Smooth Transitions

A lot has happened in the past few weeks, which is part of the reason I haven’t been able to post. Let me start off with a topic I started out my last post about – the CVS-Walgreens dispute.  After Walgreens announced that they would no longer be accepting the reimbursement rates CVS/Caremark provided as a PBM and would eventually phase themselves out of the network, CVS/Caremark delivered a devastating blow back when it announced that it was not goling to wait for Walgreens to phase themselves out, instead they were going to eliminate Walgreens from their network effective in 30 days. You can read more about that by clicking here. This was a pretty low blow, as it proved that CVS Caremark really does not care at all about their patients. While Walgreens was trying to gradually cut ties because of unfair business and reimbursement rates they were receiving, we still realized that many Walgreens customers use Carmark as their provider so we mapped out a 3 year plan to make the transition easier on patients. CVS/Caremark proved that the patients do not matter at all, they were just going to cause mass chaos and let patients have to fend for themselves in finding a new network approved pharmacy. The issue does not end there though, because earlier this week, we (Walgreens) apparently came to some new terms with CVS/Caremark that basically nullifies this entire debacle. Walgreens will once again accept Caremark as a PBM and CVS/Caremark will once again welcome Walgreens into their network. More on that resolution is here. So how does this all fit into my job at corporate? Well, it definitely changed the atmosphere of the corporate environment during these contract negotiations, but thankfully, the two kiss and made up, so things have returned to normal.

When I last left you, I was working in Pharmacy Affairs. My last week with the department proved to be surprisingly busy when I signed on to help assist with a specific project involving auxillary label translations for the upcoming New York City translation project. I cannot really go into the specifics of what I was doing, but I spent two long days in front of a computer and worked through pages of excel data to help ensure that the project would go forward. While the legwork itself felt monotonous, I take away knowing that I had a crucial hand in hopefully making this project a success.

I am nearing the end of my second week in retail clinical services, and have been pretty busy with a lot of the new health iniatives the company is working on. This is the tricky part, because basically everything I am working on that is interesting is pretty confidential, so basically I can dangle a carrot in front of you and tell you how awesome it tastes but not ever let you catch the carrot to taste for yourself. Other projects I can tell you about however is that I am working with one of the women who writes all the continuing education (CE) credits for the company, so I have been actively involved in peer reviewing in my spare time and later I will be writing some test questions for CE credits. I am also working with the Medication Therapy Management (MTM) manager and learning about the future reimbursement issues associated with pharmacists providing MTM cognitive services and how insurance companies reimburse the company for these services through the various MTM platforms used. At the end of this rotation, I have to create and present a 30 minute community outreach power point presentation on a disease state or relevant topic that we can then use on the store level to help in patient education.

Last week was Pharmacy Supervisor training. A pharmacy supervisor is basically a specialized district manager who oversees all the Walgreen stores (specifically the pharmacy) in a given district – usually consisting of 20-40 stores or more or less depending on the region. Whenever Walgreens promotes new pharmacists to supervisor, they have a mandatory two week training session at corporate to better learn how to handle their new responsibilities. Last week was week one of training, and week two of training is later in August. I got to meet and network with four new supervisors from the Seattle, Ft Lauderdale, New York City, and Houston areas who are in charge of hiring new pharmacists. You can think of the first week of training very much like a college orientation – but longer – five full days of info session after group activity after info session. The sessions were anywhere from one to four hours long and had different aspects of corporate (retail clinical services, finance, employee relations, etc) come in with presentations for the supervisors to better learn their new role in management. The interns were invited to sit in on any session throughout the week, so I ended up attending about 3/4 of the sessions. One of the most interesting sessions was a four hour financial session (no joke – it really was) where all the accounting and operational statements were reviewed and I learned a lot about analyzing company financial statements. Networking with the supervisors was definitely a plus, because they know how selective Walgreens is when picking their corporate interns, and getting face time with four supervisors for an entire week and building those professional relationships can definitely be a great benefit in the long run when applying for jobs in those metropolitan areas or in the company in general.

The four interns were able to break away from supervisor training last Tuesday to check out the Chicago Board Review for the graduates taking the pharmacy boards. Walgreens offers board reviews in various locations, and Chicago is one of their largest reviews. Some professors in therapeutics and pharmacy law who work for Kaplan come to teach it, so about 200 some graduates were in attendance who signed on with Walgreens. While there, we got to meet some of the past corporate interns and one of them is doing a residency with Northwestern Hospital’s Walgreens on-site so the corporate interns were invited to spend the day with her later in July.

We also had a meeting set up this week where the Executive Vice President of Pharmacy came to speak to the interns and tell us a little about his career path and how he came to rule the entire pharmacy division of Walgreens. He shared a lot of personal experience and provided great insight into future career options for us. The future of pharmacy jobs is a little unsettling. While the profession is advancing, the job prospects it seems are not when you consider the growing number of pharmacy schools that are being built and the abundance of graduates entering the field each year from many schools that are trying to capitalize on how profitable pharmacy schools are. When you combine this with the damaged economy and the fact that most pharmacy companies and chains are no longer opening up as many pharmacies as they were in the past – it’s pretty terrifying to think about for many recent pharmacy grads. The positive side of this is that companies no longer just hire anyone as pharmacists. Walgreens is now very selective when it hires and will not take the “2.0 and Go” candidate who has zero skills when talking to patients anymore since they now have a very large applicant pool to choose from – something that may help when advancing the profession. The downside is the days of pharmacist defecit where companies offer you a $50,000 sign on bonus and/or a brand new car are completely gone. Aside from this meeting, the company also organized a meeting with the pharmacists in charge of independent buyouts to tell us a little more about the process and how they select established pharmacies to purchase.

My girlfriend, Trisha, is flying into Chicago tonight so we have a great weekend planned in the city. We’ll be staying downtown in center city and on Friday we are going to see Billy Elliot The Musical, followed by a Second City Chicago late night comedy show on Saturday. The Taste of Chicago, a massive food festival, starts this weekend too and continues through July 4th when my parents come to visit, so we’ll definitely be checking that out as well. I also just started a class at Northwestern University in latin american politics and so far it has been very interesting and an overall positive experience. I’ll break away from the typical internship post next time and talk more about what this exciting weekend brought. Until next time!

Recommendations of the Day:
Fiction – You Can’t Go Home Again, Thomas Wolfe (currently reading)
Album – Hospice, The Antlers
Song – Home, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
Movie – Get Him To The Greek

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