Pharmacy Times

Market Manager of the Year: Focused on Americans’ Health and Wellness

Author: Jennifer Whartenby Barrio, Associate Editor

Tom Roberts' passionate commitment to serving patients and their communities is one of the qualities that earned him Walmart's 2010 Market Health and Wellness Manager of the Year Award.

For Tom Roberts, pharmacy is a family affair. Roberts’ father was a community pharmacist in Tallapoosa, Georgia, for 35 years, and his daughter will begin pharmacy school at his alma mater, Mercer University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, this fall.

Roberts says that he gave his daughter the same advice his father passed to him: “You will get out of your career what you put into it.” He told her to be passionate about pharmacy and appreciate the opportunity she will have to help and serve humanity.

This passionate commitment to serving patients and their communities is one of the qualities that earned Roberts Walmart’s 2010 Market Health and Wellness Manager of the Year Award. Roberts has worked for Walmart for 17 years, beginning as a pharmacy manager in 1993 and advancing to his current position as regional Health and Wellness director.

In his career, Roberts has seen great changes in the profession, particularly as pharmacists face the greater use of technology and an expanded role in an evolving health care system. With this in mind, Pharmacy Times asked Roberts to reflect on the past, present, and future states of pharmacy.

Q: What is Walmart’s philosophy on health and wellness?
A: Walmart’s philosophy on health and wellness is to provide accessible and affordable health care of the highest quality to the American people. Walmart launched the $4 generic prescription program a few years ago. Soon after, we began the 90-day supply for $10 program. Another exciting initiative we have begun is installing medical clinics in our stores, which are in partnership with local health care systems.

Q: How do technological improvements help the profession?
A:
I am very passionate about the use of technology in the profession of pharmacy. I see technology as a tool that will enable the entire health care profession to be more efficient in taking care of the needs of our patients. Electronic medical records will be utilized in the future to improve efficiency in all of our Health and Wellness businesses. Technology must be embraced by all health care providers in order to relieve some of the stress on an already over-capacity health care system in the United States.

However, we must utilize technology for what it is—a tool that is used to aid a health care professional in providing care with the utmost efficiency and accuracy. We must never allow technology to take the place of personalized service to our patients.

Q: How have you seen the role of the pharmacist change over the course of your career?
A:
Years ago, the pharmacist was viewed as the man in the white coat behind the counter who gave patients pills to make them feel better. Now, the pharmacist is considered as part of the total health care team for our patients. Medication therapy management, disease state management, diabetic education, clinical rounds, and nutritional counseling are part of the daily routine of today’s pharmacist.

Q: What is the most important issue in the field of pharmacy today?
A:
The most important issue today is keeping up with the incredible demand for our services from our patients. With the ever-growing population, there is an enormous need for accessible health care. We in the health care industry must ensure we are able to provide the quality and quantity of health care that America will demand in the future.

Q: What changes do you predict for pharmacy in the next 5 to 10 years?
A:
This is such an exciting time to be in the profession of pharmacy. With increasing demand on our health care resources, our vision centers, pharmacies, and clinics must be prepared to meet the challenges as a primary care provider for our patients in the very near future.

Q: What is the most rewarding part about being regional Health and Wellness director?
A:
We have a tagline at Walmart: “Save Money, Live Better.” That statement could not be more relevant than in today’s economic environment. I have the opportunity each day to work with the most amazing associates in our field to provide the highest quality of affordable and accessible health care to the American people. In my opinion, I could not have chosen a more gratifying and rewarding career.