Pharmacy Careers
Volume 0

Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, Rhode Island.

University of Buffalo winning team: Alexandra Centono, Kathryn Jones, LilianaYohonn, Christina Ramsay, and Advisor Professor Karl Fiebelkorn

Each year, 3 big competitionschallenge pharmacy students toshow off their skills and talents: theAmerican Pharmacists Associationcounseling competition; the AmericanSociety of Health-System Pharmacistsclinical skills competition for2-person teams; and the NationalCommunity Pharmacists Association(NCPA) Pruitt-Schutte StudentBusiness Plan Competition. Twentyyears ago, the University of Buffalowas number 1 in one of those prestigiouscompetitions and has alwaysplaced in the top 5 or top 10. Thisyear was different, however, becausethe all-women team from Buffalobrought home top prize in thePruitt-Schutte Student Business PlanCompetition.


The team consisted of captainKathryn Jones, Christina Ramsay, LilianaYohonn, and Alexandra Centono,advised by Karl D. Fiebelkorn,MBA, RPh, CDM, clinical assistantprofessor, assistant dean for studentaffairs and professional relations, anddirector/editor of the Pharmacy LawNewsletter with the university'sSchool of Pharmacy and PharmaceuticalSciences.

As classmates in Fiebelkorn's businessclass, Jones and Centono decidedto form a team for this competitionwith their friends, Ramsay andYohonn, and the 4 women embarkedon a long but rewarding task ofresearch, legwork, analysis, and presentation.


The team's winning plan focusedon developing a women's pharmacy—a natural idea proposed by thisall-women team. This was the firsttime in the history of the competitionthat an entry has been about a pharmacyfor women—certainly one ofthe aspects that made their plan standout among the tough competition.The plan was to go into a junior partnershipin Rochester, NY, with a compoundingpharmacy. The pharmacywould be geared toward women butwould fill prescriptions for everyonein the family, as the team's researchshowed that women between the agesof 24 and 40 are the number 1 shoppersin pharmacy and the number 1shopper for health care for theirentire family—husband, kids, andparents.

It would be called Isabella's Pharmacyafter the first woman pharmacist,who they discovered throughtheir research to be practicing in the1600s. Prescriptions at Isabella'sPharmacy might include hormones,antidepressants, ob-gyn prescriptions,and anything to do withwomen's issues and health. Accordingto team advisor Fiebelkorn, the pharmacywas designed to be warm andsafe and to make their customers feelcomfortable. The students did a surveyof 100 women and traveled to differenttowns to find the ideal location.They settled on Pittsford, NY,because of its favorable demographics—higher socioeconomic status,more than half the town are women,and a high concentration of prescribers—meaning lots of potentialreferrals from endocrinologists andob-gyns.

As a team advisor, Fiebelkorn wouldpoint them to where they could findinformation but could not tell themwhat to do or put in the plan. Oneaspect he stressed was that the planhad to be firmly based in reality. Hewanted the team to find actual locationswith actual rents, among othervariables. "I do not know if it specificallystates that in the rules, but I tellmy students they must be realistic."For that practical research, he sentthe team to the business librarywhere they discovered the wonderfulworld of demographic research.

Their plan was very conservative,compared with some of their competition.They understood that theirbusiness would start out slow withpart-time pay, one employee dedicatedto marketing, and a remote medicationtherapy management pharmacistwho was bilingual to cater tosome of the Spanish-speaking population.Because 2 of the team membersspeak Spanish, they were able toincorporate that into their presentation.The team even developed alogo—a vine rather than a snakewrapped around a challis.


The team met about 50 or 60 timesduring the course of competitionpreparation. Fiebelkorn would constantlydrill the team with questionsto prepare them for the rigorousquestion and answer session thatwould follow their presentation. Theyeven held a dress rehearsal to be doublyprepared—dress included charcoalgray suits with pink blouses, arunning theme in their business planand presentation. For the rehearsal,Karl brought in colleagues to firesome tough questions their way.These efforts fully prepared thewomen for the competition questionand answer session.

According to Fiebelkorn, the team'sbiggest challenges were the financialsand having them come out right andmake sense. They drove to competitorsand estimated their prescriptionsfilled and compiled a lot of backgroundresearch to make sure theirdata were accurate and consistent.


Once at the NCPA conference inAnaheim, California, the women letloose the nightbefore at Disneylandbeforegiving astellar presentationthe nextday. With 32schools enteredin the competition,the keyis to get intothe top 3. Aftera day of deliberation,theteam learnedtheir 180-pageplan won firstprize.

It is importantto notethat the studentsget nocollege creditsfor their efforts;it ispurely a volunteereffort.Fiebelkorn estimatestheyspent severalhundred hoursresearching andwriting the plan—equivalent toabout 6 to 8 weeks of full-time work.

Previous team members are stillwaiting to utilize and implementtheir business plans.

This year's winning team does notyet know whether they will followthrough and actually open theirpharmacy for women. Whatever thewomen decide to do, however,Fiebelkorn is sure they will be successful."These students are motivated,"he concluded.

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