Pharmacy U

Tracey Phillips gets in touch with her roots


After 12 years with Rexall, most recently as vice president of pharmacy, I decided to return to my community pharmacy roots.


by Tracey Phillips

Photo courtesy of Jessica Deeks


Although the impetus for my transition was more personal than professional – I wanted to spend more time with my family, specifically my son, who is starting high school – there is no doubt my timing is fortuitous. It’s an unprecedented time for pharmacy and pharmacists. Never before have we been able to do so much for our patients.

Still, this was a difficult decision for me. I loved my job. Rexall felt like a family, but in the end my own family has to come first. Leaving Rexall was life-changing. In May, I exited the boardroom for the dispensary; I said goodbye to working with executives and hello to helping patients.

Initially, once I had made the decision for a career change, I planned to take the summer off then look for a job in the fall. Those relaxing months never happened. I had spoken some years ago with Drug Trading about my interest in purchasing the I.D.A. pharmacy in Westport, Ont., where we have a cottage and my family has roots. A few weeks before I planned to leave Rexall, it came on the market. Call it what you will, but the stars certainly aligned.

While the first few months in my new job were hectic – not to mention exhilarating and nerve-wracking, it has been so satisfying. Customers have been warm and friendly, and the physicians in the area have welcomed me to the team. I’ve settled in; now there are days I can’t remember not being a community pharmacist.

Although the town I practise in has about 680 residents, but the pharmacy draws on a significantly larger area. We serve over 2,000 households and just as many cottages where the summer residents live here April to October.

Returning to community pharmacy has been like wearing a pair of comfortable old slippers – and trying on new shoes for the very first time. The staff has been incredible. They are so efficient, and they know everyone. When I arrived there was this fabulous synergy. They are familiar with the nitty-gritty, day-to-day essentials. I have the bigger picture. Of course, I hadn’t dispensed in nearly a decade. I did a lot of continuing education, and I did a lot of reading. With Rexall, I liaised frequently with national pharmaceutical representatives to provide information to pharmacists on their products. That helped me in my new role.

I started as a community pharmacist nearly 25 years ago and although the environment today is totally different, at its core,  it is still the same. Patients still have a lot of questions and expect answers from the pharmacist.

They are also more aware of what pharmacists can do and are looking for these services. Flu shots, for example, had not previously been provided in my store. Patients were wondering about this. Now it is available, and upon a direct order from our physicians we also provide other injections, including vaccines. In rural areas that is important. You no longer have to travel great distances to make the return trip to the doctor with your serum. There are also no walk-in clinics in my area, so we now prescribe for a variety of common ailments through a medical directive with our physician partners.

It’s about more than convenience. It’s about trust. For me, it’s also about reaffirming what as a pharmacy executive I had been telling pharmacists for years they could be doing. Now, it is my turn to practice what I preach. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Former Rexall executive Tracey Phillips is now pharmacist-owner of I.D.A Guardian Westport Village Pharmacy, Westport, Ont.