Living the Corporate Dream

Week three has just ended at my internship, so I thought it was appropriate to finally fill you in on just what I have been doing. I am working in Pharmacy Affairs, which is under a huge umbrella at corporate called Pharmacy Services. What Pharmacy Affairs specifically handles is the ever changing regulation and legislation impacting all the pharmacies in the chain by state, and working to make sure that the company stays in compliance with new state laws as they are introduced. I’m kind of disappointed that I only have one week left in this department, because I absolutely love it.

The biggest problem over the past few weeks has been with New York City. Recently, the city passed an ordinance requiring that all chain pharmacies (defined as ownership of four or more pharmacies in the city) be required to provide specific language assistance to customers who enter the pharmacy and do not speak English. Walgreens owns about 80 pharmacies in the city (and another 300 Duane Reade stores), so this problem is currently at the forefront as the window to comply with this ordinance is closing. The specific requirements of the bill states that free written translation of medication labels, warning labels, and other written material vital to the consumer’s use of prescription medication be offered to be translated to the seven most common languages that limited English proficient New Yorkers speak. These languages are spanish, two forms of chinese, russian, korean, italian, french creole, and polish. In addition to written translations of these languages, the pharmacies must also offer oral translation services that encompass close to 150 languages. If you are interested in learning more about this bill, you can read the press release from the city council on the issue here. Over my first three weeks, I had the opportunity to sit in on a lot of the meetings where we saw proposals and see developments on the written services and the various technical requirements that this means.

Aside from this issue, I have also been working at reading and analyzing each states pharmacy statutes and regulations to make sure we are in compliance with pharmacy technician training and registration and also with pharmacy interns administering flu vaccines. Pharmacists now have the ability to immunize in every state, and in approximately half of those, pharmacy interns who have undergone state approved training can also administer immunizations under the supervision of a pharmacist. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania does not allow interns to immunize, but many other states do and I have been compiling an up to date list of which states allow it while citing the specific statute or regulation.

When not with my mentor Al who is the manager of the department, I have been working a lot with the Prescription Drug Monitoring (PDM) Project Manager, Tomson. Currently, 34 states require that all controlled substances be reported to the state when dispensed. Some states require this monthly, some states want it weekly, and some states actually want this daily. Tomson’s job is to make sure we are getting this file to each of the states in a timely matter. When you think about it, one person doing this for all 7,000+ stores in the company is kind of intimidating. The purpose of this is to limit abuse of controlled medications. When a prescription is entered for a controlled substance, the prescriber chosen in the system must have a valid DEA number. At the end of the day, each store generates a list of all the controlled substances they dispensed for the day (with the name of the patient, medication, prescriber, DEA, etc) and the file is then incorporated into a larger file at the state level. A whole bunch of IT people then customize this file to each state’s standards and it gets recorded.

Last week, all four pharmacy interns were given the chance to see some of the on-site pharmacies located in downtown Chicago. On-site pharmacies are nontraditional pharmacies located in clinics, physician groups, or other specialties (e.g. Northwestern Hospital has a specialty pharmacy dealing with transplant drugs since they are one of the best transplant hospitals in the country). Friday’s visits were to specialty pharmacies serving the HIV/AIDS population. The first pharmacy we went to was located in the Howard Brown clinic, a clinic primarily serving gay and lesbian populations. The pharmacist in charge there was an expert when it came to HIV medications, and was widely known throughout the community as the person to go to on this issue by not only patients, but doctors as well. The second clinic we visited was part of a group called North Star, another group specializing in gay and lesbian populations with HIV. The pharmacy in this building was on the fifth floor and actually had no outside signs to even indicate there was a Walgreens inside. Instead, the pharmacy manager, another expert on HIV medications, would do a lot of community outreach to advertise for the pharmacy and let physicians and patients know they existed and what they were able to offer. The manager was also an expert in oncology medications, so the practice was broadened and the pharmacist actually managed a lot of cancer medications as well. The visits were very educational, as I had never realized the value of specialty pharmacies with clinical experts before. Since we visited with some of the corporate bosses, they gave us some insight into what they look for when they hire these specialists and how they make their decisions.

Besides the four pharmacy interns working at corporate, there are about 40 other interns who are working throughout corporate in either finance, e-commerce, supply chain, shipping and receiving, merchandising, and industrial engineering. This past Tuesday, Walgreens arranged a banquet dinner at a local restaurant for the interns and our mentors where all the interns were able to meet. Bowling and bocce ball followed. We have some built in events for all the corporate interns throughout the summer, so Friday we all attended a networking session where we had to work on “elevator” speeches and deliver them in front of the entire room. An elevator speech is basically a quick introduction about yourself and your job that is designed to help network more efficiently. Later this summer, Walgreens is taking all the interns to a Chicago Cubs baseball game, in addition to some field trips up to Wisconsin to see one of the distribution centers and innovation centers.

I’ve been keeping busy with the other interns on the weekend. This past Friday the four of us took the Metra downtown to Wrigleyville (the location of the Cubs stadium) to watch the Flyers-Blackhawks game and enjoy the nightlife. The ride on the Metra was unbelievable. The Metra is the only public transportation in Chicago where it is legal to have alcohol, so the happy hour train is filled with professionals getting off of work lugging coolers of beer and liquor on the train. The other interns and I brought some beers, and ended up sitting across from a group who work at Abott (a pharmaceutical company) that brought on a giant cooler of a nice summer concoction they were passing out on the train. The guys from Abott called it “Fancy Friday” and this was all part of their weekly routine. Its nice that an otherwise boring train ride can be livened up to the point where you almost don’t care about your destination.

So far I have been having a blast. Tomorrow I am going to a free concert in Millennium Park to see She & Him, so it should be a good time. This internship has been extremely satisfying so far, and I cannot stress enough how awesome it is and how thankful I am to have been chosen. The people I am meeting and the experiences that I am having will surely impact me in the long run. I promise next post I’ll try to liven it up by incorporating some pictures, but until then, adios!

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