Independent, But Not Alone: Mentoring

Pharmacy Forward

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When you ask a pharmacist about Bob Lomenick of Tyson Drugs in Holly Springs, Miss., you can immediately differentiate between those who know of Bob, and those who know him. His acquaintances are quick to praise his work in med sync and adherence. Those who have befriended Bob, on the other hand, never miss the chance to tease him about his age.

“He’s old,” Chris Cornelison of Iuka Discount Drugs and Saltillo Pharmacy in Iuka, Miss., begins in his description of Bob. Cliff Holt of Hurricane Family Pharmacy in Hurricane, Utah, adds, “We tease him all the time because he’s older than all of us. After all, he’s the Grandfather of Sync.”

Bob’s near-forty years of pharmacy experience have endowed him with so much wisdom and insight that pharmacists as near as his hometown and as far as Utah seek him out for advice. However, camaraderie and collaboration have not always been the norm, according to Bob.

Bob has been in the business of pharmacy for a while, and he has witnessed huge shifts in the industry. One of those shifts is the mindset of independent pharmacy owners. “For a long time, as independents, we felt like we were battling each other. I think there’s been a progression over the years where we realized we’re all fighting the same battle. We’re battling the chains. In my opinion, we want all independents to be successful.” Cliff Holt echoes his agreement. “You only have so much energy and time and resources for battle, so why should it be with independent pharmacy? We have so many other things we should be concentrating on.” Their observation alludes to the growing number of pharmacists who are taking time to connect and discuss ideas with colleagues. Veteran pharmacy owners like Bob are allowing other pharmacists to see the innermost workings of their operations to pass on their knowledge.

Whether you’re giving or receiving mentorship, having conversations and building relationships are crucial to our industry.

Bob calls medication synchronization the “secret sauce” of success. “I think because of the sync program and because of the use of PioneerRx, I’ve become one of the leaders of synchronization, so I have a lot of people looking to me for advice, and I’m more than happy to offer it,” he explains.

It’s no wonder that pharmacists ask for Bob’s input for their own sync programs. “I have a lot of conversations about sync, and when I talk to other owners who have PioneerRx, it can quickly elevate their sync numbers when they get a clear understanding of the sync process within PioneerRx.” Bob’s mentoring has created a network of pharmacists across the country who constantly share advice with one another.

Chris Cornelison’s connection with Bob precedes Chris himself; they share a hometown of Iuka, Miss., and Bob attended school with Chris’s mother. Bob reached out to Chris when he learned that he was opening his first store twenty years ago.

“Really, truthfully, honestly, he’s my best friend in the industry,” Chris says. “I talk to him, literally, two or three times a day. In fact, he’s already called me three times today!” Bob has given and received wisdom from Chris over the years, a practice Chris keeps in mind when he teaches classes and dialogues with other pharmacists.

PioneerRx MentortingHe alludes to his recent visit to Hurricane Family Pharmacy, where he shared his over the counter knowledge with Cliff Holt and his team. In return, Chris returned to Mississippi with new ideas from Cliff. “It’s very hard to mentor somebody without learning something from them, in turn,” says Chris. “You both grow stronger.” Cliff connected with Bob at the PDS Super-Conference and sought him out afterwards for his experience in multi-dose packaging. Two weeks later, Cliff was in Tyson Drugs witnessing Bob’s pharmacy operations and taking notes for his future plans in multi-dose packaging.

“You know,” he adds, “I probably drag my poor wife into thirty or forty stores a year. If there’s an independent pharmacy, we go in there and see what they’re doing and talk and get ideas. That’s my lifestyle.”

Cliff’s “lifestyle” should be every pharmacist’s lifestyle. Iron sharpens iron, so one pharmacist sharpens another. Mentorship goes further than improving one another, though.

Along with Chris and Cliff, Bob mentors pharmacy owners and students alike. Attend a national pharmacy conference like PDS or NCPA, and you’ll see Bob burning the midnight oil with other pharmacists. “Invariably, I learn as much from visiting with other people as I do at the CEs. And I try to surround myself with the best. If I find somebody who’s really interesting or really doing a great job at something, I try to spend time with them and learn from them.”

He also receives requests weekly from pharmacists all over the nation to come see his pharmacy (which he doesn’t mind obliging if he receives a few days’ notice). While Bob hosts pharmacy owners at Tyson Drugs, he doesn’t forget to mentor the student pharmacists of the next generation.

These students are hungry for independent pharmacy. They don’t want to work for the chains and fill a thousand scripts a day.

As a preceptor for Ole Miss and Union University, Bob mentors pharmacy school students for five weeks at Tyson. “I think not giving these kids an opportunity in independent pharmacy is shooting ourselves in the foot. These students are hungry for independent pharmacy. They don’t want to work for the chains and fill a thousand scripts a day and not talk to patients.”

If you find yourself too busy to mentor or be mentored, Bob recommends stepping out of the pharmacy. “There’s some great opportunities out there if pharmacists just get out of their comfort zones and go get it,” Bob says. Whether you’re giving or receiving mentorship, having conversations and building relationships are crucial to our industry. “Create a legacy,” Bob concludes, and all pharmacists have the knowledge and power to do so. CT

PioneerRx Mentoring

Caitlin Sattler is a journalist with PioneerRx. She can be reached at