Celebrating Pharmacists: "The Profession Picks You"


Rimple Gabri, PharmD, a pharmacist with Giant Pharmacy for nearly 3 decades, shares her journey into the pharmacy profession.

happy pharmacist giving medications to senior man customer | Image Credit: Ivan - stock.adobe.com


In this conversation, Rimple Gabri, a pharmacist with Giant Pharmacy for nearly three decades, shares her journey into the pharmacy profession. She started with Giant Pharmacy in high school, and her interest in the field grew as she observed the positive impact pharmacists had on patients and their role within the community. Rimple reflects on the evolution of pharmacists throughout her career. She describes the profession's shift from being primarily focused on medication dispensing behind glass panels to becoming an integral part of the community, offering a wide range of services beyond prescription filling. The profession has moved towards a more holistic, preventative, and diagnostic role, with pharmacists providing accessible and digital healthcare solutions.

Q: Can you introduce yourself?

Rimple Gabri: my name is Rimple Gabri. I'm a pharmacist; I've been a pharmacist with Giant Pharmacy, for almost 3 decades. I started with Giant Pharmacy, my senior year of high school. It was just a job I was looking for, and it happened to be in the pharmacy, and my interest kind of grew from there and decided to go to pharmacy school, pursue being a pharmacist. Here we are almost 3 decades later, still with the company, really passionate about what I do, [and] how my profession has changed over the last 3 decades. It's been quite a journey, but it's been a very promising journey and a really rewarding journey for me.

I graduated with a PharmD from Howard University, and, like I said, I've been with the company for a very, very long time, my profession has changed, and my job description has changed over the last 30 years, starting out in a pharmacy to reaching out to different ways of how to expand our pharmacy name and how to go and be part of the community, which was always very important to me. I've always been passionate about helping consumers, helping my customers, thsome of them just became part of my family in terms of they just knew me by my by name, and they would come and talk to me. I think that was the trust and fostering those relationships that kind of transformed my role into what I do now, which is basically a lot of outreaches.

My title at the moment is outreach clinical coordinator, and it basically incorporates anything that has to do with reaching out to our communities, whether it's in nursing homes, whether it's in churches, synagogues, temples, small businesses, big businesses, to go out there and kind of bring awareness of how pharmacists are really you're on omnipresent, different channels of providing services outside of what we are used to, or what we have been used to.

Q: How did you get into the pharmacy profession?

Rimple Gabri: I think one of the reasons that like I mentioned earlier, it was more just a job, and I honestly can say that the profession picked me rather than I picked the profession, and I am really genuinely serious about that is because sometimes you really don't know your destiny. I feel like sometimes it's just kind of right in front of you, and you fall into it, and you look back and you say, ‘Wow, had I not started with giant pharmacy is my first job. What would that look like?’ As a senior in high school, and of course, like a long time ago. things are very different now. The seniors now, compared to 30 years ago, have very different mindsets. Most of them already know where they want to go and what colleges and what they want to pursue, and they've already kind of started that journey in their high school years where, back then, we were just kind of figuring out and picking our interests.

I think what really stroked me deeply was, back in the day, before I landed my job in a pharmacy, I remember visiting and going to with my dad, or my grandmother, and we would pick up prescription, and the pharmacist would be behind these glass panels. I don't know if you remember, but it was back in the day where the pharmacists were behind these glass panels, and it was a very mysterious figure that would work behind the scenes, and as I got older and my first job was in a pharmacy, and by then the glass panels had come down, and the pharmacists were part of the community. It was almost like an extension of health care. That was in such a great geographical reach within for the consumers that I think that's what I liked the most. I didn't realize how it would affect me deeply in terms of helping people and I enjoyed that. I enjoyed customers and patients walking up and being able to talk to the pharmacist, and I would observe that and see how the pharmacists were able to build that trust with the knowledge that they have, and how these consumers and I call them consumers, but they become your patients, they become people that, and you see every day, a lot of these consumers were every day repetitive customers, who would just come by at the pharmacy just to kind of wave and say hi to their favorite pharmacists that was working there.

I think that really kind of influenced me in what I wanted to do for as a profession for myself. I enjoyed how these pharmacists were able to impact someone's life in such a positive manner, and build that trust that was giving these consumers, these patients, these community members, to be able to talk and put their trust, whether it was just about medications, or whether it was sometimes just about not even medications, and I think that was the one factor that I wanted in my job to be more than just a job. It was about how I can be front and center, and when those glass panels came down, and when the pharmacists were part of the community. I think that kind of was my turning point where I knew that this is the professional where I wanted to be. I considered different professions, considered medical school, and those are amazing, and I extremely have so much respect, but something always made me want to come back and go towards pharmacy school and work in a retail pharmacy.

After I graduate it was different options back then: you could do residency, you could go to a hospital setting, you could work with the FDA, you could do retail, and, and because my first job was with retail pharmacy, and I could see how much caliber the pharmacists have and how much influence they have in the community, and that trust. I think that was the major reasons why I wanted to pursue pharmacy school and why I wanted to practice retail after graduation.

Q: How have you seen the pharmacist change and evolve throughout your career?

Rimple Gabri: It has gone from that behind the scenes, as I mentioned earlier, being in glass behind closed doors, being closed off. That was the profession; it was devoted towards dispensing. It was dispensing of medications and filling medications, taking orders of medication. It was very much focused on medication dispensing. That was the very traditional, very conventional, and a traditional pharmacist’s job then. As things gradually changed, as the laws change, in the end, everybody realized the value that the pharmacists have and they can bring to the community, and then they became independent, the glass panels came down and became part of the community. That was the turning point.

I think after that it has been moving towards more holistic, wholesome, preventative, diagnostic tools for the pharmacists. I think the mindset of just, and I shouldn't say just, filling prescriptions, to the change of mindset of what a pharmacist can bring to the table. What a pharmacist can do in terms of helping other professions, like for example, in terms of how COVID changed so much in the mindset of people. It has been all about on demand services, curbside pickups, home delivery, and I think that's how our profession is changing because we're trying to meet with the ongoing needs of people. People want more of those omni-channel options. They want more digital solutions. They want something that can be quickly accessible, and I think the way tthe pharmacies are set up. We're in such graphically placed areas that we are accessible, and I think that is the takeaway because of accessibility, we are able to do more, we're able to go beyond the pharmacy being in a pharmacy, and being able to utilize our education, our knowledge, our sense of how to deal with customers. It's important to be able to communicate and build and foster that relationship.

I think that how the profession has changed because pharmacists have always been one of the very trusted professions. We have been on the top tier, and I think that now even so, we're taking that and we're building it in our communities outside of the pharmacy. We're doing it inside the pharmacies, too. We have tools built in, where consumers can come in and say, ‘I have no access to a health care professional right now, and I am feeling I have these symptoms.’ But there are, at this point in time, at this juncture, we're not able to write prescriptions, even though how things are changing is that there are pharmacists that can write prescriptions for things like birth control pills. So you can see the transformation already. But in terms of like writing prescriptions, we are still working on that and are still able to see how we can help out with that, with diagnosing common infections, but I digress. Because, to your point, I think when a consumer is able to come in and say, ‘I cannot see a doctor, I don't have a doctor,’ we have those digital tools that accessibility built in.

At Giant Pharmacy, currently, we have something called Physicians 360, where consumer can come in, and have that virtual call with the doctor and able to be diagnosed, and I'm talking about more like, your everyday infections and common solutions, and the things that get us down, nothing that is too extensive to diagnose. Then, once they are able to get that diagnosis, the physician sends an electronic prescription to the pharmacist, the pharmacist is able to fill that prescription out, and make sure that patient is taken care of. When I go back to talking about holistic and wholesome, is what I'm saying is that that is productive, and it is a successful intervention, and how pharmacists can go beyond filling prescriptions that we have been doing in the past.

Q: What is the value of the pharmacist?

Rimple Gabri: There's so many different things, and I also want to talk about how pharmacists have changed the outlook of vaccinations. Now that we think about a vaccination, whether it's a flu shot, or whether it's a Shingrix shot, or now it's a COVID shot, or now the new one, the RSV vaccine, we first think about going to your local pharmacy and getting that shot. I think that in itself has been such a big victory in terms of getting that accessibility, giving that accessibility to our consumers to be able to say, ‘you can just come in and get your vaccination.’ That in itself has also taken the workload off of our nurses and our doctors, so they can go about and do different things. Not that they're not giving vaccinations, but it has kind of lifted that extra burden on them. For us to be able to go to nursing homes, to be able to go to assisted living, to be able to go to senior living apartments, and independent living places, and have these vast vaccination clinics, to be able to sit down with the patients and make sure that they get all the vaccinations that they need.

I think that in itself is quite remarkable. Then, the pharmacists’ approach to be able to do CPR classes. I mean, that's tremendous. These are things that we were not doing before. We were not writing prescriptions for birth control pills. We were not helping patients get their vaccinations or even talk about vaccinations. We just didn't have that kind of a leverage because we were so involved in that focus on dispensing. That has changed so much that we're able to use those different skills and we're realizing how many different skills a pharmacist has. We are able to reach and do multifaceted interventions in our community, in our outreach within our pharmacies, and, and even help our fellow health professionals, whether they're nurses or they’re doctors and be able to say, ‘we can take care of the service, you've got a lot going on.’ COVID has changed so much in terms of the stress on our nurses. It also has kind of led for a lot of our different health professionals to retire early because whether it has been medical reasons or other reasons where they are not able to be there.

We don't have that bandwidth of nurses we used to have and to be able to take that off of them and say, ‘we can help in this way.’ Or, ‘we can channel that and do this for you.’ I think it's great to work as a community, and the basic goal is to make sure that the outcomes of our patients is valued, is recognized, and is delivered, and it doesn't matter who is doing it. As a collective unit of doctors and nurses and pharmacists coming together and being able to go beyond and be able to reach out to all community. That goes back to me saying about that geographical reach. Retail pharmacies have that geographical reach where we're able to give that kind of health care options to our consumers. When you talk about values, I think it comes down to just for me, it is how can I how can a pharmacist have that patient who comes in visits to leave with an that optimal goal of making sure that the right and the best health outcome is possible for that individual.

Q: How are you celebrating American Pharmacists Month?

Rimple Gabri: It turns out October is also my birthday month, so going back to when I said it's not sometimes that we pick the profession, but the profession picks you. I really think that October also being the pharmacist celebrating month and being my birthday, I really do think that it is it is destiny. I was destined to be a pharmacist, so I am celebrating just how I've been able to help our community members over the last 30 years or so of my profession, and how I truly want to believe that I am really sound and impactful, and I was impactful on our members of community and my patients, and I want to just celebrate them. I want to celebrate how far we have come in our profession, how much more there is. I can't wait to see how it evolves. One thing I can definitely say without a doubt is that retail pharmacies will always be there. It will just change, and it will change according to the needs of the people, and the pharmacists are best fit for that because we do have that knowledge. We are that accessible. We are that passionate, and we want to genuinely help achieve those optimal health goals and productive health goals for our consumers.

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