Bienestar Pharmacy & Wellness
Lindenwold, New Jersey

5 - Bienestar Pharmacy & Wellness - PH

At Bienestar Pharmacy Their Goal is to Engage, Empower and Educate

“Bienestar” is the Spanish translation of the word “wellness.” Bienestar pharmacy is dedicated to helping families maintain wellness and prevent disease progression by providing personalized medication management services focused on engaging, empowering and educating the communities they serve. Their vision is to become the premier community pharmacy distinguished for optimizing patient outcomes through community engagement and personalized education. IPC recently spoke with pharmacy owner Gladys Duenas.
IPC:

Can you tell me about your history as a pharmacist?

Gladys

“I have a Hispanic/Latino background so I’ve done a lot of translating, interpreting, and helping others navigate through the healthcare system. One of the professionals I was always impressed with growing up was the community pharmacist, who helped out so much with a lot of our family members. My grandparents trusted their community pharmacist and they were very loyal to that relationship. My brother and I are both the first generation born in the U.S. and to graduate college. Nobody else in our family is a pharmacist but they all have small businesses (bakeries, grocery stores, restaurants etc). I knew early on that I wanted a career that involved taking care of people and participating in a small business. I went into pharmacy school and my freshman year I volunteered in our community hospital. I never worked in community pharmacy but I worked in the hospital and had wonderful mentors who took me under their wing.

I loved what the pharmacy at the hospital was doing but there was something missing; in the hospital you are so removed from the business side of things. There is care that is needed but once the patient goes back home the question is if they can afford that care, and if there are resources available. We provide all these great things in the hospital but once the patients left there was a disconnect. That’s what made me really want to get into community pharmacy, to bridge that disconnect.”

IPC:

How did you decide to open up your own store?

Gladys

“I went to St. John’s University and when I graduated I fell in love with the idea of opening up a store. I had the opportunity to work with a lot of different pharmaceutical companies. I was sold on community residency by one of the pharmaceutical professionals I had been working with, he helped me explore different programs and focus on research, grant writing etc. I taught in the pharmacy school at the University of Pittsburgh and I learned a lot about how pharmacists are applying for resources to advance patient care. It’s crucial to think about how to provide these resources for customers while still keeping a business running. The experience kind of meshed the two worlds I was fascinated by, and it also helped advance my clinical skills. I learned how physicians deliver care, train, and get the ball rolling. We worked with underserved clinics and the needs of different demographics, different patients. I really learned so much.

When I finished my residency I was offered a faculty position and never in a million years would I have imagined I would go into academia. You are constantly working with students and innovators, it was a great opportunity. I was getting paid to learn how to develop practice sites in community pharmacies and teach students at the same time. It was a very rewarding experience; I did that for almost 10 years. If pharmacists want to make clinical services their business, the big question is how to do it. You have to get buy in from your patients, and they have to want the services. Getting buy-in from the physician, that was another big component. Teaching pharmacists who are not prescribers, that was a big portion of it too. You identify drug related problems, and you need to have collaboration with prescribers in the area so you can help patients reach their outcome. The payer side of things is another big component and understanding what’s in it for the payers. You have to ask: are these the same payers who are benefiting from the outcomes? And you have to determine how you can align with their goals. There is a whole other area of learning.”

IPC:

What are some of the challenges for those just starting out?

Gladys

“Many people get into pharmacy for financial reasons and a lot of my colleagues were in the same boat, there was a high demand for pharmacists and the pay was attractive. Now there is a surplus of pharmacists so it’s harder for students. Future pharmacists can’t be as selective as they used to be. The students need internships so the mindset is a little different. They need to distinguish themselves and stand out, and it’s more competitive now. The landscape is changing and we want pharmacists who aren’t afraid to talk to patients and find out what they need and want.”

IPC:

Have you continued to work closely with students since you got into academia?

Gladys

“I was the first to start a MTM clinic in a doctor’s office and a Rite Aid. It was really important because our students could see the patient in the office, give them the prescription and provide follow up care. They would spend time in the pharmacy, in the doctor’s office. It progressed into bringing med students on board. We took students to Walgreens as an activity to show them that you can’t just send a patient into the aisle to choose ibuprofen. There are so many choices and the patients need consulting, they need help. We had the MTM practice, we had the component with the med students and then a brand new medical school was built. They asked me to be the coordinator of inter-professional education and build a student run clinic from scratch. I did that for five years and that’s what brought me to this location. We were delivering care, the students were learning how to collaborate and give care. They were first year students so they were very nervous but I would assure them that they know more than they think. They know how to listen and to be there for the patients. They don’t necessarily have to diagnose but they can get a lot of info just by listening. Almost all the patients were Spanish speaking. I would come home and tell my husband how much of a need there was for these underserved patients. Between my husband and my mom convincing me, they said I should open up my own pharmacy and encouraged me 100 percent. I was thinking that would be a good way to go back to the roots of where I started – to be that person in the community that people needed.

McKesson sponsors RxOwnership and when I got involved with that, I realized I could explore a business plan seriously. It was a huge financial risk, having a five-year-old and a family to support. My mom is brilliant with operations and business ownership skills so she was able to give me great advice. She also can do location analysis and help me figure out what type of niche we needed to fill etc. I knew we wanted to be bilingual and find a Spanish speaking community, and based on all of the workshops we participated in, we knew we didn’t want to fear the big chains. If there are a lot of big chains in one area it’s because they’ve done the analytics and there are enough people to support those chains.

I didn’t want to compete with independents but I didn’t want to be intimidated by chains. I also did not want a startup. I wanted to do a buyout and acquire an existing pharmacy. It went to google maps and picked a few locations to look into. This particular location is about 13 miles from my house. When I came here it was closed, completely vacant. I was able to get in contact with Health Mart and they explained they closed because he was bought out by a Rite Aid, not because the business had been doing badly. Basically the landlord bought it out but had a two-year noncompete in the location. Even though I didn’t want to do a startup the opportunity seemed right.

It was a long process getting things started; we built out the pharmacy and started from the very beginning. We opened in July and had a grand opening in September. We’ve met and exceeded our goals every month so that’s great. My mom is here full time with me, and my husband has helped out a lot. I can’t ask for a more enthusiastic and passionate staff. The Hispanic community has been great.”

IPC:

Tell me more about the community.

Gladys

“This community is all new to us, my family’s former businesses are closer to New York and we are closer to Philadelphia. When we introduced Bienestar the idea was to focus on engaging, empowering and educating the community. That was what led to our architectural design; we built a classroom/wellness center. Our pharmacy is here to educate the community, everything from the name to the building design, colors, brand – we want people to walk in and realize it’s not your average pharmacy. I think we’ve been successful in that. Our front end is smaller, very focused on just medications. The people know that when they come here they are getting a personal service. We ask questions and do what we can to focus on the patient’s needs. People realize the value in being heard. In our classroom we offer diabetes workshops, everything is also offered in Spanish. I’m the only pharmacist here so it is difficult at times but I know it will all be worth it. What keeps me going is knowing I have the best team ever, and that I get to see the numbers every month and know we are hitting our metrics. It’s very encouraging but it’s a huge learning curve. The mentors from ownership workshops etc. have been phenomenal. I spent a week with Hyatt Pharmacy in Wisconsin; he opened his doors to me and taught me a lot. The outpouring of advice and support, feedback, mentorship is amazing.”

IPC:

How has your relationship been with IPC?

Gladys

“I’ve been so impressed with IPC from the very beginning. As soon as my doors opened I was receiving calls and info from IPC, it’s so organized and so helpful. I had assistance with my grand opening. I’m hoping within a year I can have some relief coverage so I can attend some of the events and participate in the CEs and networking opportunities.”

IPC:

Any other special services you’d like to highlight?

Gladys

“We have a built-in classroom, we are actually setting up for an event with the school district and local churches. We were awarded a local grant for lifestyle choices for minorities (healthy eating etc). We are having a meeting today for that. I feel like it’s so rewarding to have the opportunity to not only learn, but also teach and give back to the community. It’s awesome to share what I’ve learned and help others. We offer MTM, immunizations, nutrient counseling and all of our high blood pressure medication patients can get a free BP check. Our technicians have the opportunity to take a few minutes for each patient one-on-one, it’s naturally part of our work flow.

There are a lot of chains in the area, there is one other independent in town that recently opened but we don’t try to compete with them.”