What makes independent pharmacies unique is a pharmacist’s ability to deliver specialized healthcare. It’s all about treating the individual, even amidst the chaos of pharmacy work.
For TJ Woodard, co-owner of Prescriptions to Geaux alongside his wife Aimee, the key to a successful pharmacy isn’t exactly rocket science.
“My theory has always been that if you do the right thing and take care of people,” TJ says, “[your pharmacy] will grow naturally.”
If you work hard and aim towards a common goal with your staff, the rewards will sprout up. It takes time, but it’s always worth it in the end — both for the pharmacy and the patient.
Based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, TJ and Aimee opened Prescriptions to Geaux in 2013 and a second store in 2019.
With the rest of their staff, they are committed to providing “individualized customer care and exceptional service to [community],” according to their website.
Prescriptions to Geaux is exactly what an independent pharmacy ought to be: a healthcare destination with a large variety of medications to dispense with an equally impressive array of vaccines.
It’s the culmination of years of working in the industry, a labor of love that’s in service to helping patients with their unique health needs.
TJ and his wife Aimee graduated from the University of Louisiana at Monroe in 2007 with a degree in pharmacy. He later graduated from LSU in 2011 with an MBA.
‘“I was always drawn to medicine and caring for people. It’s like fixing broken things,” TJ says. “That’s what appealed to me about pharmacy.”
TJ started his post-college career as many fresh graduates do: floating around through the large chains, gaining experience while learning about the more corporate side of the industry.
Although he was learning the ropes of pharmacy, he noticed a lack of a personal touch within the system of big chains.
He dubs that side of industry “assembly line pharmacy.” It was there, though, he realized he wanted his work to be more personal, unique, and fulfilling.
“For the corporate pharmacy types, it was more important that I wore a lab coat and tie than getting to know my patients. I couldn’t make sense of that.”
TJ’s outlook on the independent pharmacy industry is one of community and empathy instead of breakneck competition and commerce. This is the core essence of Prescriptions to Geaux.
As a Louisiana Independent Pharmacy Association member, TJ knows independents are in this together, not at odds with one another.
“One of my business models is to have a great relationship with healthcare professionals, doctors, and nurse practitioners.” He adds, “It doesn’t have to be a contentious relationship — we make their lives easier and they make our lives easier.”
For all the good that independent pharmacies bring to the industry, the pasture isn’t always as green as it can be.
An independent pharmacy is also a small business, which means there’s no shortage of red tape and complicated regulations to cut through.
Pharmacy benefit managers have long been a thorn in the side of independent pharmacies, having a heavy influence on how much patients pay for their medications and how much pharmacies profit.
TJ and Prescriptions to Geaux embrace the various job challenges, seeing them as a way to adapt and innovate.
However, TJ describes how PBMs are interfering with pharmacy work, inconveniencing both pharmacies and patients. Nevertheless, it also serves as a reminder of the quality healthcare independents provide.
“People are starting to ask questions: ‘why do I have to use mail order?’ ‘They shipped my insulin last month on the wrong day and has been in the hot sun for four days.’ They’re forced to follow these rules for their medications. To me, that is the biggest challenge that independents are facing.”
Conflict and challenges provide avenues for growth and ingenuity. Downtown Baton Rouge, where the first Prescriptions to Geaux pharmacy is located, is a densely populated area.
Parking can be a nightmare for workers, tourists, or a pharmacy delivery person. The solution? It’s as easy as riding a bike.
TJ elaborates, “Our guys ride bikes all over downtown, pull up and chain their bike up, and deliver the medicine.”
When there is a will, there is a way — even if there are no parking spots available.
Prescriptions to Geaux is a superb example of what independent pharmacies are all about.
They have become a pillar of the downtown Baton Rouge community through strong word of mouth and by delivering exceptional healthcare services.
If you needed any more proof, Prescriptions to Geaux has administered over 10,000 COVID-19 vaccines out of their “tiny little pharmacy.”
If independents are the Little Engine that Could, TJ and Aimee Woodard show that a little engine can roar with the biggest of them.