An interview with Christine Lee-Wilson, Pharm.D. Owner of Professional Pharmacy, located in Baltimore, MD.
What attracted you to the pharmaceutical industry?
Christine Lee-Wilson: Patient care is what initially attracted me to the profession. I grew up in a small community and I experienced firsthand how resourceful the independent pharmacist was in my town. As a child I had an acute illness and he was available, so I learned quickly the impact a pharmacist could make in the lives of their patients.
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?
CLW: I attended St. John’s University in Queens, NY, and earned my Pharm.D. in 2005. After that, I completed my residency at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, where my emphasis was in community pharmacy. After the completion of my residency, I participated in the P3 Program®, where specially trained pharmacist coaches apply a model of care that provides step-by-step guidance in medication adherence, lifestyle changes and self-care skills. Throughout the program, I had the opportunity to develop relationships with other independent pharmacists and network with providers and self-insured employer groups. After observing and providing patient care in the pharmacies, I decided independent pharmacy was definitely the way to go.
I worked in an independent pharmacy for six years. I co-developed two collaborative agreements in diabetes and anti-coagulation therapy, and I would go to the physicians’ practice once a week to see patients and manage their medication therapy. With the purchase of my store, I am still able to continue the collaborative practice that I developed years ago.
What characteristics proved to be the most helpful for you in developing your career?
CLW: I’m passionate about my profession and I’m motivated to help change the practice. Owning your own pharmacy can be very difficult, so to enjoy the patient care aspect and being able to work in an environment that allows me to practice at the top of my licensure makes it all worth it.
What steps did you take in your career to prepare for a leadership position or business ownership?
CLW: The first thing that I did was participate in the NCPA Ownership Workshop, which was extremely helpful. A close friend told me that the workshop was very educational so I knew it was something I should participate in, and I’m glad I did. Getting involved in my state association allowed me to develop close friendships with a group of independent pharmacy owners. This group has been able to support me through the entire process of selecting, purchasing and growing my pharmacy. Although I don’t have my MBA, the program I participated in during and after my residency allowed me the opportunity to work with over 30 independent pharmacists so I could see their day-to-day lives and anticipate problems that may arise in my own pharmacy.
What advice can you give to women entrepreneurs entering the pharmacy world?
CLW: I would tell aspiring women pharmacy owners to trust themselves and their abilities. Many people will challenge that choice to be a business owner since it is extremely demanding. Being a woman pharmacy owner opens you up to other opportunities to help your pharmacy succeed. For example, I received my Minority Business Enterprise Program state certification in Maryland, which allows me to have more visibility with contracts across the state.
As a successful independent pharmacy owner, how do you manage a work/life balance?
CLW: Since I have only been a pharmacy owner for two years, this is one area that I need to work on. However, I recognize the importance of stepping away from the pharmacy and focusing on the other things, so I try to spend my free time cooking, gardening and listening to live music.
Have you noticed any boundaries or challenges for women in pharmacy? If so, how did you get around those?
CLW: I believe that most independent pharmacy owners are dealing with the same challenges and opportunities, regardless of gender. All independent owners need to develop innovative practices to allow for successful and profitable stores in a very challenging terrain. What helps me most is keeping a tight community of colleagues to use as a support system. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the positive influence of pharmacists around me.
What would you like to see pharmacy schools teach about owning your own pharmacy?
CLW: I think the clinical pathway is very trendy right now in pharmacy schools’ curriculum, and I think it would be great if there were a pathway specific to independent pharmacy. Where students could learn more about dispensing options, business ownership and more. That way students who aspire to own their own pharmacy can be better equipped for life after graduation.
What do you enjoy most about being an independent pharmacy owner?
CLW: I enjoy the fact that being an independent pharmacy owner allows me the platform to give more than I take, which is how I like to live my life. I can help patients in need in my community and have a tight support system around me to help me be successful.
Can you share a little bit about your experience working with RxOwnership®?
CLW: In addition to participating in the Pharmacy Ownership Workshop, I think the RxOwnership team did a great job about emphasizing the importance of having relationships with key players prior to starting my pharmacy. For example, they helped me understand the importance of having a complete professional team in place prior to my purchase, including a lawyer, an accountant, a financial advisor, and more to ensure that I was prepared in all aspects of the business. Additionally, using some of the marketing tools available through Health Mart® has helped me understand how I need to market my pharmacy in order to make sure it is represented in the best light to the public.