Q&A With the Finalists for Health Mart Pharmacy of the Year

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Hear the pharmacists from Eden Drug, Hazel Green, and Professional Pharmacy on their reactions to being a finalist for this award and more.

Each year, McKesson presents their Health Mart Pharmacy of the Year award to an independent pharmacy who is not just providing its customers with their necessary medications, but going above and beyond in the community to make sure everyone is living their healthiest life. Drug Topics spoke with the 3 finalists at McKesson ideaShare 2023 in Las Vegas.

Answers were lightly edited for length and clarity.

Drug Topics: What was your reaction when you heard you were a finalist for Pharmacy of The Year?

Mike Powers, RPh, of Hazel Green Pharmacy in Hazel Green, Alabama: Well, [our McKesson account representative] came by the store and brought us a little box of chocolates to announce that we were the finalist. And I was a little overwhelmed, I guess you could say, because when he asked if he could nominate me I said, “Well, I'm just a little bitty pharmacy in rural Alabama,” but he told me we’re doing all the things we need to do. Then later he came back and said we’re in the final 3, and I said “You’ve got to be kidding.” Of course, we’re very excited.

Christine Lee-Wilson, PharmD, of Professional Pharmacy in Baltimore, Maryland: So, my [McKesson] rep called me, and she said that she had some good news for me, and I told her “That’s not good news, that’s great news!” So, of course very humbled, and excited to share my story.

Pete Crouch, RPh, of Eden Drug in Eden, North Carolina: I couldn't believe it. We submitted the application on the last day, and then a couple of weeks later they told me we're a finalist. I know we are doing some innovative things in the space, but there are a lot of other folks and pharmacists out there that are also doing innovative things. So, we were really, really excited about it; it was great for our team to be able to see that what we’re doing really matters, and that people took notice. It was also nice to be able to showcase that it's not about me, it's about my team, and showcase their efforts in how they actually take care of our patients. That was more important than anything else.

Drug Topics: What are you most proud of accomplishing in the pharmacy space?

Powers: Probably the development of my team. Over the years, I've had 3 of my former techs become pharmacists, and I've had 4 or 5 become nurses. Now, Jeremy, he's a technician of the year, and he’s going to go into pharmacy school in a couple of years. And so, just being able to

give my people the tools they need to dream big and accomplish those dreams. But most importantly, just to be able to serve our communities. I've always thought this was a ministry and not a job. So, I get to serve my people.

Lee-Wilson: Right now, that my doors are still open, and we’re thriving in a very difficult market. And I am proud to help motivate other pharmacists to achieve new heights.

Crouch: I think what we're doing for our diabetic patients, with the education that we're giving them, [so they can better] serve themselves. I think that's big, because that's so much of our focus. Part of our vision is giving back to our community. And for 9 years in a row, we have provided over 1500 backpacks for our kids going back to school. We’re really proud of what we do for our community. And we started this at a time when there was high unemployment. It was hard for young families—my wife is an educator, and we just feel so strongly about education. We wanted to do something for the children of our community, so we're really proud of that. You know, we're proud of all the things we do for our patients, because as hard as it is to do our job...we still have to take care of our patients. That's what makes us feel good about what we do at night when we go home, is that we did the best we could and take care of patients.

Drug Topics: What are you excited for in the future of your pharmacy, or the field as a whole?

Powers: Well, we continue to evolve. We started dabbling in functional [medicine] the last couple of years, we've grown in that area, and we're working on cognitive [services]. So, we’re looking at some of the other opportunities out there in the clinical setting, because we know that we can't make money anymore just by filling prescriptions. But more importantly, we want to be a better asset to our community by being able to provide those services to our people.

Lee-Wilson: I am super excited to start the Vaccines for Children program in the state of Maryland. I’ll be the first independent community pharmacy to do so and I hope to pave the way for others.

Crouch: I'm kind of excited about what's going on with [artificial intelligence]. I think that if we can incorporate that into what we do, it's going to make things exciting, and we're going to be able to practice at a higher level, quicker.... I'm also excited about these new [glucagon-like peptide 1 agonists] for weight loss, and how successful [they] have been with helping people; we've got a lot of obesity in this country.... If we can do something about obesity, I think we can manage a lot of other chronic diseases... I think imperfect action is always better than perfect inaction. If we can take care of our patients and have that top of mind, at the end of the day, we're going to feel good about what we do, no matter how hard pushback is, right? It'll be hard. But, you know, pharmacy has never been easy.

After an onsite vote by their pharmacy peers at McKesson ideaShare, the 2023 Health Mart Pharmacy of the Year award was presented to Eden Drug. To learn more about Eden Drug, read the press release from McKesson here.

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