Monday, October 14, 2013

An Interview with The Honest Apothecary

The following is my interview with Dr. Jason Poquette. Dr. Poquette has many titles. He's a father, a speaker, a teacher, and of course, a pharmacist. From his bio:

Born in Illinois, raised in California and now comfortably settled in New England. I am a graduate of the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy and have been involved in the field of pharmacy well over 20 years. My primary focus has been retail pharmacy, through which I have also had experience as a Clinical Instructor for a pharmacy program, pharmacy compounding and pharmacy management. I have spoken on medication related topics at Senior Centers, Schools and Awards Banquets. I am an avid online writer and have, through this format, had the privilege of interacting with and answering thousands of questions from students, patients and health care professionals. I am a Christian, a husband and father of 4. When I’m not working or writing you might find my nose buried in a book, or teaching at our church, playing baseball or basketball with the kids, kayaking, running, cooking or just hanging out with my wife.

In case you don't know, Dr. Jason Poquette runs The Honest Apothecary. This is the pharmaceutical news and information website of pharmacist Jason Poquette. As Dr. Poquette points out, "Here you will find timely news and comments related to what is happening in the pharmaceutical field. The site is dedicated both to patients and to my fellow pharmacists who labor in the trenches and front-line battleground of the retail pharmacy profession." I urge you to take a look at this very professional, extremely informative website.

Here are the questions I asked Dr. Poquette:

Crazy RxMan: You might have seen my recent "Breaking Bad the HOME version" blog post where I mentioned that my original interest in pharmacy started with an old chemistry kit my father bought at a Flea Market -- a chemistry kit WITHOUT any instruction manual. What got you started in the field of pharmacy?

Dr. Poquette: Well, I would say it was probably some form of temporary insanity, except that it has lasted nearly 30 years. I was a high school junior working in the photo department at the front end of a Southern California Osco. The pharmacy department posted a “Help Wanted” sign, looking for a tech. I got the job. I typed Rx labels on a typewriter. Imagine it: Sulfamethoxazole without spell check or auto correct. I loved it. And that passion eventually led me across the country to the UConn School of pharmacy. The rest, as they say, is history.

Crazy RxMan: What type of retail pharmacy do you work for? Grocery chain, big box (Walgreens, CVS, or something like that), or small size community pharmacy?

Dr. Poquette: I’ve done a little bit of everything in the retail world: independents, chains, temp agencies. Most of my retail career was as a pharmacy manager for a large chain. But I enjoyed going around to different sites, so I took over doing the schedule for the district and floated myself into stores all over my area for a while. I’m licensed in 4 New England states and can speak fluent Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and even Connecticut. For the past 7 years the lion’s share of my time has been spent working for an analytics company where I provide formulary research that helps our client’s position and market their products more effectively. My mother just tells her friends that I “look for drugs on the internet.” Well, not exactly. But I’m online a lot.

Crazy RxMan: Obamacare is a big topic right now. In my Goofmart pharmacy I've already seen zero co-pays for birth control and triple co-pays for Tricare and some Medicare part D plans. What do you think about the program as it relates to pharmacy?

Dr. Poquette: America was founded upon the principles of life, liberty and access to free birth control. Who are we to overthrow what our forefathers fought for? 

But seriously, we have gotten ourselves into a crisis unlike anything we have known before. The questions are no longer “what is right?” and “what is good?” but rather, “what’s in it for me?” Granted, our healthcare problem in America is complex. Something is wrong when we spend as much as we do and are yet as unhealthy as we are. Nevertheless, Americans need to remember that liberty means freedom to make bad choices too. And, although we’re not supposed to say it, much of our health crisis is the result of our choices. More government isn’t the answer. We must keep in mind the oft quoted words of Gerald Ford that “a government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take everything you have.”

Crazy RxMan: There's some doom and gloom blogs out there that paint an unhappy future for pharmacists in terms of market saturation and consequent declining wages and declining working conditions. How do you see the future of pharmacy FOR pharmacists and technicians?

Dr. Poquette: Basic economic principles of supply and demand operate in a free market (only the government seems to be exempt from this). Right now we have a surplus of pharmacists in many parts of the country. In that situation, employers can begin to allow working conditions to deteriorate, knowing that pharmacists and technicians simply can’t quit and work elsewhere. That said, complaining about it isn’t enough. We need to articulate our concerns and get involved in the solution. I’m a big advocate for pharmacists becoming active in their communities, writing articles, holding seminars – and letting their employers know it.

Crazy RxMan: Are you sure you don't have a clone working the blog and the regular you doing everything else? Between all the tweets, Facebook, and the regular blog it appears you have no time for anything else. Is this all because of coffee?

Dr. Poquette: I have quite a few irons in the fire, the blog is just 1 of them, and I’m grateful to coffee for the help it brings. But the bottom line is I love the things I’m involved with, and you find ways to make time for the things you love. Writing has always been a passion, and I love to network with and meet new people.

Crazy RxMan: You're a religious man. How have your beliefs strengthened and motivated you in your career?

Dr. Poquette: I’m a Christian, and have been for 25 years. But for many people today that word is either meaningless or offensive. Someone has said that “Christianity in America is 3,000 miles wide and about an inch thick.” The Christian faith has a lot of counterfeits. But I know what I believe, and am happy to talk about it. My faith informs my whole life, while at the same time I recognize I fall far short of the standard I aim for. I believe in the fundamental and unique dignity of all humans as made in the image of God. That should make a difference in the way we interact with our patients. I like what C.S. Lewis, who was once an atheist, said: “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.” A God-fearing pharmacist isn’t such a bad thing for the profession.

Crazy RxMan: What do you think about the pharmacist "gripe" blogs (like Crazy RxMan, The Cynical Pharmacist, The Angry Pharmacist, the Angrier Pharmacist, the Angriest Pharmacist, The I'm Angrier than all the Other Pharmacists Pharmacist)?

Dr. Poquette: Those sound like a lot of fun. You’ll have to share the links with me. Seriously though, there are some very talented and humorous writers out there. Many have been at it much longer than me. Sometimes it’s nice to know that there are others out there as frustrated as you are. On that level, they are doing a great service to their fellow professionals who just want to know they aren’t alone. There’s a little CrazyRx Man (or woman) in all of us.

Crazy RxMan: What's the biggest challenge you see for the future of pharmacy?

Dr. Poquette: There are so many challenges and opportunities; it’s hard to pick just one. Reducing hospital readmissions through adherence programs and education is a big challenge and opportunity. I would also like to see a return of the independent community pharmacy. I’m working right now to help develop a platform of resources to accelerate the movement toward profitability for independent pharmacies.

Crazy RxMan: Tell me a secret. What's coming down the road with The Honest Apothecary that people don't know about? I won't tell anyone... <wink> <wink>

Dr. Poquette: National syndication, book signings and “The Honest Apothecary” TV miniseries are all possibilities. But most likely I’ll just keep writing. The Honest Apothecary is an ongoing project. As many bloggers discover, their blogs sort of take on a life of their own. But I suspect down the road you are going to see The Honest Apothecary get more personal, share more stories from my own life and talk more about my personal passions for our profession.

Crazy RxMan: I would like to thank Dr. Jason Poquette for taking the time to answer these questions. If you haven't already, check out Dr. Poquette's website, HERE. You can also hook up with his tweets at @JasonPoquette.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The question that I would like to see asked by interviewers on the topic of the US healthcare system is: "What specifically should we do to improve it?"

If we simply point out the apparent weaknesses of the healthcare system, without suggesting ideas to improve it, we are one day further down the road, without progress.