“To be a leader, you just have to step out and say ‘I’m going to do it. I’m going to take action, and I’m going make sure that I protect this pharmacy profession that I love.”
At a drive-thru window masked with condensation, courtesy of Louisiana’s trademark humidity, Leah Snyder says goodbye to the patient at the window and asks you how you are (and genuinely wants to know). If you are one of her patients, your response is what she’s focused on, and she’s going to make the most out of the time you’ll spend with her in the pharmacy.
Between her time spent at three different pharmacies, her statewide diabetes education, and her role as regional director for the Louisiana Pharmacists Association, Leah understands how life-changing a conversation can be, and she takes her time with every interaction. Rather than plant herself at one pharmacy, Leah circulates through three different pharmacies in the north Louisiana region. Along with Grant Family Pharmacy, she travels to Lakeview and Montgomery Pharmacy to provide clinical services to the patients of that region. Of course, any pharmacist can greet a patient, but Leah uses every conversation as an opportunity to improve a patient’s life. “It’s that one question that makes us different from an ATM that could dispense pills,” she says. According to Leah, these one-on-one interactions are what independent pharmacists have been doing all along, and now, they’re being recognized for it. “Some pharmacists seem overwhelmed at this task, but this is a great period.
This is the first time where insurance companies have looked and seen our clinical role, so it’s a great, exciting time for us,” she encourages. “We’re getting reimbursed, and this is the first time pharmacists have gotten reimbursed for something that doesn’t exactly involve a product. It’s our clinical judgement and our clinical intervention with those, so it’s a very exciting time for pharmacists.” Within the pharmacy system, pharmacists can be “prompted” with questions for patients in order to initiate conversations. Leah recounts a recent interaction with a diabetes patient who had stopped taking his medication because it upset his stomach, but after a ten minute conversation, Leah initiated a change in his regimen and gave him more information on his disease state. “It’s just those questions when talking to your patients, taking those few minutes when they either drop off their prescription or when they’re picking it up, even if it’s a refill, to ask, ‘How’s it going? How is your medicine? What was your blood sugar this morning?’ It’s just those few questions.”
When asked about diabetes, Leah edges forward to tell us more. “Diabetes is so true to my heart,” she begins. “I remember my grandmother had diabetes when I was a teenager, and I remember she was very sick. It wasn’t until I got older and started the pharmacy program that I realized there was such a lack of education. We did not know, at that point, everything that was needed to give the best care.” Because diabetes has become an “epidemic,” Leah realizes the seriousness of the disease and the necessity for better education. “I’m very passionate about diabetes education because I believe that everyone should be able to improve their own healthcare. By giving them the keys and the knowledge, they can change their outcome.” She pays close attention to her diabetes patients when they come to the pharmacy, and she makes sure to ask them about their blood sugar. “The longer they take to answer that question, you know how much they’re actually checking their blood sugar,” she laughs. “But that’s an opportunity to start a conversation.” Although she graduated from pharmacy school in 2011, Leah already holds a position as regional director in the Louisiana Pharmacists Association, an organization she deeply appreciates. “We can’t hope that other people are going to protect our profession.
The LPA is the only organization in the state that encompasses all area of pharmacy.” The most vital aspect of the LPA? “The networking is incredible,” she answers, “whether it’s in my particular field of independent pharmacy or community pharmacists or hospital pharmacists. Those interactions and bonds are so important for collaboration and ideas.” In the few years since she has begun her career, Leah has accomplished what usually takes twice the amount of time for a pharmacist. She deflects from praise and points out that age is not an important factor in leadership. “To be a leader, you just have to step out and say ‘I’m going to do it. I’m going to take action, and I’m going make sure that I protect this pharmacy profession that I love.” Leah truly does set a standard in this industry with her broad outreach beyond the four walls of a pharmacy. Whether it’s showing a diabetes patient how to use an insulin pump, asking a patient how they’ve been, or showing her colleagues the benefits of MTMs, Leah knows a good conversation can be used to teach, motivate, and heal.