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Midwestern University College of Pharmacy, Downers Grove
Independent Pharmacies: The Overlooked Health Source
by Ruba Samara, PharmD Candidate, Midwestern University College of Pharmacy, Student Chapter President
When I was 5 years-old, I would hear stories from my mother of her days working as a pharmacy technician at an independent pharmacy in Kuwait. She would boast about her workdays in the pharmacy and her love for her white coat. My passion for pharmacy began as a child, and it grew through my mother. My mother had a dream of helping others, and I soon realized that I shared that dream. As an undergraduate student, I studied biology, which helped me grow fonder of the human body. Learning new processes of the human body at the cellular level helped push me towards a career in the medical field, and it helped prepare me to become a student pharmacist.
While studying as an undergraduate student, I chose to work in a pharmacy setting that allowed me to develop a relationship with my patients to deliver the best patient care possible and the best health outcomes. I accepted a position at an independent pharmacy located at the Little Company of Mary Outpatient Center in Evergreen Park. Through working at an independent pharmacy in an urban community, I recognized the weak and unestablished health education infrastructure. I realized that our pharmacy's patient population had a profound health literacy issue, and I also realized that the many medical compliance problems stemmed from a lack of knowledge. This motivated me to team up with pharmacists and physicians to provide education sessions to lead our patients toward healthy lifestyles through proper understanding. Although our pharmacy team was small, we had astonishing results and noticeable improvements in our patient population.
Along with having a positive impact within the local community, working at an independent pharmacy improved my interprofessional skills through the idea of integrated health. Although we are an outpatient pharmacy, we work directly with the inpatient staff to deliver medications to patients discharged from the hospital. I work with social workers to check patient coverage on medications such as DOACs, and I can work with doctors to find better alternatives that are less costly for the patient. I also provide counseling to the patients regarding their new medications and help them better understand their disease states. After all, pharmacists are the most accessible health care professionals, and we follow through with the patient until the end.
While enjoying my work experiences at the Evergreen Park independent pharmacy, I also began working at two other locations. The pharmacies were located inside health clinics, which helped strengthen my ability to interact with healthcare providers of various backgrounds. I enjoyed working at each of these sites because of the clinical setting, which allowed for a more interdisciplinary network. This allowed me to pursue my goal of optimizing patient care. While working, I can ask questions regarding medications while learning the indication and pharmacology of each drug. I can share my knowledge during each patient interaction as I improve my patient communication skills.
The COVID-19 pandemic has posed a new threat to independent pharmacies as well as vulnerable communities. Many retail chains have become vaccination sites and have been given access to the vaccines. Meanwhile, independent pharmacies are still waiting to be added as vaccination sites. The pandemic has hit many urban communities the hardest, and their best healthcare access is independent pharmacies. We are part of the community, and many patients trust us to ensure patient care delivery whenever they need it. We hope to continue to impact the community and our patients positively; however, we are currently overlooked by the state. As a pharmacy student, I took an oath to protect my patients and care for them. I hope that sometime soon, I can provide my patients with the COVID-19 vaccine they need to walk around safely in the neighborhood. I will continue to bring awareness to independent pharmacies to optimize patient care for our communities.