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Group photo of NCPA student members and professional pharmacists.
UH NCPA officers and the independent pharmacists who participated in the 7th Annual Meet & Greet.

'Define Your Practice'

UH NCPA Chapter's Meet & Greet Offers Venue for Learning About Independent Pharmacy 

Once considered to be a dying breed, independent pharmacy remains a thriving, if challenging, career choice for many pharmacists with entrepreneurial spirit and passion for providing pharmacy services on their own terms. In effort to increase awareness of the field, the UH chapter of the National Community Pharmacists Association hosted its 7th Annual Meet & Greet to give pharmacy students a forum for learning the secrets for success as well as pitfalls to avoid from several independent pharmacists and owners.

This year's event drew nine representatives from Houston-based Clinical Care Pharmacy, Dr. Rita's Pharmacy, Medic Pharmacy, Village Pharmacy, and PCCA; BCP Veterinary Pharmacy in Friendswood, Texas; Halletsville Pharmacy in Halletsville, Texas; and Richie's Specialty Pharmacy in Conroe, Texas.

Pharm.D. candidate David Pham said he is keeping his options open for employment after graduation, but independent pharmacy has peaked his interest because of the opportunity to apply many of the soft skills he developed through involvement in student organizations during his UH education.

“For me, independent pharmacy serves as that opportunity for me to apply my leadership skills to my pharmacy practice,” Pham said.

students and pharmacist talking
Above, keynote speaker Paula Grahmann, owner of the independent Halletsville Pharmacy, shares a laugh with UH Pharm.D. students during the roundtable sessions. Below, UHCOP alumnus Zeke Medina, pharmacist at Richie's Specialty Pharmacy, offers students advice on how to use their time in pharmacy school to prepare for their professional careers. 
students and pharmacist talking

Keynote speaker Paula Grahmann, Pharm.D., who shared her journey from clinical pharmacy to independent ownership of Halletsville Pharmacy, explained how independent pharmacy allows more flexibility in tailoring patient care services to a specific market or market segment.

"You can identify more opportunities to make a greater impact in your patients’ lives," Grahmann said. "You can define how you want to practice pharmacy a little bit more."

Madison Peach, Pharm.D., PCCA academic affairs pharmacist and UHCOP adjunct faculty member, said one area in which independent pharmacists often thrive is pharmacy compounding.

Some patients require or prefer medications or dosage forms, such as lollipops or gummies, that are compounded exclusively for them as opposed to the commercially available ones. As compounding services may be limited or non-existent at all of the larger chain community pharmacies, independent pharmacies have established compounding as a niche service in many markets.

"We’re looking at new ways to deliver medications or possibly creating better treatment strategies," Peach said. "Patients are always going to need those options and it’s important that pharmacy students think about exploring that."

While Grahmann noted that many new independent pharmacists likely can expect to experience a learning curve for the business side of pharmacy, Zeke Medina, Pharm.D. (‘13), a staff pharmacist at Richie’s Specialty Pharmacy, attributed his ability to transition into the field to his UHCOP education and organizational activities at UHCOP.

"With the therapeutics classes, as well as the rotations that centered around internal medicine and infectious diseases, I feel like the faculty at UH prepared me to deal with the types of situations that I’m dealing with now," said Medina, who not only served as UH NCPA Chapter President but also National President of the NCPA Student Leadership Council during his Pharm.D. education. 

-- by Ameena Rasheed