H-E-B’s Lehew, Stehling ‘do whatever it takes’
Tom Stehling and Derek Lehew
While pharmacists across the country have forged close relationships with their patients, providing them with top-notch care and a wide array of services, few have gone to such lengths as a pair of pharmacists working for the H-E-B grocery chain in Texas have.
The two pharmacists — Derek Lehew, the pharmacy manager at H-E-B’s store in Waxahachie, and Tom Stehling, a staff pharmacist at an outlet in San Antonio — have been repeatedly praised for their willingness to do whatever it takes to ensure patients get the best care.
“He is our favorite H-E-B employee because he went over and above the call of duty — a great example of the high standards H-E-B employs,” a pharmacy patient said about how Lehew reacted to her forgetting to pick up a prescription she needed to take prior to having surgery.
“We had been with family celebrating our nephew’s return from Iraq,” the woman said in her letter to the company. “I was scheduled to have surgery first thing the next morning. Two days before, I had turned in a prescription for a medication I was to take before leaving for the hospital. On our way home from the party, I remembered I hadn’t pick it up. We explained our situation to the store manager, but he wasn’t authorized to handle pharmacy matters, but agreed to call Derek at home.”
Lehew, who lives 15 miles away, was spending a quiet evening with his family. But knowing how crucial it was that the patient take her medication prior to her surgery, he jumped in the car and was at the store in about 20 minutes to retrieve the prescription.
H-E-B executives say the letter commending Lehew was one in a long line of praises from customers. Whether it’s coming in after hours or taking the time to thoroughly discuss a child’s diabetes with his or her parents, Lehew’s patients are appreciative of his diligence and the level of caring he shows for their well-being.
“Derek gets frequent great comments from his customers,” SVP pharmacy Craig Norman said. “He really treats everyone as family each and every day.”
Meanwhile, H-E-B customers have cited Stehling for his attention to detail and helping patients get the care they need.
Stehling’s pharmacy manager received a phone call from a patient who told him Stehling had literally saved his life after he told the pharmacist that he was feeling under the weather.
“Tom recommended that one of our screeners do a blood-glucose test,” Norman explained, noting that the screening showed his glucose levels were extremely high. “Tom instructed him to go straight to the emergency room and to receive further care.”
After a week in the hospital, the patient was released and grateful to Stehling for his efforts.
“He wanted to talk to Tom’s supervisor and said he would be happy to tell anyone what Tom did,” Norman said. “He felt Tom went over and above, and that he saved his life.”
Sam’s Club’s Caven merges passion for people, pharmacy
Sam’s Club pharmacy manager Sarah Caven loves people, and it shows in how she treats the patients at the company’s warehouse club in Mankato, Minn.
“I know it’s a cliché, but I’m a people person,” she said recently. “I love the opportunity to talk to the patient. I see them a lot more than they see their physician, and I know that their contact with me is important for them.”
As manager of the Sam’s Club pharmacy in Mankato, Minn., for the past two and a half years, the 35-year-old Caven oversees a staff that includes herself, another full-time pharmacist and a pair of pharmacy technicians. In addition, she is the company’s pharmacy area manager for Minnesota — overseeing 14 stores in the state — and teaches and trains new Sam’s Club pharmacists in the area. She also is a certified diabetes educator and often works closely with a range of community groups on health fairs and immunization clinics.
“I have a passion for pharmacy,” Caven said. “Since I joined Sam’s Club, I have tried to take that passion and put it into everything I do.”
The most visible evidence of that effort can be seen in the relationship she has developed with her patients. Shoppers in and around Mankato, a city of 41,000 people about 80 miles southwest of Minneapolis, have a wide range of pharmacy options. However, many of those who use the Sam’s Club pharmacy have told Caven that they choose to get their prescriptions filled there because of her presence behind the pharmacy counter.
“I really take the time to get to know them and let them know I care about them,” she said. “I try to find the one thing that sets them apart and makes them special.”
Caven’s highly personalized approach to pharmacy seems to be paying off. While the Sam’s Club in Mankato has existed for 21 years, its pharmacy is only a little over two years old. As a result, the pharmacy is continuing to build its clientele and is one of Sam’s Clubs’ lower-volume prescription operations, filling between 300 and 350 scripts a week.
Still, Caven said that volume is steadily growing — 20% in just the past year — and she expects the growth to continue.
Because her job often takes her away from her club for extended periods, Caven is quick to credit her pharmacy team for the success the Mankato Sam’s Club has seen in its first years. It’s those people, she stressed, who hold down the fort when she is away.
“I think having a pharmacy team that supports you and your initiatives is so helpful,” Caven said. “I would not be able to do what I do without them.”
Excelling in diabetes management, care
From left to right: Sean Allman, Clarrisa Wallace, Kristy Solominksy, Deborah DeYoung and Sonia Borja
For the pharmacists working at Albertsons/Safeway, few things are as important as ensuring that their patients get the best care.
Five pharmacists at the company’s Randalls supermarkets in Austin, Texas, for example, have dedicated themselves to diabetes management. Since February 2013, the pharmacists — Clarissa Wallace, Kristy Solominsky, Deborah DeYoung, Sonia Borja and Sal Solis — have been working closely with the city of Austin, insurer United Healthcare and Austin-based Seton Hospital to help municipal employees learn how to manage their diabetes.
Under the collaborative-care program, city workers are given the flexibility to choose appointment dates and times that fit their schedules. In addition, the pharmacists participate in periodic city-run wellness events where they provide diabetes screenings and get eligible patients enrolled in United Healthcare’s Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance program.
After completing an eight-hour class offered by Seton Hospital’s Center for Diabetes Education, patients see one of the Randalls pharmacists between four and six times over the next year, and their HgA1c and lipid levels are tested. In addition, the pharmacists work with patients to set achievable and measurable goals specific to each person’s individual needs. Since the program’s inception, more than 500 Austin employees have made more than 2,000 visits to the Randalls diabetes specialists.
Earlier this year, the healthcare providers met to evaluate the program’s progress, finding that hospitalizations and emergency room visits among city workers had declined dramatically, and medication adherence had spiked.
In another example of Albertsons/Safeway pharmacists’ total commitment to their patients, Sean Allman, who joined the company two years ago as Safeway’s director of pharmacy, has spearheaded a variety of clinical projects and educational programs in California.
Allman, who also is an adjunct faculty member at California Northstate University College of Pharmacy in Sacramento and a preceptor for students there and at the University of California San Francisco and at nearby Tuoro University’s College of Pharmacy, has worked closely with other faculty members at these schools to help students develop the skills they need to operate in the real world.
“Not only is Sean an effective role model for pharmacy students, he also works well with patients and staff members,” a Safeway spokeswoman said, noting Allman’s efforts to provide a Mirixa clinical platform, a variety of medication therapy management programs, biometric screenings and flu clinics, and his plans to develop a travel health program for Safeway stores.
In addition, she noted that Allman is working to widen the scope of the services he provides patients — working to become an accredited diabetes educator and completing several programs that will see him become accredited as an HIV pharmacist.
Outside of Safeway, Allman has been involved in numerous community events, including the Annual Family Health Fair in San Francisco, which this month will offer 100 visitors free flu shots, and a 2014 presentation at the San Francisco Senior Center on the benefits of the Zostavax shingles vaccine.