Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, Rhode Island.
The beginning of a pharmacy career is an exciting time, as students become licensed and can finally put to practical use the skills and knowledge they have acquired while earning a PharmD. It seems, however, that most newly licensed pharmacists have years of pharmacy experience under their belts through comprehensive training programs, internships, and part-time pharmacy jobs. While experiences vary from company to company, one aspect remains the same: the desire to connect with patients in a meaningful way to improve their overall health and well-being.
Home-Grown CVS Talent
Much like a major league baseball team has a minor league system to develop its talent, CVS/pharmacy has its own version: a training program that follows pharmacy students through their years in pharmacy school. One of their top prospects is Amy Lamboy, a recent graduate of the 6-year PharmD program at the University of Rhode Island College of Pharmacy. Lamboy says, “I have always been interested in science and health care and pharmacy seemed like a perfect fit.” She has been working for CVS/ pharmacy for the past 7 years since her second year of pharmacy school when she started as an intern. In that role, Lamboy supported the pharmacists in counseling patients and conversing with physicians as well as preparing prescriptions. Because CVS/pharmacy offers an undergraduate pharmacy preparatory training, Lamboy was able to participate in complementary training for each year of pharmacy school. Students in the program get acclimated to the pharmacist position as well as get valuable medication training that covers OTCs and patient counseling.
According to Lamboy, one of the most important aspects of the CVS/pharmacy training is the business aspect—payroll and interpreting business reports—that may not be covered in a traditional pharmacy program. The Massachusetts native first became interested in CVS/pharmacy as a company in high school when a friend’s father, a CVS/pharmacy pharmacist, spoke highly of his work and the company. While working at her first pharmacy, Lamboy was further inspired by her mentor pharmacist. “He really focused on patient care and being able to help the patients, and that really appealed to me,” said Lamboy.
During the last year of pharmacy school, Lamboy began her pharmacy rotations, which was the final piece to preparing Lamboy for taking on her own pharmacy. “It was my job and their job [CVS] to make sure I was prepared for my first day where I had final review of the prescriptions,” said Lamboy. “CVS most definitely prepared us before we were at that level. My first day as a pharmacist was eye-opening, because there was no one for me to go to, but you are empowered enough. I had the tools and the skills needed.”
Currently, Lamboy is being trained to be a supervisor, a process that could take up to 5 years. At the pharmacy supervisor level, Lamboy would be able to oversee 15 to 20 pharmacies and their operations, ensuring a high level of patient care. “When I first started studying pharmacy, they used to have a shortage of pharmacists. Now there is more of a surplus of pharmacists, which is good for the patients, because companies can be picky about the pharmacists they hire. It means better patient care,” says Lamboy.
The “Rite” Stuff
By the time Luke Gilmore graduated with his PharmD from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, he was already a seasoned professional at Rite Aid. Gilmore always had an interest in the medical field and thought that pharmacy would be his ideal job. Gilmore started at Rite Aid right out of high school as a technician working during summers and holidays. Gilmore earned a competitive summer corporate internship working in various areas of the corporate office in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. Today, Gilmore is enjoying a position as a pharmacy manager, while also serving as immunization trainer for various Rite Aid regions.
Gilmore’s first job as an intern just happened to be in his hometown. “It was a rewarding experience. I already had a good working relationship with the physicians, and I knew many of the patients.” But according to Gilmore, it was the corporate internship that “basically showed me where I want to be, which is somewhere in a management capacity in corporate or a regional management position.” Gilmore points to that corporate internship as one of the most positive aspects of his Rite Aid experience, “It was a really positive experience—only 10 people get to go through it. It is something I feel proud of, because I got a look at the company through the corporate side and got to see how they operated on a daily basis.”
In fact, the training at Rite Aid enabled Gilmore to slide into the role of pharmacist with ease. “You learn, soup to nuts, what to do and how to effectively run the store.”
Gilmore is quick to point to his other passions: immunizations and medication therapy management. It is there that he can make important connections with his patients. “It has been an excellent experience,” says Gilmore.
From Service Clerk to Pharmacist
Meagan Myers, PharmD, may be a recent graduate of University of Illinois at Chicago’s Pharmacy School, but she is no newbie as far as Walgreens is concerned. She has been a licensed pharmacist since May 2009 but, in fact, she is a 9-year Walgreens veteran. Myers began her Walgreens career as a service clerk and later applied to and was accepted to the position of pharmacy technician. “I wanted to challenge myself and see what being a technician was all about,” says Myers. She liked it enough to attend pharmacy school and pursue pharmacy as a full-time career. At the time of her enrollment, there was a shortage of pharmacists, and an opportunity for a rewarding career had presented itself. With a bachelor’s degree in biology under her belt and her technician background, Myers felt comfortable with the challenging pharmacy program. Currently, she serves Walgreens as a full-time pharmacist floater, filling in at different stores as needed.
Looking ahead to possible job opportunities, Myers has taken note of Walgreens’ specialty pharmacies. “So far, there is an HIV-specialty Walgreens, but they may be expanding to other disease states,” notes Myers, whose interests include HIV, cardiovascular issues, and diabetes. “I would like to be a pharmacy manager and challenge myself to be promoted to a store—eventually a specialty Walgreens store.”
Though ambitious and experienced, Myers is not averse to first-day jitters. “On my first day after getting licensed, I was a little nervous because I was going into a store that I did not know. I was not sure how busy or how wellstaffed it would be, but overall I felt prepared to do my job,” says Myers, who credits her successful first day to both her schooling and her years of experience working for Walgreens. Although her experience as a tech has been an advantage so far, she comments, “I find myself trying to help the technicians more than I probably should because I know what needs to be done!”
As is true with so many pharmacists, Myers’ favorite part of the job is the patient interaction. “I really like the patient counseling and being able to help someone when they come in with questions,” says Myers. She further notes, “It definitely takes someone who enjoys interacting with other people. You have to get used to working with people and get comfortable with that aspect of the job.”
These 3 young pharmacists are well on their way to rewarding careers, and each seems to have found the perfect fit at the chain where they began working. Lamboy is pleased with her decision to be a CVS/pharmacy pharmacist, “CVS has been really great for me. I feel like I have endless opportunities.” As for Gilmore, besides getting to provide patient care, he points to some of the more practical aspects of Rite Aid employment. “The benefits are tremendous. That is one of the big reasons I like it so much. You really get taken care of,” says Gilmore. Lastly, Myers says that familiarity is one of the primary reasons she enjoys working at Walgreens so much. “I was 18 when I first started—the company has treated me very well,” she says.