THE VOTES ARE IN

October 7, 2002

Once again, readers nominated pharmacists they considered a cut above the rest.

 

COVER STORY

THE VOTES ARE IN

Once again, readers nominated pharmacists they considered a cut above the rest

They don't vie for medals or trophies, but these pharmacists truly deserve to be placed on a pedestal. They hail from independent, chain, and hospital pharmacies. They can be found counseling patients in mass-merchandiser outlets. They leave their imprint on long-term care facilities and practice their craft in the military. They are pharmacists whose accomplishments set them apart from their peers.

For the third consecutive year, Drug Topics invited readers to nominate pharmacists they consider to be top-drawer. A full-page nominating ballot form appeared in several issues of Drug Topics and was posted on our Web site. More than 40 nominations were received from a cross section of settings—independent, chain, hospital, mass-merchandiser, military, and other categories of pharmacy.

The qualities nominees were honored for included being accessible to patients, strong in screenings and immunizations, extremely knowledgeable and active in disease state management, and innovative in a clinical setting.

We spoke to many nominees, but because we received such a long list of nominations, we are able to feature only some of these outstanding pharmacists in detail below.

INDEPENDENTS

When Robert Sack was growing up, he was sure of one thing—he didn't want to become a store owner or manager. But 60-year-old Sack, who has owned and managed Widner Drug & Gift, Manchester, Iowa, since 1974, couldn't be happier. He manages 28 employees in his 15,000-sq. ft. drugstore housed in five buildings downtown. What's more, this R.Ph. is never frazzled by his competitors—Medicine Shoppe and Wal-Mart—in this town of 5,400 people.

Widner Drug boasts of expertise in cholesterol and diabetes testing, as well as flu and hepatitis vaccination. The pharmacy carries a large selection of durable medical equipment and has its own antique gift shop and a wellness store where nutritional counseling is offered.

When Sack is not busy counseling patients in the pharmacy, he might be taping a radio show, "For Your Health," which airs twice a week on the local radio station. The program has helped him earn the nickname "Dr. Bob." He can also be found talking about health issues to groups such as the Boy Scouts or touting pharmacy to high school students during career days.

Sack's nominator praised him for creating a unique front end, which is also home to a 1950s-style ice cream parlor outfitted with chrome-edged, red-covered spinning stools, a black-and-white tiled floor, and long ceiling fans hanging from a tin ceiling. Music from the '50s plays in the background as red-and-white uniformed employees serve customers ice cream sodas, malts, and green rivers, a lemon-flavored drink.

Another unique offering is a large, carpeted play area with a playhouse and riding toys to keep kids amused. "We had to get into these types of sales opportunities to survive because there just aren't that many prescriptions we can fill with our limited population," said Sack.

Widner Drug & Gift employs three nurses, one of whom is Sack's wife, and the pharmacy does a healthy business in renting and selling breast pumps for breast-feeding. "From Cedar Rapids to Dubuque to here, we're the only breast pump seller and rental. It's not uncommon to have six to 10 machines out for rent," he said.

Pharmacist Margaret McCoy's caring attitude toward the 2,000 residents and overwhelming number of tourists who come to Lopez Island Pharmacy on Lopez Island, Wash., is what landed her on Drug Topics' outstanding pharmacists list. Lopez Island Pharmacy is the only pharmacy on this 15-mile-long by two-mile-wide island, which can be reached only by plane or ferry.

McCoy's nominator praised her for her knowledge about asthma care and women's issues. "During the course of any given day, many of the women on the island seek out her opinions and nonbiased expertise on numerous patient care issues. Even some of our older male residents have come to ask for McCoy when seeking advice on medications and OTC care."

McCoy, who was far more humble in her self-assessment, said, "My big focus is to give my patients as much knowledge as I can, especially with the fast food trend and the crunch in healthcare dollars. I see people who go to specialists and come back with unanswered questions because their physician is busy trying to meet the patient load. Elderly patients are especially confused. I teach them to go to their doctor visit prepared and tell their doctor, 'I have to have my questions answered.' Because of my unique situation and the small population here, I feel blessed to be able to have the time to counsel them."

And McCoy, who runs the pharmacy with her pharmacist husband, Richard, doesn't charge for these consultations. She works six days a week but makes time to reach out to her community. She is active with a senior group and serves on a committee at her children's school. She also lends advice to young mothers who are breast-feeding, using expertise she gained when she was a La Leche League leader.

Franck's Pharmacy and Homecare has to compete with more than 30 chains in Ocala, Fla., but that does not faze owner Paul Franck, R.Ph., who has carved several successful niches in this pharmacy, which he opened in 1983. His expansive practice includes retail, home infusion, veterinary, and compounding pharmacy, a durable medical equipment department, and an extensive nutritional wellness center.

Franck's nominator applauded him for creating a practice that helps patients with their medical conditions and emphasizes disease prevention through wellness screenings, nutritional consultations, and education.

Franck has implemented pharmacy care programs that address a variety of conditions, including diabetes, osteoporosis care, hyperlipidemia, pain management, and hormone replacement.

John Winkelmann's father advised him to take college courses he could put to good use if he went on to pharmacy school. He heeded his father's advice, and he's glad he did because he did go to pharmacy school and then joined his father and grandfather at Winkelmann Apothecary Ltd., Clayton, Mo. While he claims that he enjoyed serving patients in what is a very fashionable section of St. Louis, the now retired Winkelmann feels his biggest contribution to serving others involves helping people in other countries.

In 1962, while he was serving his first term as president of the National Catholic Pharmacists Guild of the United States, Winkelmann wrote a letter to drug companies, urging them to provide pharmaceutical support for the people of Biafra. His plea was met with $300,000 in drugs, which were flown overseas and distributed to physicians and healthcare staff in many clinics and first-aid stations in Biafra. Today, co-president of the guild and a retired U.S. Air Force Reserve captain, Winkelmann estimates that $130 million in pharmaceuticals and medical supplies have been raised to aid people worldwide.

LONG-TERM CARE

Deepak Anand's nominator exceeded Drug Topics' limit of a 200-word essay supporting the nomination. In fact, his effusive praise of Anand took up four pages!

Anand, pharmacy manager and clinical coordinator for IV Infusion Services at Skilled Care Pharmacy, Monrovia, Calif., was much too bashful to accept all the credit for the difficult task of taking care of patients in the skilled nursing homes he works for. Instead he used the term we when referring to many of his accomplishments.

"We are very much involved in all the medication and chart reviews from day one when patients go into nursing homes," said Anand. "We try to keep tabs on them and make sure they're receiving their medication at the appropriate time. What we are shooting for is proper continuum of care. A lot of these patients may have cancer or are end-of-life patients. We do a lot of pain management and try to make sure they're comfortable." Anand and colleagues also try to make sure these patients receive appropriate care not only from the pharmacists, but also from the consultant pharmacists who make recommendations to the physicians. "Our bottom line is we need to take care of these patients," he said. "Our goal is to provide the best possible patient care, and the only way we can do that is through education."

Noting that he has specialized in long-term care for the past 13 years, Anand said he is an advocate for a practice research strategy in order to improve disease state management and patient care. "That means while you are practicing, you are doing research in your environment." That he practices what he preaches is demonstrated by the research he has done on the pharmacokinetics of platinum antitumor drugs. The research was published in 1993.

Anand, who is also an assistant professor of pharmacy practice at both the University of Southern California School of Pharmacy, Los Angeles, and Western University of Health Sciences, Pomona, summarized his philosophy in the following way: "I believe we have to work toward educating pharmacists, medical directors, administrators, pharmacy students, and interns."

MASS-MERCHANDISING OUTLETS

Melissa Harbin's caring attitude toward ShopKo's pharmacy employees and customers led this pharmacist's nominator to submit her name on Drug Topics' ballot for outstanding pharmacists.

Harbin's leadership as assistant pharmacy team leader of this Quincy, Ill., store is what impressed her nominator most. "Melissa's guidance ensures the efficient operation of our pharmacy. She sees the best in each member of the staff, whether it be delivery driver, clerk, tech, or assisting pharmacist. She is always available to answer customers' questions no matter how trivial or complicated they may be. She has helped each of the certified technicians prepare for the PTCB exam. She has represented the profession at numerous public functions. She is designing a diabetes clinic to assist patients on a daily basis," said her nominator.

Harbin, who has worked at ShopKo for four years, stresses the importance of listening to customers. "It's not that you have time; you make time. It's the customer you are talking about. You are not in the business for yourself, but for the customer. My philosophy is, if I can't teach people I work with the right way of doing things and how to interact with people and give them information I know, then I'm not doing anyone a service. I may have learned something other people don't know. If I just keep it to myself and if I'm not here one day, the customer may not get the answer he or she needs. It's a waste of my education if I don't share information with my staff and customers."

Herbal medicine and diabetes are two topics Harbin specializes in. She's given seminars on herbals and drug interactions. When it comes to diabetes patients, she said, "If someone comes and asks about a meter or wants to buy one, and I'm here, he doesn't leave until I know he knows how to use that meter."

HOSPITALS

Yukping Chiu has been hanging her white coat at New York Harbor Healthcare System in Brooklyn for more than 18 years. This year, her dedication and experience earned her a promotion to the position of infectious disease pharmacist. She is also responsible for the hospital's home-based primary care unit as well as its anticoagulation clinic. Her nominator pointed out that she has improved monitoring of HIV patients for compliance, streamlined the refill process for HIV medication, and enhanced the level of pharmaceutical care provided to patients.

But when told that she has been praised for her major accomplishments in helping patients, Chiu is humble. "A drug is only good when a patient takes it," she said. "I help to make sure the patients understand what's good and bad about their medicine and what they should expect. Before they begin taking any drug, I counsel them about the importance of adherence. You have to take the drug according to a schedule, even if you have minor problems."

Chiu insists on giving patients her home phone number, and if patients don't call her, she takes it upon herself to call them. She recalled one HIV patient who lost his ability to speak following a stroke. She called his mother very early Easter Sunday to explain his drug therapy. "If I can help someone, then I feel very happy. Money is only part of the reason for a job. You have to have a passion for the job," she said.

Chiu is also responsible for training students at Long Island University's Arnold & Marie Schwartz College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. If that isn't enough, she has responsibility for chart reviews for St. Albans, the hospital's long-term extended care facility.

CHAINS

Dave Salmi was speechless when he learned of his nomination for outstanding pharmacist. But in only one year of working at Walgreens in his hometown of Avon Lake, Ohio, this 20-year veteran of pharmacy has earned glowing accolades from co-workers. "Dave has shown outstanding patience and offered a caring ear to anyone who needed it. Not only is he knowledgeable about medications and how they work, he also has an incredible sense of humor that our customers just love," gushed his nominator.

Salmi was also praised for being "extremely thorough in all of his technicians' training, not limited to, but including, ordering, inventory control, patient confidentiality, and learning how to deal with our sometimes trying computer system. He has no problem explaining things more than once if we are eager to learn it."

Noting that there are about 40,000 people in his community and about seven pharmacies within a two-mile radius, Salmi said his philosophy for helping Walgreens beat the competition is easy: "Fast service, being friendly, and treating people like they want to be treated." His nominator added, "Dave has a strong belief in keeping patients informed about their medication and how to take it, and also about any drug interactions with other pills, OTCs, or even foods they should avoid."

MILITARY

Lt. Col. Edward Zastawny worked for a pharmacy chain as well as a medical center in his hometown of Canton, Ohio. He didn't like his work schedule or the lack of opportunity for advancement, so he decided to call an Air Force recruiter who had sent him a letter when he graduated from pharmacy school.

The one-hour phone call that ensued changed Zastawny's career. It led to a 18-year military career that has included stints at Andrews Air Force Base, where he was chief of pharmacotherapy services; the Air Force Academy, where he was chief of pharmacy; the Department of Defense (DoD) Pharmacoeconomic Center, where he was a pharmacy consultant; and Wilford Hall Medical Center, Lackland AFB, Texas, where he recently assumed the position of deputy commander of the pharmacy squadron.

"There was a steep learning curve for someone who was never associated with the military," Zastawny said. "For the longest time, I was just trying to provide the service necessary for our patients and meet all the fiscal and policy constraints. The Pharmacoeconomic Center and leadership in the DoD have come along in the past five years and freed up money. They recognized that pharmacies have been chronically underfunded for years and have expanded the pharmacy benefit."

Zastawny's nominator gave him much more credit: "Dr. Zastawny has contributed immensely to the expansion and management of the Department of Defense pharmacy benefit. The direct influence on DoD derived from his clinical reviews and pharmacoeconomics cost analyses resulted in enterprise-wide formulary contracts saving DoD more than $7.5 million. His clinical acumen has been a vital force in molding a sound DoD formulary system, which serves 8.7 million patients and provides more than 110 million prescriptions a year."

Sandra Levy

 



Sandra Levy. THE VOTES ARE IN.

Drug Topics

2002;19:57.