure Bright Plaza Pharmacy can deliver on the wide range of services that are promised, regularly thinking outside the box and beyond reporting to “figure out how to actually improve and increase the business.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, the relationship between De La Fuente and Porter evolved once more, becoming, De La Fuente explained, even more collaborative.
“She has the knowledge, she has the facts, and she’s a very savvy business owner,” said De La Fuente. “A lot of my role as of late has been to encourage her to take those calculated risks and expand her knowledge. [The relationship] has evolved from, ‘How can I support you?’ to really bouncing ideas off of each other, doing the research together, and then coming up with action items and plans to expand what she’s doing.”
Porter described De La Fuente as one of the strongest advocates for the Bright Plaza Pharmacy team—especially when it came to getting ahold of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
“We were in an area that was an underserved population, so we were allocated one of the first Pfizer shipments. [De La Fuente] offered it to us; it was overwhelming in the quantity and the uncertainty of how to manage and deliver all of those vaccines to the general public,” said Porter. “I think her confidence in our ability to serve our patients, and to execute on taking this vaccine, was indescribable to me. She was more than just a coach; she a friend, encouraging me and my husband and our staff to take this vaccine and make a huge impact in our community.”
De La Fuente recognized all of the ways in which the beginning of the pandemic was clouded by unknowns, requiring savvy, strategic thinking and a willingness to stay the course. Before Bright Plaza Pharmacy received any COVID-19 vaccines, De La Fuente and Porter strategized on how they could capitalize on their business while serving patients—not only at the store, but out in the community. And when the COVID-19 vaccines came out in early 2021, De La Fuente encouraged Porter and her husband, co-owner of Bright Plaza Pharmacy, to take the task on.
“I called her up because I knew she would be anxious,” said De La Fuente. “But I also knew that she and Toby would be willing to run with it if they had enough support. And sure enough, they did.”
Along with her husband, Porter worked tirelessly to ensure that their pharmacy technicians were able to administer these immunizations and to create an environment where patients would feel comfortable. Outside of the pharmacy, De La Fuente provided the necessary support to help Porter create drive-through vaccine clinics and take their work into the community through advertising and recruitment.
“I think the vaccine clinics really enhanced her role in the community and showed her how other people viewed her, all the way from the local government down to the school district,” De La Fuente added.
De La Fuente also connected Porter with other pharmacy owners through her own network of AmerisourceBergen business coaches, allowing Bright Plaza Pharmacy to come together with pharmacists and pharmacy owners outside of their local area who had created vaccine clinics and gain valuable knowledge on execution.
“The Pfizer vaccine shipment was so large; the quantity and storage was so overwhelming,” said Porter. “[Leveraging De La Fuente’s network] allowed us to talk to other people about what [the vaccination process] would look like, so we could feel more comfortable in coming up with a plan.”
“I think we only wasted 5 of the original 1200 vaccines that we received,” Porter added. “Being able to execute effectively, and not having any waste…” She credits De La Fuente as an “integral” part of that process.
After the successful distribution of that first shipment of vaccines, Porter and De La Fuente put their heads together to plan out their next move.
“I remember [Porter] calling me and saying, ‘Kelley, I’m gonna go sit in on this Chamber of Commerce meeting, and I’m gonna sit right next to the Superintendent of schools.’ And I responded, ‘Okay, when we go down there, what are we going to do?’”
As it turns out, what they were going to do was offer their services to the Whittier City School District, which found itself needing to comply with a California mandate requiring all teachers unvaccinated for COVID-19 to undergo weekly testing. The school district had 13 sites and more than 100 teachers who would require testing to comply. The school board was considering hiring a large company to travel from site to site and test employees. But Porter had a better idea.
“Using her confidence, Porter was able to open up that conversation,” De La Fuente said. And once the district said yes, the relationship between Porter and De La Fuente evolved once again.
“I needed to write a contract, I needed to cover my bases with what supplies I would need to secure and how I would come up with a plan,” said Porter. “And she was once again integral in helping me come up with a contract.”
Bright Plaza Pharmacy began testing in October 2021—a service they continued all the way through the conclusion of summer school in July 2022.
In the next few months, Porter and De La Fuente have continued their conversations around how Bright Plaza Pharmacy can offer even more services to their patients and community, including addressing insurance and reimbursement challenges and continuing to capitalize on the momentum of their testing program. But no matter what comes next, it’s clear that Porter and De La Fuente are in it together.
“I think with the [relationship] that we have developed in the last 4 years, she trusts me to bring these ideas, and she also trusts me to bring her own ideas that we can work on together,” said De La Fuente.
“What I’ve developed with Kelley,” Porter added, “and what the business coaching program has offered me, is the ability to really grow my small business and to find someone who has contacts in the industry, who has knowledge about what’s up and coming, that we can use to think about ways to actually grow and improve our business. Kelley has become a close friend, a confidant, and someone who, in this past year, has really led us to think outside the box. Without Kelley’s help, we wouldn’t have been able to make this happen.”
Learn more about what Good Neighbor Pharmacy has to offer here.