An interview with Dr. Erica Bushaw, PharmD, University of Iowa 2007. Dr. Bushaw has been the owner of Oelwein Family Pharmacy, in Oelwein, Iowa, since 2014.
What attracted you to working in the pharmaceutical industry?
Erica Bushaw: I have always had a passion for helping others, and healthcare intrigued me early in high school when I started working at a local independent pharmacy. I was able to understand how the pharmacy for a small town of about 2,500 people was still important for the community. When I was in pharmacy school, I remember telling my mom, ‘I think I could own a pharmacy, and if I do, I hope I do more than just dispense.’ I wanted patients to come to me for advice, monitor their blood pressure, get their vaccinations, and meet with me to talk more in depth about their medications because there is more to pharmacy than just a prescription.
Can you share a little bit about your pharmacy education, and how you worked to the point that you are at in your career today?
EB: I went to the University of Iowa for undergrad and pharmacy school and I graduated in 2007. I worked throughout college at Osco Drug, which eventually turned into CVS, and then I continued with CVS for the first year out of college. Then, I worked for the University of Iowa Outpatient Pharmacy for another year, and I eventually found where my heart belonged, which was my next job as a staff pharmacist for an independent pharmacy (my current location). After a few years of staffing, the owner asked about possibly taking over the business. We’ve been rebranding and remodeling the pharmacy over the past five years, and now we are looking at opening a second location in our community in the fall.
What characteristics proved to be the most helpful for you in developing your career?
EB: You know, I think it just has to be your drive, the determination to keep going.
What steps did you take in your career to prepare for a leadership position or business ownership?
EB: Each job has prepared me in different ways; I grew to understand the pharmacy structure and workflow at the chain level, and then the University of Iowa expanded my knowledge of different aspects and areas of the pharmacy. Along with that, I thought they had a very strong leadership team to learn from. Finally, working at my independent pharmacy before becoming the owner, I was reminded of how important it is to know the patient on a more personal basis. So, I feel like every job that I have had has prepared me in a way. I prepared for the business aspect by attending the RxOwnership NCPA Ownership workshop before taking over the pharmacy. The workshop prepared me to be an owner. It taught me the importance of building those business relationships and networking. You know, I think the relationship aspect of doing business is still paramount today. Getting advice and opinions from other pharmacy owners and through other business relationships has really helped push my business in more innovate ways, more than I could have done alone.
What is your experience with mentors, influential leaders or others who inspired you to reach for success?
EB: I was lucky to have my previous owner. When I bought the pharmacy from him, he stayed on staff for two years, and it was great to have him as a resource on the business side and as a mentor while my role in the pharmacy changed. Then, as the pharmacy has continued to evolve over the years, the staff and I were a part of ‘Make Every Encounter Count,’ which was led by Randy McDonough. That course has helped our pharmacy transition into more of a patient care model in which we care for the whole patient. It also showed me how to include interventions within the workflow. So, Randy has been a great leader and resource for me. Also, I continue to look at the local Iowa CPESN pharmacists as mentors, as we are all striving for the same goals.
What advice can you give to women entrepreneurs entering the pharmacy world?
EB: Pharmacy ownership can be very challenging, but it can also be very rewarding. Some advice would be to build a strong team that you can count on while you’re away and learn to delegate tasks early in your career. I tended to think that I needed to do it all to the best of my ability, but I have recently learned to let others take the lead and be the expert in certain areas. Second, spend more time developing leadership skills, observe different pharmacy practices, network with other pharmacists, and get involved with other organizations. Last, it is important to schedule time for yourself. You’ll learn quickly that taking personal time is as important for the pharmacy as it is for you.
Have you noticed any boundaries or challenges for women in pharmacy? If so, how did you get around those?
EB: Most of the challenges I see are the same for all retail pharmacies, especially challenges with PBMs.
What would you like to see pharmacy schools teach about owning your own pharmacy?
EB: If you are interested, at all, at owning your own pharmacy, take business classes, which is something that I wish I had done. Try to select rotations that introduce you to management. I really hope they are advising students to get involved with the organizations and learning how to network at an early age.
What do you enjoy most about being an independent pharmacy owner?
EB: For me, it’s all about taking care of my community. My patients are more than just a prescription — I love to take care of my patients and the community.
Can you share a little bit about your personal life (e.g., where you live, family life, things you like to do for fun, etc.)?
EB: I love my small-town community where we live. Together, my husband and our two kids, ages 6 and 8, own a pharmacy, a real-estate business and a gym. We stay very busy, but I am very lucky that we have been able to make the pharmacy a family business. My husband and kids are very helpful at the pharmacy. My husband runs the front end and my kids will help stock shelves, dust, and vacuum. Luckily, my husband is very supportive. He keeps me grounded and takes loads off my plate when I need it. One of my favorite ways to de-stress is to travel to a good beach, listen to the waves, read a good book and disconnect for a few days. We try to get on a plane once a year and get to a beach.