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Empowering Patients, Elevating Care: A Journey into Specialty Pharmacy

Today we explore the dynamic landscape of specialty pharmacy through the eyes of a seasoned Registered Store Manager at Walgreens Specialty, Dr. Taylor Howell. Dr. Howell is a perfect example of the true breadth and depth of a pharmacist’s work and knowledge and how profound their impact is on individual patients and the community.

A Journey of Passion and Purpose

Dr. Taylor Howell’s journey in pharmacy began in the heart of a community pharmacy, fueled by a profound desire to connect with patients on a deeper level. Soon thereafter, Taylor took on a leadership role as a manager, which led her to a pivotal role in HIV care where her focus shifted from addressing everyday healthcare needs to providing access to vital resources and life-saving medications. Taylor immersed herself in the world of specialty pharmacy, shadowing professionals, participating in drug information programs, and cultivating relationships with industry peers which laid the foundation for her ascent as a well-respected leader within the specialty pharmacy landscape.

Of this path, Taylor says, “Making the transition to a specialty pharmacy manager has been a gratifying step, allowing me to lead a team dedicated to providing specialized care and support to patients with unique healthcare needs.”

A Hub of Specialized Care: Beyond Dispensing Medications

Now as a Specialty Pharmacy Site Manager at Walgreens Specialty, Taylor works in not just HIV treatment but in oncology, neurology and pulmonology as well. Her role at Walgreens is dynamic and varied and encourages collaboration with a variety of healthcare providers, “…to ensure seamless patient care, providing them with access to the most advanced and specialized medications available”.

With an extensive arsenal of over 140 limited distribution drugs at her disposal, this pharmacy serves as a beacon of hope for patients navigating complex health conditions, “Our pharmacy is not just about dispensing medications; it’s a center for comprehensive care, where we prioritize the unique needs of patients”.

A Day in the Life: Impacting Lives, One Patient at a Time

A typical day for Taylor starts off with team meetings, during which she ensures everyone has what they need to complete their work successfully. She also spends some of her time communicating with other healthcare providers. Beyond administrative tasks lies the true essence of her role: direct engagement with patients. It’s in these moments of interaction that she feels the true impact of her role:

“Picture this: a critically ill patient, burdened not only by their health condition but also by the daunting cost of their medication. The most rewarding moment is when I can share with them that I’ve secured financial assistance, potentially saving them thousands of dollars. Witnessing the relief on their faces and knowing that they no longer have to fear the financial strain of affording their vital medication is incredibly fulfilling. It goes beyond dispensing drugs; it’s about providing tangible solutions that significantly improve their quality of life.”

Taylor provides a real-life example of the impact financial support can have on a patient’s health. She encountered a patient with a rare eye condition who required treatment that would cost $70,000 per month. Without the treatment, the patient could become permanently blind. Taylor did not hesitate but sprang into action, determined to help, “I devoted significant time liaising between the patient, the drug representative, the prescriber, and the insurance company. Despite the intensive effort over several weeks, we successfully navigated the prior authorization process, eventually allowing me to deliver the relieving news that her medication had been approved, potentially safeguarding her vision!”.

Advice for Aspiring Pharmacists: Explore, Network, Grow

For those embarking on the journey into specialty pharmacy, Taylor offers sage advice garnered from years of experience. From exploring various specialties to seeking mentorship and staying abreast of industry trends, Taylor emphasizes that the keys to success lie in continuous learning and proactive engagement. Active participation in professional organizations and gaining hands-on experience through internships or rotations are invaluable steps towards a rewarding career in specialty pharmacy. We thank Dr. Howell for these amazing insights and for those intrigued by a similar career, the Pharm4Me website offers valuable information on becoming a pharmacist, accompanied by additional inspirational stories on the Pharm4Me Blog.

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