Three pharmacists share their stories, challenges, and lessons learned.
Elizabeth Gooking Greenleaf blazed a trail as the first female pharmacist in the United States, opening a Boston apothecary shop in 1727—the only one helmed by a woman in the entirety of the New England colonies.1
Since then, many thousands of women have joined the same ranks as Greenleaf. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 57.8% of all practicing pharmacists in 2020 were women,2 and data from that same year from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy showed that women made up 64.6% of the total number of pharmacy students enrolled in their first professional degree program.3
Today, Drug Topics® shares the story of 3 women making their own mark on the industry.
For Zarina Jalal, PharmD, community pharmacy runs in the family. Her earliest role model was her father, who owned Lincoln Pharmacy in Albany, New York, when she was growing up.
“I was always surrounded by pharmacy,” said Jalal, who is now supervising pharmacist at Lincoln Pharmacy, which has served the Albany community since 1935 and has been owned by her family since 1988. “I’m the youngest of 3 [siblings]. When my mom needed a break, she’d drop me off at the pharmacy,” she joked.
She remembers taking countless naps in her dad’s office at the pharmacy. Today, however, her days are spent managing the team of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians.
“I always loved coming to the pharmacy and seeing what my Dad did,” she said. “I didn’t like the hours; he was always at work. Growing up, he didn’t have a backup pharmacist—he was always running the entire show.”
Although that experience gave Jalal pause when pursuing a career
as a community pharmacist, she has relief help from the other pharmacists on her team. That help enabled her to spend a day recently serving as a luminary for the Community Pharmacy Enhanced Services Network (CPESN)—a clinically integrated, nationwide organization of local networks made up of individual community-based pharmacies working to empower community pharmacy practice—and helping with the Flip the Pharmacy initiative. This practice transformation initiative “aims to ‘flip’ community-based pharmacies away from point-in-time, prescription-level care processes and business models to longitudinal and patient-level care processes and business models through the use of hands-on coaching.”4
That same day, Jalal also popped back into the pharmacy to give the pharmacist “a bit of a break,” coached a pharmacy technician on her team, and ended the day at a fundraiser for a local assemblyman who is also
Jalal is no stranger to advocating for community pharmacy. In October 2020, she wrote an opinion piece published in Albany’s Times Union urging the New York Legislature to sign a bill regulating pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs).5
“Like [then–New York Governor Andrew] Cuomo, I have followed in
my father’s footsteps to a profession where I proudly serve my community,” she wrote, referring to Cuomo’s father, Mario Cuomo, who served as New York governor from 1983 to 1994. “I also grew up in my father’s shadow and take great pride in upholding my father’s legacy. I want the same for my children. I want them to have the option of upholding the legacy of Lincoln Pharmacy and serving the community that has supported us for so many years.”
New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced in January 2022 that
she had signed a bill requiring the licensure and registration of PBMs.6 “This landmark law creates the most comprehensive regulatory framework in the country for [PBMs], increasing transparency for consumers and shedding light on the cost of prescription drugs,” Hochul said in a news release. “Navigating costs associated with medications and insurance can be difficult, so I am proud to sign this legislation to make it that much easier.”
Looking back on her life and career so far, Jalal said she understands the “virtue of patience.”
“I’m someone who likes to see results for my actions—I want to see my results instantly,” she noted.“But you have to lay a foundation and do the groundwork. You won’t see the results immediately. It may be a year or two later.”
Michelle Farrell, PharmD, BCACP, grew up on a dairy farm in a small town in Wisconsin. She credits the now-retired Connie Kraus, PharmD, of University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics in Madison, with inspiring her to become a pharmacist.
Today, Farrell is a pharmacist and owner of Boscobel Pharmacy in Boscobel, Wisconsin, and Center Pharmacy in Richland Center, Wisconsin. Within her practices, smoking cessation programs are one of her passions, she explained. Farrell’s mother, who was a smoker, passed away in 2006 due to lung cancer.
Farrell describes herself as a “strong tobacco-cessation advocate. ”That means she actively engages in conversations with patients to get them to quit smoking. That conversation might take place when a patient shows up at her pharmacy with a prescription to address bronchitis or for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease brought on by smoking.“ The copays and the drugs are adding up. The pill burden is adding up. They’re really amenable to accepting recommendations for change,” said Farrell, who’s a CPESN luminary for Wisconsin.
Her approach with patients is simple: Farrell asks, “Have you considered quitting smoking?” Often, the question prompts a longer conversation about the cost of quitting and the patient’s inability to tolerate smoking-cessation medication in the past, she explained. “That’s a great opportunity to have a conversation and immediately adjudicate a claim with their health insurer to see what’s covered and [to] get them set up for that ‘quit event,’” Farrell said.
Her advice for early-career pharmacists? “Be a sponge; soak in all the information around you,” she said. “Identify what you enjoy and what you don’t enjoy.”
Brooke Kulusich followed her older sister into the pharmacist profession.“I was very inspired by her journey,” she said. “I remember how much she studied and how hard she worked— the initial semesters that she was
in school and how hard they were. I really saw her persevere and grind through it.”
Kulusich is a PharmD candidate at the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy in Pennsylvania, graduating in 2022. She also serves as the 2021
to 2022 American Pharmacy Association–Academy of Student Pharmacists speaker of the house.
“We had quite a bit of illness in our family,” said Kulusich about her decision to go to pharmacy school. “I watched our grandparents get sick and be in the hospital, [and] I remember how my parents would struggle to play doctor or pharmacist. I wanted to play that role as a pharmacist and help families.”
Next up for Kulusich is a job at a management consulting firm in Chicago, where she’ll be “putting the white coat away.” Kulusich will work on a team that provides strategic business advice to health plans and biotechnology companies to help them improve their sales and marketing efforts.
As she prepares to embark on that journey, Kulusich has one piece of advice for her younger self: “Step outside your comfort zone. That’s where you’ll find the most growth and meaning.”