Jennifer Courtney, Pharm.D.

Pharmacy Manager – Lucky Pharmacy Fairfield, California

My journey into Pharmacy did not start as it does for most. Surprisingly, my career did not begin with the first day of pharmacy school.  Although, I have only been a pharmacist for 2 years, I have worked in the pharmacy field for over 20, and have been with the same company for 19 of those years. After graduating pharmacy school, it seemed inevitable that I would become a manager, and run my own pharmacy in that very company. The question became, “Was I really ready to take on a leadership role as a PIC (pharmacist in-charge), and encourage others to provide quality patient care?”

As a California Northstate University College of Pharmacy student I took on many leadership roles including APhA-ASP Vice President, Class Co-President, and the chair and volunteer of many outreach events.  I was motivated by patient care, and I found myself getting immersed in my new profession. I was very involved in many organizations including CPhA, SVPhA (Sacramento Valley Pharmacists Association) and APhA. The question still was, “Did these leadership roles in pharmacy school help to make me a sufficient leader and enable me to lead others and motivate them to do the best in their roles?”

Two previous LDI graduates, Dr. Sonya Frausto and Dr. Michael Connor had approached me about the LDI opportunity and said they would recommend me for the program. I told them I would think about it, I really wanted to, but it was not the right time for me — I had too much on my plate. As I sat in a SVPhA meeting I heard so many of my colleagues talk about their experiences with LDI. I was inspired and decided that there was never going to be a “right” or “good” time to take the journey and that I needed to just plunge in, head first, and figure it out as I go. This decision couldn’t have come at a better time for me. As I was about to start my LDI journey, I had just become a pharmacy manager at Lucky’s, and I also took on the role of president-elect of my CPhA’s local association, SVPhA.  I believe that everything happens for a reason, and I think that these two new leadership roles is why my LDI journey had to begin.

I would recommend the LDI program to anyone who is a pharmacist or has a strong passion to be a leader in the pharmacy profession. When I started the LDI program I had been a pharmacist for only 1 year. Even though I had been in pharmacy for a long time, this new professional title and responsibility was a bit overwhelming for me. I was asked to be a part of many new opportunities, which I was very excited for and ready to rise to the occasion. I became the “company women” and the “yes women”. It was very hard for me to say no to an opportunity. With this came great sacrifice and I was spending a smaller amount of time doing the things that were most important to me, such as spending time with my little family. LDI helped me realize that a couple of the opportunities that I said yes to were not aligned with my Values, Interests, Strengths and Needs, which are the domains to which we map the four elements of a “whole person”, spirit, heart, mind, and body. I found that those extra commitments were keeping me away from fulfilling my needs for family time and companionship. After realizing this I have set limits for myself. I used to spend 2+ extra hours a day at the pharmacy to make things “perfect”. I understand now that not everything is going to be in a “perfect” state before the end of the day. There is not enough time in the day for that. I need to be ok with doing my best and finishing what is most important each day, then unplugging the work, and being fully present at home.

One of my strengths, and something that fulfills me personally, is making projects come to reality. My LDI project was inspired by my patients. I feel as a grocery store pharmacist, at Lucky Supermarkets, we have a unique opportunity to help our patients manage their disease states not only with medications, but also educate them on healthy eating choices to continually manage their condition daily. Imagine you have just left your physician’s office with a new diagnosis of diabetes. You are told to go to the pharmacy and they will have all your new prescriptions ready. Perhaps this includes medications, a diabetic meter, strips and lancets, and possibly insulin and needles. When you arrive at the pharmacy you have 7 prescriptions that they pull off the shelf that have your name on them. You feel overwhelmed, scared and you think to yourself, “how did this ever happen to me?” Your pharmacist sees that you are very overwhelmed and takes you to the waiting room to review all the prescriptions with you. They counsel you how to take the new diabetic medications and how to use the devices, they finish up by asking you, “do you have any questions for me about any of the things I just went over with you?” You say, “the doctor says because I am diabetic I have to change my diet. What else can I eat? Do I have to give up all the foods I love to eat?” In pharmacy school we learned and practiced, not only patient counseling on prescription medications, but also non-pharm dietary lifestyle modifications. So why is it that a patient will come into our pharmacy and ask me, “I’m a diabetic, what foods should I choose?”, and I have a hard time helping them, especially off the top of my head?

Due to the high number of diabetic patients at my pharmacy, I felt compelled to close the patient care gap and give pharmacists a tool to educate their patients on better diabetic nutrition using the “My Plate” method. Thanks to a former LDI graduate, Dr. Annie Ho, my project was named “Pharm to Fork”. The first step of my project was to reeducate myself using one of the advanced training programs from CPhA, The Pharmacist & Patient-Centered Diabetes Care.  Next was to make a brochure which explains the basics of “My Plate” method for diabetic eating, how to read a nutrition labels, exercise tips, and how to deal with low blood sugar. The other advantage of the brochure is an insert that helps the patient navigate the through our grocery store isles to locate the recommended food items on the brochure to make shopping easy.  In addition to this quick reference guide I plan on having a pharmacist recipe of the month, an option for our patients to take a guided tour of our grocery store with one of our pharmacist, and have “shelf talkers” that lets patients know that this food item is recommended for diabetics. I am hoping to take the guess work out of diabetic eating, educate our patients so that they can change their health not only with medications but with a healthy diet, and show how our pharmacy and grocery store can complement each other in making our community healthy from “Pharm to Fork”.