Florida Pharmacy Owner: "They Call Me First"

NOVEMBER 22, 2018
Karen Berger, PharmD
Shahida Choudhry, PharmD, is the proud owner of Palms Pharmacy in Tampa, Florida.

A Brooklyn, New York, native, she is a graduate of the Arnold & Marie Schwartz College of Pharmacy at Long Island University. Choudhry started out working in a chain pharmacy in the San Francisco area. In 2006, she and her husband moved to Tampa, where she began working in a pharmacy job that took her away from patients. She soon realized that was not the right fit, and she went back to a chain.

Choudhry loved her job at Publix. She was known as the neighborhood pharmacist, working at the only pharmacy in her town. “I had patients calling me first before calling the doctor,” she said. “It was a true dream job.” During her 10 years there, Choudhry learned the business side of the pharmacy while becoming close with other employees and patients. She was also busy with her family that now included 2 children.

In 2014, a discussion with a patient resonated with Choudhry. This patient regularly drove 30 minutes to the Publix and one day suggested that Choudhry open her own pharmacy.

By 2015, Choudhry had enrolled in a pharmacy ownership class, and she was ready to take the plunge. With the help of family and friends, she quickly learned how to take on the task of opening a pharmacy, including construction, leasing space, and licensing.

On April 15, 2016, Choudhry cried with joy as she cut the red ribbon at the grand opening of Palms Pharmacy in Tampa. She knew her work was just beginning and that she needed to attract patients to the pharmacy. Choudhry went to local doctors to gain their trust. The doctors sent her their most difficult patients and were impressed with how the team at Palms Pharmacy went above and beyond for them.

Choudhry started a marketing campaign with a picture of herself and her technician of 10 years. Many patients were thrilled to follow their favorite pharmacy staff members to Palms.

But soon, Choudhry said, she realized she “had to think outside the box. Filling prescriptions and [pharmacy benefit manager] reimbursements were not going to pay the bills.”

To increase her knowledge, Choudhry enrolled in a hormone balancing compounding class and took her new knowledge to the local doctors who trusted her. Now these doctors send lab results to Choudhry and give her the freedom to make clinical recommendations.

She sends over the recommendation, and the doctor writes the prescription. Then Choudhry sits down with the patient for a 30-minute counseling session. “Patients love it. Doctors love it. I love it,” she said.

Choudhry enjoys seeing the progression of care as patients check in with her monthly on their progress. “I love hearing from patients that they feel great and have no more hot flashes,” she said.

In addition to hormone compounding, Palms Pharmacy also does a lot of compounding for gastroenterologists, obstetricians/gynecologists, proctologists, and urologists. Recently, Choudhry compounded a medication for a small child who had pinworms. The mother was extremely thankful that she was able to come up with a great-tasting formula that the young patient could tolerate.

Every quarter, Palms Pharmacy invites a local physician to speak to patients at the pharmacy. A recent presentation on weight loss had a great turnout. Choudhry also provides off-site flu clinics at local schools, where the employees appreciate not having to take time off to get the vaccination, and she can promote the pharmacy.

Choudhry thinks it is important to serve the community. Palms Pharmacy has donated to the Hurricane Maria relief effort in Puerto Rico, local parent–teacher associations and sports teams, and medical school missions, to name a few. “Anytime there is an opportunity, we enjoy giving back,” she said.

Patients are greeted by name and look forward to the complimentary coffee and different snacks that Palms Pharmacy provides. The pharmacy also offers brown bag events, compression stock fittings, diabetes education, durable medical equipment, free blood pressure checks, immunizations, medication synchronization, medication therapy management, and patient medication reviews. In addition, it works with drug manufacturers and representatives to help patients reduce their payments and delivers bedside to patients in assisted-living facilities.

For Choudhry, it is all about taking care of her patients. “As soon as they open our front doors, they realize that they are home. I am now the local pharmacist who patients entrust with their families’ health,” she said.

“They call me first,” Choudhry said.




 

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