Community Pharmacist Spotlight Archive

Oakdell Pharmacy, PIC

by NCPA | Jan 05, 2016

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Pharmacist: Dr. Chris Alvarado, RPh.

Pharmacy: Oakdell Pharmacy, PIC

City, State: San Antonio, Texas

Pharmacy School: University of the Incarnate Word, Class of 2010

Dr. Chris Alvarado has been practicing as a pharmacist for five years. However, his exposure to the world of pharmacy started well before enrolling into the pharmacy program at the University of the Incarnate Word. Dr. Alvarado began working as a pharmacy technician in San Antonio, Texas in 1987. After working for several companies, Dr. Alvarado found his home working as a technician at a locally owned independent pharmacy. Loving the city he grew up in, Dr. Alvarado had plans to continue his pharmacy career as a pharmacy technician. Upon hearing the news of bringing a pharmacy school to the Alamo City, Dr. Alvarado readied himself to further his pharmacy education. During the Fall of 2006, Dr. Alvarado began his Doctor of Pharmacy education as a part of the inaugural class of the Feik School of Pharmacy. After graduation in 2010, Dr. Alvarado began serving patients as a pharmacist in the independent pharmacy realm.

What led you to a career into independent pharmacy first as a technician and then as a pharmacist?
As a graduate of the inaugural class of the health careers high school, Dr. Alvarado's had early interests in the health careers. His technician work experience in independent pharmacy offered him the unique opportunity, "...to be close to the people making the decisions." With the absence of the red tape keeping him from affecting change and influencing the practices of the company, Dr. Alvarado enjoyed the face to face conversations he could have with those leading the company he worked for. Upon receiving his Pharm. D, Dr. Alvarado still held with high regard the value of the opportunity to help steer the future of both his workplace and profession. Naturally, this was an influential factoring in choosing to practice in independent pharmacist.

What makes your pharmacy standout from the competition?
Prior to joining Oakdell pharmacy, Dr. Alvarado recalls conversations with patients where, "if we couldn't do something, send [the customer] to Oakdell." Now behind the counter at Oakdell Pharmacy, Dr. Alvarado enjoys being on the receiving end of this same conversation. Situated here, Dr. Alvarado believes this is where he is able to set his pharmacy apart from the competition in his community." A never say no attitude" Alvarado claims, "is what makes Oakdell pharmacy a wonderful place to work and take care of patients." Indeed, this attitude stems from Oakdell's pride of individualized customer care irrespective of what brought the patient through the pharmacy doors.

What are your biggest challenges?
Dr Alvarado feels that there are several different challenges posed against independent pharmacy that vary in their nature and threat. In regards to simply keeping the doors open, Dr. Alvarado feels that third party reimbursements are the biggest challenge. In regards to a challenge that keeps him from serving as an independent pharmacist to ALL of his patients, being placed out of network is trying. Dr. Alvarado notes, "Some of our patients that have been coming to us for over twenty years are being forced out of our pharmacy and into mail order." However, this doesn't mean that Oakdell's patient centered care practice stops where mail order pharmacy begins. When asked to share a recent rewarding experience, Dr. Alvarado shared an interaction with a patient where, " To no fault of the patients, the patients prescription did not arrive through the mail order pharmacy and the patient was out of medications. I was able to call the physician and get a short fill supply for the patient to cover her until her medications arrived in the mail. It was satisfying to help somebody in a position where they literally had nowhere to go."

How has NCPA helped your business?
" [chuckles to self]…that's a loaded question. This entire interview could be solely about this question" As a student, Dr. Alvarado felt that being a member of the SLC and participating on the long term care committee, among other opportunities, offered him insight and introduction into different areas of pharmacy. Now as a pharmacist, Dr. Alvarado notes that the networking opportunities are one of the most vital aspects of NCPA. Though the state of Texas is vast, the efforts of the state association coupled with the efforts of NCPA allow Dr. Alvarado to be well connected with independent pharmacists both within his home state and across the nation. Similarly, Dr. Alvarado feels that NCPA has lent him the opportunity and resources to be progressively involved legislatively. With ambitions to become more involved in the realm of pharmacy politics, he feels his membership with NCPA will only help foster that desire. When asked about his feelings on pharmacy politics, Dr. Alvarado stated, "Well…you either get into politics or get out of pharmacy."

How have you used innovation, expanded offerings, or outstanding customer service to become a staple of the community
Dr. Alvarado feels that Oakdell pharmacy has used all three areas of interest above in succession to not only become a staple in the community, but remain a staple in their community. By staying current with innovative products they have been able to expand their offering to patients with the primary goal of serving their patient's needs. Though these expanded services and technologies can sometime physically distance the patient from the customer, Dr. Alvarado genuinely feels that the face to face interaction with his patients is still pillar of his service to the community.

Why are you so involved? Why do you place so much effort on students?
Harnessing his pride as an independent pharmacist, Dr. Alvarado remains involved with the profession and employs the "if not me then who" attitude to helping protect and advance the profession. When asked why he intentionally devotes time to support and precept student pharmacists Dr. Alvarado replied simply, " To give students opportunities that I didn't have as a student." Specifically related to NCPA, Dr. Alvarado mentions the trials he faced when trying to start the NCPA chapter at UIW. Though successfully establishing a chapter in the school, he noted he felt he missed out some opportunities as a result of not having the opportunity to join an NCPA chapter early in his pharmacy education. With his agenda aside, a principal reason he remains involved with students is because it is merely an extension of his service to others not just in pharmacy but in life. It just so happens that it is an extension of service to others that allows him to optimistically contribute to shaping the future of pharmacy.