By Debbie Weitzman, President, Pharmaceutical Distribution at Cardinal Health
Community pharmacists continue to rise to the challenges of the global COVID-19 pandemic, serving on the frontlines as trusted healthcare professionals. They are working to meet the evolving needs of their communities by providing point of care services, educational resources, and high-touch connections to drive better health outcomes for their patients.
Many are balancing this important work with motherhood. I’ve had a chance to work closely with many of these women in my years at Cardinal Health. As a working mom myself – with two grown children now in college – I understand the challenge of finding that balance. When my children were younger, I often had to make choices between my children’s extracurricular or school events and a work commitment. But at the same time, I found that being both a mom and a business leader was so fulfilling that I couldn’t imagine one role without the other. And today, my children tell me how proud they are of the work I do.
I recently had the opportunity to virtually visit with three pharmacist moms about their experiences over the past year, managing their pharmacies, raising children, and dealing with the challenges and uncertainties of the pandemic. Below are highlights of our conversations.
Sheila Kitzman, R.Ph. and co-owner of North Park Pharmacy, Manchesney Park, Illinois
Sheila Kitzman chose the pharmacy profession more than 30 years ago, first as a pharmacy technician, then completing her studies and beginning her career as a pharmacist with North Park Pharmacy. Shortly after the birth of her second child, she bought in as co-owner. Kitzman credits her balance as a pharmacist mom to a flexible schedule and a strong support system, including her husband, her business partner and her pharmacy staff.
Kitzman’s daughter is in her first year of college and her son is a junior in high school. She said that her flexible schedule has allowed her to be present for her kids’ important events and that she dedicates her time away from the pharmacy to family time. “You come to the realization that you just can't do it all, and you will miss some things and that is okay. You do your best to be there for momentous occasions. It can be challenging to be a pharmacist mom. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
Kitzman faced several challenges during the pandemic, requiring her to pivot and adapt as she lost staff and saw business slow during the summer of 2020. She offered a delivery service and added a curbside pickup service that has provided a good way to keep everyone safe, especially if the patient is ill. She also turned to her support network for staffing help, including her daughter. “My daughter could see my struggles with staffing, and she asked to come in and help. I initially said no because I was fearful for her safety since there were so many unknowns at the time. I finally relented and brought her into the pharmacy. She learned a lot by working in a real-world pharmacy. She loved working at the pharmacy so much that she is currently pursuing a career in pharmacy.”
When Kitzman is not in the pharmacy, she enjoys time outdoors, cooking and spending free weekends with her husband and kids at the family’s lake house in Wisconsin.
Ana Rita Sued, PharmD, R.Ph., owner of Farmacia Derkes, Guayama, Puerto Rico
Ana Rita Sued’s passion for pharmacy began as a child, when she spent significant time in the pharmacy owned by her parents. “Since I was a little girl, I basically have made my life in a pharmacy and my twin teenage daughters spend most of their time here at the pharmacy with me.” Sued remodeled her store and added a full bathroom, so that her daughters can be comfortable in the store. The girls often do their homework here. The set-up allows Sued to spend more time with her daughters and help with their homework. And her daughters have the benefit of seeing the impact Sued has on her patients. “I come from a small town and when my daughters are at the pharmacy, I want them to see how happy my patients are when I help them. I try to show them the importance of helping others and the satisfaction you get from that.”
Sued shared that the pandemic created a difficult transition as each day brought a new challenge. Finding balance between keeping her family and community safe and reassuring her daughters that she and her husband were doing everything they could to stay safe was her priority. “My daughters managed on their own and matured a lot over that time,” she said.
Sued continues to strive to maintain balance between work and home. “Pharmacy is a profession in which you can have as much or as little impact as you want in your community. To give back to your community, you need to make sure you are taking care of your needs and those of your family first. Don’t be shy about asking for time off to spend with your family and to reconnect with yourself,” she said. Without exception, she sets aside Sundays as family day, to have fun and enjoy free time with her husband and daughters exploring the island together.
Marcie J. Parker, PharmD, R.Ph., MBA, owner of Healthwise Pharmacy, Winterville, North Carolina
Marcie Parker, a pharmacist for nearly 20 years, is the mom of four, two girls and two boys, ranging in ages from nine to 15. She bought into Healthwise Pharmacy 15 years ago, shortly after the birth of her first child. Six years ago, she bought out her partner. (Parker recently opened a second location in Rock Hill, South Carolina.) She spends most of her time focused on the business of the pharmacy; she credits her MBA with helping her make strong decisions and remain independent in an ever-changing pharmacy landscape.
Early in the pandemic, Parker made the difficult decision to close her pharmacy’s doors to foot traffic. She and her staff delivered medications and supplies, utilized the pharmacy drive-thru, and offered back door pickups, as needed, for durable medical equipment. “We have an infusion clinic and were infusing immunocompromised patients and I could not have a lot of walk-throughs, so we closed our doors for about six months,” she shared.
Parker shared that her children see the long hours she puts into her business, and she tries to balance that by incorporating family time, including having her children volunteer in the pharmacy. She credits her support system, including her husband and pharmacy staff, with helping her work through the challenges. “Work is important and that’s how we earn a living, but at the end of the day, it’s our family that’s the most important.”
Like many women in her generation, Parker helps to care for her parents, who are both ill; on her days off from the pharmacy, she helps tend to their needs. She shared that she finds comfort in praise and worship music, spending time with her family and friends at the family’s beach house, and family movie nights.
Celebrating Pharmacist Moms
As we celebrate Pharmacist Month and Women’s Pharmacist Day on October 12, I want to express my sincere appreciation for these remarkable women and the many thousands of pharmacy moms around the world. To all of you: Thank you for continuing to seek balance as you make your invaluable contributions to your profession and to your communities.
Note: A version of this story was recently published on the Pharmacist Moms Group, an organization designed to provide women pharmacists the opportunity to network, collaborate and share feedback.
About Debbie Weitzman
Debbie Weitzman (shown with her family at the top of this page) is president of Pharmaceutical Distribution and The Medicine Shoppe International, Inc., at Cardinal Health. She is responsible for distribution to thousands of pharmacies across the care continuum, from retail and hospital pharmacies to long-term care and community health center pharmacies. Her team is helping to solve the most pressing challenges facing pharmacies with the development of scaled solutions and services.