A Close Look at One Unique Pharmacy in Kingston Ontario

I walk by Graham’s Pharmacy often and wonder why the pharmacy owner would decide to place antiques in front of the pharmacy. Doesn’t it send a message that the pharmacy is old-school, obsolete and not in touch with today’s modern technology? Out of my curiosity, I reached out to David Graham, the owner of Graham’s pharmacy for an interview.  He agreed.

It was an informal chat but I learned few things about David.  It turns out David is from Kingston originally, studied psychology at McMaster University and decided to go abroad to Manchester University in England to obtain his pharmacy degree. It was during this time that he was exposed to and developed a passion for the various apothecaries in Europe.  Here are some questions I asked him:

Why did you decide to put antiques at the front of your pharmacy?

He said he finds the “antiques beautiful” and they are in line with the beauty of the historic downtown Kingston.  He also finds them to be “symbolic” of his pharmacy approach, to be “personable, less automated, more one-on-one”. It seems we are so busy in pharmacies nowadays that our heads are down checking blister packs, verifying prescriptions but he wants to bring back the “human touch in pharmacy practice. He believes in the importance of interaction with patients, taking care of great relationships and focusing on the “special things” that we can do.

We chatted more about the pharmacy education here vs. England and how he started his career in pharmacy in 2007, owned a pharmacy chain in Calgary and eventually decided to come back to Kingston for family reasons and opened his own independent pharmacy.

With so many changes affecting today’s pharmacy practice as well as funding cuts, I couldn’t help but asked him about his perception of challenges for pharmacy today:

What do you see as the greatest challenges in pharmacy today?

He said there are cutbacks everywhere – from lower bottom line to wage changes, all areas of pharmacy practice are being affected. The competition is fierce. But despite all the challenges, David finds that his practice is constantly growing in the right direction.  He believes it has to do with his focus on personal touch – he and his staff know all their patients’ names, their stories, their families. People come back because they crave this human interaction. They appreciate the individual attention. It has been a slow beginning but there is constant growth now.

David also explained that he has to constantly look for different ways to manage expenses.  From changing phone provider to postponing renovation projects to a later time, he has to pay great attention to details to every aspect of his pharmacy operations.

I also find David not afraid to share his vulnerable side. He said there has been some dark times. But I can also see his passion. He enjoys what he does, believing and building truthful relationship with patients. He believes a pharmacy isn’t just about meeting quotas and sales objectives.

It was refreshing to talk to David about his philosophy of his independent pharmacy. Admiring the beauty from the past isn’t about moving back in time or reluctant to moving forward with today’s pharmacy practice. It is about acknowledging what was important in the past and recognize that they may still be important today and tomorrow – the need to focus on understanding your patients, attention to details and building trustworthy relationships were the foundation of successful pharmacy practice in the past. I would argue these elements are still important today and should not be lost in the midst of expanding scope of practice or venturing into new areas of development.

It was encouraging to be able to speak to another pharmacist who is committed to shaping today’s and tomorrow’s pharmacy practice based on quality relationship with patients, paying attention to their unique needs and ensuring we do not lose sight of what is important in pharmacy.

To find out more about Graham’s pharmacy, check out its website here.