The Key to Community Wellness
Premier Pharmacy Gets a Visit from Oprah
We recently spoke with Martez Prince, owner of Premier Pharmacy in Charlotte, North Carolina, about Oprah Winfrey visiting his store and why she thinks his pharmacy is a model for the country. For nearly five years Prince has worked to provide a personal level of care and fill the gaps in much needed healthcare services he found to be lacking in his community. At his pharmacy he works to keep his patients informed on everything from alternative therapies to the right insurance plan for them.
Martez Prince opened Premier Pharmacy and Wellness Center in Charlotte, North Carolina nearly five years ago with the goal of providing a personal level of care and services that were lacking in a community that he had intimate knowledge of.
Word of mouth has traveled fast in the years since and even caught the attention of Oprah Winfrey, who visited the pharmacy during her 2020 Vision tour to raise awareness about mental and physical health.
"While there, Oprah called the pharmacy a model for the country because of its focus on patient outcomes."
Prince said Oprah was able to find his store because of other news articles he’s been interviewed for and “Because of the level of care that we have been able to provide.”
While there, Oprah called the pharmacy a model for the country because of its focus on patient outcomes.
“The people that come into independent pharmacies are people that are looking for that extra level of care, they are people that are wanting or need help understanding what’s going on with them,” Prince said. “They don’t want to be rushed to just pick up a prescription and be pushed out the door.”
Prince’s passion for community care started at the age of 16 in his hometown of Fort Pierce, FL. He was introduced to the pharmacy world at a Medicine Shoppe franchise that was owned by a family friend.
Prince said it was there were he first saw how the patients interacted with the pharmacy and saw how much they valued the pharmacist. Those interactions made him want to be a pharmacist even more.
“I chose it as a career path and decided to apply into the Florida A&M University pre-pharmacy program,” Prince said.
He started going to school there in the fall of 2004 and graduated in 2010 through their doctorate program. For about five years he worked for a corporate-owned pharmacy.
“I worked for a large corporation pharmacy at first and I worked at one that I felt was more community focused or seemed like it had a structure set out where it allowed the pharmacist to do just little bit more than your traditional crazy atmosphere,” Prince said.
Pharmacy changes quickly though. Every few months things can change because of how reimbursements are granted or when a PBM restructures. After one such change, the pharmacy he worked for also made some adjustments.
“The company I worked for started to align themselves more like all the other corporations and I felt like that model affected the patient level of care,” Prince said.
This drove him to open his own pharmacy so he could continue to provide the level of care that first inspired him to become a pharmacist.
“I opened up my independent pharmacy as a way to try to provide a level of service that I thought was important for patients to receive,” Prince said. He added that he knows that pharmacists who go to school have a goal of first and foremost, providing patient care to those they serve.
Because of some of the rules and the way workflow is designed in traditional big box pharmacies it felt impossible to Prince for a pharmacist to provide the same level of personal care. But at his store he is free to focus on wellness to provide the community something they wouldn’t typically have access to.
“We have that one stop shop model built, where patients can come in, they can be seen by their providers and they can pick up their prescriptions if need be,” Prince said.
Prince has found that he doesn’t just offer more personalized care, pharmacies like his serve to fill the gaps in the healthcare system. There can be breakdowns in care for patients as they move through the process and Prince and his staff help with patients who need alternative therapy, can’t afford a prescription and more.
“Service goes a long way. The independent pharmacy community will always be at the forefront.”
“There’s a large percentage of prescriptions that are prescribed every year, but a large percentage that actually go unfilled,” Prince said.
Nurse practitioners can be found at Premier, providing primary care to patients. Those same patients can also pick up OTC items and receive guidance on holistic approaches on therapy.
He has found that pharmacists are often more accessible than a patient’s provider and can help by allowing patients to feel heard or at least be comfortable until they can hear back from their provider.
“It eliminates that gap in patient care or that delay in patient care,” Prince said.
He has noticed that pharmacists have been doing more to step into the gap and acting to help patients when that provider is unavailable. However, more work is needed according to Prince. There are some questions he can’t answer without access to labs and other information.
“With having access to those things, we could actually help,” Prince said.
Other challenges and limitations Prince experiences are created by PBMs with the creation of preferred stores, which cause patients to think they can’t use certain stores or have them pay higher copays at certain pharmacies.
To fight this Prince works to educate his patients on insurance plans and often brings in outside agencies to help patients understand their options.
“Service goes a long way,” Prince said. “The independent pharmacy community will always be at the forefront.”