Island Pharmacy Goes Above and Beyond
Located in a remote area of Florida, the business offers delivery and after-hours service for its community.
After working for big chains for several years, Allison Zettwoch, PharmD, wanted to provide patients with more personalized service, so she opened Island Pharmacy in Islamorada, Florida, in 2015.
Before working in the pharmacy industry, Zettwoch, who is a 2011 graduate of Sullivan University’s College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Louisville, Kentucky, was a teacher, with a master’s degree in Spanish and a master of business administration degree. She credits both degrees for helping her start the business.
Living in a remote area with limited health services, Zettwoch knew which medications, products, and services the community needed. “Using the one-size-fits all methodology of big chains just didn’t work. We don’t need snow shovels and mittens in an area that never gets snow—we do need sunscreen year-round!” Zettwoch said.
Island Pharmacy offers delivery and after-hours services. The team also works directly with local physicians to tailor health care and medications directly to patients’ needs.
Zettwoch and her team do a great deal of compounding. Some of the most requested items are a silicone-based scar cream that can be used alone on cuts, incisions, or scrapes or as the base to deliver medication; a special-formula pain cream developed by a physician containing dimethyl sulfoxide to deliver the ingredients, as well as diclofenac, gabapentin, or a mix of both; and a wart peel, which is a favorite of a local dermatologist.
“When word gets out, other doctors start to order the same compounds,” Zettwoch said.
SERVICE FOR ALL PATIENTS
Compounding at Island Pharmacy is not just for humans.
“I’ve treated iguanas, dolphins, turtles, hedgehogs, parrots, and all types of exotic animals,” Zettwoch said. “The staff members greet customers by name and always ask about pets and boats and other important things in their lives.”
Although the team at Island Pharmacy set up a website for patients to request refills, “people like to talk to us personally rather than go online. I think we had 3 patients use it in a year,” Zettwoch explained.
Zettwoch also enjoys a special relationship with many members of the community. “Because we are local and have been a long time—and [are] the only independent—we have an excellent working relationship with local doctors. My son hangs out with their kids, we exchange cell numbers, [and] have dinner together,” Zettwoch said.
“It’s a small town and a small community,” Zettwoch noted. “Having this mutual trust, we can provide better patient care.”
Once, when there was a death in the community, Zettwoch received a phone call from a physician who needed to treat the deceased’s spouse. Because it was late at night, other pharmacies were closed. The physician called in the medication, and the sheriff drove the spouse to Island Pharmacy, where Zettwoch met them. She has also provided
after-hours care for nurses following a late shift when their kids were sick.
Zettwoch and her team at Island Pharmacy enjoy giving back to the community by participating in events such as drug take-backs and highway cleanups. “I just grab a group, and we head out on Earth Day or randomly to pick up trash. Everybody knows everybody here, so for events, they usually ask if we’ll put up a table or donate, and we do,” Zettwoch said.
“I joined the [community emergency response team] after [Hurricane Irma] devastated the area [in 2017], so I’ve been trying to organize a training for local health care workers,” Zettwoch added.
The pharmacy team is in the process of expanding and moving into a multioffice medical center. “Not only are we doubling our footprint, but we will be able to expand our services,” Zettwoch said.
Zettwoch is also an oncology pharmacist and has monitored and treated patients undergoing chemotherapy since 2013. When Irma hit, Island Pharmacy was the first pharmacy open in the area, providing medications to patients before the rest of the area had power or water restored.
“I worked in a [disaster medical assistance team] hospital after one local hospital was leveled and the other flooded, wiping out the only 2 emergency rooms in over 100 miles,” Zettwoch explained.
In addition to working at Island Pharmacy, Zettwoch, who lives with her teenage son, has written more than a dozen books, including a pharmacy information guide with an accompanying phone app. She also enjoys sailing, swimming, and traveling and has visited nearly 50 countries, including Argentina, China, Colombia, and Cuba. “I hiked 1500 miles on the Appalachian Trail and sailed across the Atlantic,” Zettwoch said.
Zettwoch is also working toward a private pilot license and flies a Cessna 172.
Karen Berger, PharmD, is a pharmacist at an independent pharmacy in northern New Jersey.