Celebrate American Pharmacists Month By Taking Time for Mindfulness, Appreciation


In addition to celebrating his colleagues, Medrano said he is taking more time for mindfulness and meditation before going to work each day.

In an interview with Pharmacy Times, Juan Gabriel Medrano, PharmD, a pharmacy manager with Giant Food in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Washington, DC, discussed his career and how he is celebrating American Pharmacists Month. In addition to celebrating his colleagues, Medrano said he is taking more time for mindfulness and meditation before going to work each day.

Q: Can you start by introducing yourself?

A: Sure. My name is Juan Gabriel Medrano. I'm born and raised here in Washington, DC, and from Mount Pleasant specifically. For some people who don't know much about Washington, DC, Mount Pleasant is like a pueblo, predominant or heavy in the Hispanic culture. And I am a proud community pharmacist. I work in the neighborhood that helped mold me, and this neighborhood and this particular place. I work at Giant Food and the building is the Tivoli Theatre. It's also home to where my parents founded a Hispanic theater called GALA Hispanic Theater, where they were able to showcase some of the rich Hispanic culture. So, that was kind of my upbringing. So, me and my 2 brothers and my close friends growing up got to participate and take advantage of what was going on in community engagement, community affairs, and I have been working in my setting for 14 years, and I’m a proud community pharmacist.

Q: How did you get into pharmacy?

A: Well, I enjoyed my undergrad, I studied biochemistry and microbiology. I loved doing research, and I believed that it was a wise decision for me to stay in school. And then when I heard of pharmacy school, I said, ‘Okay, I would love to be able to optimize therapeutic effects and reduce and lessen side effects.’ And I thought pharmacy school would be the right place to home in on that. Looking back on it, I learned so much. I gained so much from my community in pharmacy school. It was in Worcester, Massachusetts; I went to Massachusetts College of Pharmacy, and I remember in my application process—this kind of answers your question—the tsunami had just hit in the Philippines. And I said, okay, I would love to be able to go and offer aid or medical assistance of some form, and if I was a pharmacist already, or having been given more training, I also said to myself I would love to study in a rainforest and go be underneath a shaman or medicine men and women and study traditional practices. And that's what kind of led me into pharmacy school. And I think got me into pharmacy school; I was kind of proud of that essay component.

Q: How have you seen the profession change over your career?

A: Yeah, I've been in the profession now for 14 years, just to date myself a bit, in my setting. So being in one setting, you really do get to see a lot of change. If you spend enough time reflecting upon simple things, [it’s] even your infrastructure or your software. And I know the profession itself has changed immensely. Pharmacists have doctorates, you know, we're in a position where we help manage chronic health conditions, offering nutritional counseling, tests for flu, tests for COVID-19, vaccinations on site, medication therapy management, personalized care. All these different certificates you can get in our industry, now geriatric care. We can prescribe PrEP for HIV. You know, it changes depending on what the state governance allows for. But there's a lot of things.

It's also interesting about what hasn't changed in pharmacy. If you were to ask me that question, you know, we still serve as the front-line health care worker, more accessible than your medical doctors for that matter. And oftentimes, you know, we have the privilege of getting to see our clients 9 times more per year. So, in these interactions and in these meetings, I think what's come about is this understanding that there's this trust and there's this relationship that's had between pharmacists and the pharmacy team, even, and that client and the friendship and the relationship that's held there. So, I know there's a lot that continues to need to change and government and governing bodies need to, how should I say, just not study what was traditionally done, but what's needed for the evolution of the outcomes for our patients, to ensure that they're getting all the services that they can have. In our city, DC, alone, there's 9 health professional shortage areas where the services and some of the most marginalized aren't getting the services. And pharmacists and pharmacy teams and our pharmacy schools and our students are in position to offer these services, but they're not often reimbursed. Or, you know, in DC specifically, we're still not considered to be providers, and our mom-and-pop shops can't reimburse accordingly or get reimbursed for that service. So, you know, the clearest one is what's recently happened with the public health emergency. I think there's been more of a light now that's been placed on what pharmacists are able to offer and the unique position we have in in helping to make a difference.

Q: What is the value of the pharmacist to you?

A: On a personal level, what it means for me is being in a position where I can offer services and help to the people that matter to me, mostly my community, my family, and my friends. And so, you know, that was really rewarding to know that I was in a place where I can be of greatest impact on a larger scale. And then I think pharmacists are invaluable in regard to their vital component in the community, whether it be that 1-on-1 interaction that you have and that engagement you're able to have with your team, and then in turn, also your customers who are going to go home and hear something you mentioned about a nutritional modification or about how they may adjust this medicine or a certain lifestyle modification they can make. Just because you're in a position where you have access to them, and you've built this trusted relationship with them. So, on a minute-to-minute basis, you know, a pharmacist is able to see more than any other practitioner. It's important we are leading with the energy to offer these important resources and educational tools to our customers to ensure that they have the ability to reach optimal outcomes

Q: How are you celebrating this American Pharmacists Month?

A: I'm spending more time in meditation and in mindfulness and making sure that every day, before I go into work, it’s very important for me to be able to hold that disposition I want to have. It works by giving myself 10 minutes of meditation in the morning, longer if possible. Also, this month we visited our local pharmacy associations’ event, the Washington DC Pharmacy Association, where this was a city-wide arts concept that brings together different pharmacy entities in DC and, you know, we got to talk with other heavy hitters in the region on issues that are facing our profession. And, you know, I took my team out; I will continue to entice them there. My team is like my family, so we'll go watch football together. I made sure I got them barbecue yesterday at our favorite local barbecue spot, and those smaller things for me are starting to feel more rewarding. This pharmacy month I will start posting a lot more about different documentaries that I have assisted with in regard to the profession over this month. And then I'll also kind of claim some level of reward in feeling how many people we’re helping, this position of servitude if you would, you know, staying grateful in that.

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