Rite Aid’s Afilaka goes ‘above and beyond’
For Rite Aid’s pharmacist Femi Afilaka, pharmacy is about “going above and beyond.”
“It is a personal habit of mine to sometimes reach out [to my patients] when either I haven’t seen a patient of mine for a long time or when they are not able to actually drive to the pharmacy,” Afilaka told Drug Store News. Afilaka will go out of his way to ensure his customer’s receive their medications when needed. “That ties into going above and beyond,” he said. “Not necessarily just staying within your job description, but stepping outside of the box and doing things that you know will help out your customers.”
Afilaka is a pharmacist in a Newark, Del.-based Rite Aid store and has been with the company since March 2003. In that time he has developed a reputation for his devotion to patient care, for delivering that extra touch of customer service and for truly embracing the “fast and friendly” company initiative. And that solid work ethic also helps him lead by example as a pharmacist trainer for his district.
“When it comes to our associates and the people that I personally train, it is one of our core values to provide an environment that inspires and motivates the best people to work for us, at our stores,” he said. “They have to always possess a positive attitude … a positive attitude on a day-to-day basis will help them on their journey.“
His best advice for up-and-coming pharmacists? Look for challenging assignments. “You need to be able to challenge yourself and take responsibility for self-development,” he said. “Rite Aid already provides us with an environment that brings the best out of us as employees,” he added, but it’s up to each individual pharmacist to determine how to go “above and beyond.”
Afilaka is a certified CPR trainer, important because in order to be certified as an immunizing pharmacist, each pharmacist must be trained in how to administer CPR. “Throughout my career I’ve learned to take risks and be zealous. It’s hard for me to say no because I love to take on challenges,” he said. “I accept challenges because it helps me grow as a pharmacist and an individual.”
CVS pharmacists show commitment to diversity
Josephine Hau and Ali Hamed
Two pharmacists working at CVS/pharmacy locations 3,000 miles apart exemplify the chain’s commitment to the diverse array of communities it serves.
Because of their efforts, Josephine Hau, a CVS pharmacist in Baldwin Park, Calif., and Ali Hamed, a pharmacist in the CVS store in Springhill, Fla., are national recipients of the company’s Paragon Award, an annual recognition of what CVS calls its “best of the best.”
“Our patients have a choice of where they can bring their scripts,” the 30-year-old Hamed said recently. “So we strive to earn their trust by giving them quality care, our full attention and the best customer service every time.”
A CVS spokesman called Hamed, the “go-to” pharmacist in his area for training new pharmacists and technicians, noting that earlier this year he organized an immunization program for local nursing home patients and provided medication education through community outreach programs.
Hamed, who said he was inspired to go into pharmacy after watching his father deal with Type 1 diabetes throughout his life, noted that working for CVS allows him to be part of a comprehensive healthcare team.
“I feel my team not only includes my immediate pharmacy staff, but also includes team members from other areas of the company that together connect the dots to ensure easy and convenient means for patients to receive their prescriptions,” he said.
For her part, CVS executives said Hau has shown “excellent leadership of her pharmacy team.”
As a pharmacist in a community with a large Chinese population, Hau’s ability to speak her patients’ native language provides an invaluable service to the community and helps ensure that patients fully understand their medications and how to use them.
It has helped drive patients from Baldwin Hills and the surrounding area into her store and led many physicians in the area to refer their Chinese-speaking patients to her.
Outside of the store, Hau volunteers her time to counsel seniors on their medications, creating what executives said is “an environment that allows them to feel comfortable to approach her with any question they may have.”
In addition, she works to promote the profession by speaking at high school career fairs where she advises prospective pharmacy students about the classes they should be taking to get into pharmacy school and regularly mentors students already enrolled in a college-level pharmacy program.
Walgreens’ Markes-Wilson: Extraordinary care for all
When she left her native Jamaica and entered St. John’s University in Queens, N.Y., two decades ago, 16-year-old Shauna Markes-Wilson aspired to be a pediatrician. However, it wasn’t long before a chance meeting altered those plans and sent her career in a slightly different direction.
“I met another student from the Caribbean; his name was Angel, and he was indeed my guardian angel,” the store manager at a Walgreens pharmacy in Atlanta’s Piedmont Hospital recalled. “He was an enthusiastic pharmacy major and pointed me in the direction of my current path.”
At that point in her life, she said, taking courses in pharmacy was only a way to prepare for medical school.
“But somewhere between the fourth and fifth year, I fell in love with pharmacy,” Markes-Wilson said. “I was intrigued by how drugs worked in the body and the impact that pharmacists have on the lives of patients in the community. The more I learned about the profession, the more excited I was to become a pharmacist.”
Fifteen years later, Markes-Wilson heads an 18-person pharmacy staff (seven pharmacists and 11 technicians) that provides traditional and specialty medications at Piedmont Hospital. She and the other pharmacists in her pharmacy provide care for a range of complex conditions, including cancer, hepatitis C, HIV, multiple sclerosis, rheumatology and organ transplants.
In addition, the pharmacy provides medication counseling and injection training, and helps patients get financial help through co-pay assistance and free drug programs.
Working with patients who are dealing with complex conditions and who often face financial hardships is both challenging and rewarding, and helps her remember what initially drove her to pursue a career in health care.
“I thrive on helping our patients,” Markes-Wilson said. “It’s music to my ears to hear from a hepatitis C patient that he or she achieved a cure, and we were able to help them obtain the medication. And, I feel great reward when I can help an oncology patient without insurance gain access to a life-saving chemotherapy drug.”
Possessing what she described as “extreme passion” for her work, Markes-Wilson said she tries to lead by example, demanding that her pharmacy staff provide patients with the utmost in care.
“Our No. 1 focus is giving extraordinary customer care to every patient, all the time,” she said. “After that, everything else will fall into place.”
That same dedication to giving patients the highest level of care extends to Markes-Wilson’s work outside the pharmacy where she regularly works with such organizations as the Leukemia Lymphoma Society and Delete Blood Cancer; participates in such community-based health initiatives as AIDS walks and hepatitis C support groups; and volunteers with HERO for Children, an organization that assists, teaches and mentors underprivileged children living with AIDS.