Pharmacist of the Year Embraces the Values of Community Pharmacy

Author: Jennifer Whartenby, Associate Editor

Kelly Lewis, Walmart's Pharmacist of the Year, is a trusted health care professional and valued member of her Kentucky community.

Kelly Lewis is a dedicated community pharmacist and pharmacy manager at Walmart in Carrollton, Kentucky. In this rural town, patients both rely on Lewis as a trusted health care professional and view her as an important contributor to the community. This depth of commitment to her profession and community led Walmart to select Lewis as their 2010 Pharmacist of the Year.

Lewis goes above and beyond for her patients—including once going into the pharmacy at 1 AM to fill a prescription for Zofran for an individual on chemotherapy. She also works hard to build relationships with members of her community. Patients often come to Lewis for counseling and advice, and she cites earning their trust as one of the guiding principles of her practice. Lewis has spent her entire 16-year career at Walmart, and she says the company’s commitment to making a difference in people’s lives is one of the reasons she chose to work at Walmart pharmacy.

Lewis also opted to become a Walmart pharmacist because it afforded her the opportunity to work full time and raise her children, one of whom has autism. When Lewis realized her son would not benefit from a traditional summer camp, she and her family cofounded the nonprofit Camp L.E.A.P. (Learning Experiences at Play), a week-long summer program designed for children with special needs. Founded in 2006, the camp has grown from 30 campers to more than 60 in 2010. Because of community volunteers and private sponsorship, including financial contributions from Walmart, Camp L.E.A.P. provides art, music, sports, and crafts activities free of charge to campers. For more information, visit www.campleap.com.

Talking to Lewis, one can sense the passion and dedication she has to her profession and her community. Pharmacy Times asked Lewis about how she got her start in pharmacy, what she enjoys most about being a community pharmacist, and how she feels the profession is changing.

Q: Why did you decide to become a pharmacist?

A: Growing up, I had an uncle who was a physician and parents who were entrepreneurs in rural eastern Kentucky. Those influences had a real impact on me. Pharmacy in a retail setting was just a natural progression.

Q: What are you most passionate about in your chosen career?

A: My parents raised me with the belief that I have an obligation to contribute to the community in which I live and work. I feel that I have a responsibility to earn the trust and respect of the patients that we serve and an even greater responsibility each day to provide the care that our patients deserve.

Q: What is the best part of being a community pharmacist?

A: The best thing about being a community pharmacist is the opportunity that I have had to develop pharmacist–patient relationships that have lasted my 16 years in the profession. That kind of relationship extends beyond Walmart Pharmacy and into the community in which I live, whether it be the little league field, grocery store, church, or other places.

Q: What are the most important issues for the population you serve in Carrollton, Kentucky?

A: Carrollton is a rural community that is situated halfway between 2 metro markets, Louisville, Kentucky, and northern Kentucky. As with all rural communities, in regard to their pharmaceutical care, trust and accessibility are the 2 most important issues.

Q: Do you feel that the role of the pharmacist is changing?

A: Yes—as more and more prescription medications are converting to OTC, we as pharmacists play an even greater role in providing medicinal information to our patients. That is why developing strong relationships and trust with our patients is so important.

Q: What do you think is the most important issue in the field of pharmacy today?

A: The most important issue in pharmacy today, in my view, is keeping health care costs affordable. Walmart led the way in this regard with the $4 Prescription Program. This was a tremendous step with a farreaching effect, as many others have followed our lead. For many individuals and families, this initiative made the difference in whether or not they received their muchneeded medication. It makes me proud to be a part of this organization.