When faced with an obstacle, you can do one of two things: complain, or do something about it. Pharmacist Ed Hudon chose to go with the latter option.
Ed Hudon and his wife are the owners of The Medicine Shoppe in Boyertown, PA, a pharmacy that they started from scratch 26 years ago. Hudon found himself always looking for opportunities to do more – more for his patients and more for his business. He began using eCare Plans within his PioneerRx pharmacy software to track patient health interventions, and also found Flip the Pharmacy, which made him passionate about offering enhanced clinical services and advocating for his community. That led to him becoming a luminary for CPESN, as well as for his local Pennsylvania Pharmacists Care Network (PPCN). The pandemic has really reaffirmed his value as a pharmacist and given him a chance to practice everything that he has been working towards. “I started to see that my role in the community really did mean more than I had originally thought – my reach to the community, accessibility of health care, and [even just] people knowing that I was there when doctors offices were closed,” Hudon says.
This year, the focus has been on COVID-19 vaccination. Ed Hudon found himself stepping up for his community and for the value that his pharmacy could bring. “[In the beginning], doses in our country were very low – immeasurably low – and our community was scared and I was frustrated,” he recalls.
“One of my colleagues sent me an article where Commissioner Leinbach had been quoted saying that pharmacies are not equipped to vaccinate more than 20 people a day.” Instead of just complaining about this, he took a different approach.
It motivated him to activate. Ed Hudon contacted a local lawyer who had recently been vaccinated at his pharmacy, and the lawyer helped him get a meeting with Commissioner Leinbach.
Ed Hudon was ready. He prepared an entire PowerPoint presentation demonstrating the ways his independent pharmacy is already connected to the community and equipped to produce real results. “I was able to tell Commissioner Leinbach, ‘You are absolutely right. In the daily routine of my everyday work, I can do maybe 20 vaccinations. But what you don’t know is, in my outreach to the community and my networking and my resources, we were able to create a Boyertown community outreach program to facilitate mass vaccination clinics at the senior high school,” Hudon explains. “And we would be able to do it safely and efficiently, and also take care of homebound patients. We even incorporated transportation vouchers so that people that don’t have transportation would be able to come to the clinic.” He was passionate about educating his local government on the power of community pharmacy.
And his involvement didn’t stop there. Hudon is also passionate about helping senior citizens have fair access to the vaccine that they desperately need. Through his community relationships, he found a way to increase accessibility for these individuals. “We decided to create a volunteer network through the churches and various organizations in Boyertown to advocate for seniors that don’t have technology,” he says. They set up a call center with a toll-free number where they would help seniors input their vaccine forms and schedule their appointments. They even created quick links on the computers at the public library, so it was easy to sign up from there as well.
After Hudon’s presentation, the Commissioner met with the state Department of Health to fill them in on his pharmacy’s community outreach.
The very next day, Ed Hudon’s pharmacy received 1,000 doses of Covid vaccine. Today, they are up to about 2,700 doses each week and can rely on a consistent supply.
This has helped reassure patients that everything is in control and there is a plan in action to increase access to vaccination appointments. However, the most at-risk patients still need someone to advocate for them. “I want to vaccinate everybody. But we need to have some order to the madness and advocate for those that really need it,” emphasizes Hudon. “My message to people is, ‘If you have one dose – just one dose – and you have a mom that’s 80 years old who has COPD, diabetes, and congestive heart failure, are you going to give that dose to your mom? Or will you take that dose?’ questions Hudon. “And most of the answers are, ‘Well, I’m going to give it to my mom, of course.’ So look to your neighbor and look to their neighbor. They all have aunts and uncles and grandmothers that are in similar circumstances.” This is why Ed Hudon is helping to prioritize at-risk individuals and ensure that they have fair access to receiving the vaccine in his community.
When it comes to advocating for your independent pharmacy and your community, Ed Hudon says it all comes down to one thing. “It all starts with a conversation,” he says. He reached out to his local government officials to just start a conversation, and it led to his pharmacy now being a key provider of the vaccine in his town. “It takes communication, respect, and just really trying to listen and understand what each person is saying. Commissioner Leinbach was willing to listen and it was very refreshing. It gives me a lot of fuel to believe in the words that I’m speaking and the approach that I am taking so that maybe other politicians would help in other processes as we hopefully get out of the pandemic.”
“Sometimes we get frustrated as pharmacists,” Hudon acknowledges. “We look at DIR fees and look at so many different things. But we need to just take a step back and translate that to a message that can be approachable so that we can work together.” He stresses the importance of joining organizations and making relationships to be more connected to your community and to the world of pharmacy as a whole. Ed Hudon has seen so much value come from his involvement in organizations like CPESN and PPCN. “They gave me the tools I needed to be successful, and the encouragement to really believe in myself and my worth as a pharmacist,” he says enthusiastically. This gave him the confidence to speak up and make a change in his community. New obstacles and challenges will always come along, but you have the option to start the conversation and use your voice.