At the Palms Pharmacy, located at The Shoppes at The Pointe in Tampa Palms, Shahida Choudhry, Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.), promises personalized service you won’t find in a typical chain drug store.
Dr. Choudhry wants customers to see and feel the difference from the moment they walk in the door, with a warm, welcoming space where coffee is offered and natural soaps lightly scent the air.
“It even smells nice,” Dr. Choudhry laughs. “People who come in expect concierge service, which they get and we enjoy.”
That means Dr. Choudhry and her staff get to know their customers. Not only do they learn their names to be able to greet them personally and start getting their prescriptions ready as they’re walking in the door, they also learn about their patients’ medications to be able to provide the best possible care for them.
“We ask questions and we get to know them,” she says. “It’s a cool process.”
The pharmacy celebrated the third anniversary of its “first” Grand Opening on April 15. Late in 2018, Palms Pharmacy moved, but just next door to its former space in the same plaza. The new location is larger, allowing more room for pharmacists and technicians to work, a separate room for prescription compounding, and another separate room where durable medical equipment (such as walkers, crutches and nebulizers) is sold and fittings for compression garments are done.
Dr. Choudhry received her Bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy, then went on to receive her Pharm.D. degree, both from Long Island University in Brooklyn, NY, in 2001. Before opening Palms Pharmacy, Dr. Choudhry was the pharmacist at the Publix in Tampa Palms for 10 years. She loved her job and her customers, and enjoyed working with pharmacy technician Naivis Valdez.
“It was comfortable and I learned so much,” she says. However, Dr. Choudhry also says she was looking for a better balance to her work life and home, where she had two small children, and thought she could help patients more if she had her own pharmacy.
So, she says, she took classes and read books and asked questions of many people who served as mentors to her, eventually opening Palms Pharmacy and hiring Naivis to work alongside her.
Success Spurs Growth
As the business has grown, so has the staff at Palms Pharmacy. Today, there are six employees, including a second full-time pharmacist, two pharmacy students and a pharmacy clerk.
“Now that we’ve been here more than two and a half years, hopefully people realize we’re here to stay,” Dr. Choudhry says.
“We do exactly the same as every other pharmacy,” she continues, “but we do it better.”
She says this includes a wait time that is usually “next to nothing,” along with compounding medications and selling durable medical equipment not sold at typical big chain pharmacies. She and her staff also provide immunizations such as flu shots, vaccines for pneumonia and shingles, and travel vaccines.
They also thrive on helping patients with especially complicated health or insurance issues.
Dr. Choudhry says that when insurance companies decline to cover a patient’s medications, that’s when she picks up the phone.
“I know the doctors and the medical assistants,” she says. “I work with them to get their patients what they need, usually within the day.”
This is in huge contrast to other pharmacies, which may take 7-10 days to come up with a solution when an insurance company won’t cover a medication.
In fact, Dr. Choudhry says many of her patients find Palms Pharmacy through their doctors. “Doctors are supportive of us because we take care of their patients,” she says.
Clarence Williams is one patient who found Palms Pharmacy when his doctor recommended it. He drives to Tampa Palms from his home off County Line Rd., passing several big chain pharmacies along the way.
He says the personalized attention he receives is worth it.
“They know all the medications you’re taking,” he says, and will suggest alternatives “if there’s one that’s better for you or cheaper.”
Clarence says Palms Pharmacy has great communication with his doctor, checking with the doctor before making any changes, and he appreciates the phone calls he gets when his medications come in or when he’s due for a refill.
“The people working there are friendly and reliable and they just do a good job,” he says. “They go one step further than everyone else.”
Dr. Choudhry says that’s the commitment Palms Pharmacy has to all of its patients.
“We recently had a patient come in who is in his early 30s. We saw that he had been prescribed diabetic medication,” says Dr. Choudhry, explaining it was a red flag for someone so young. Dr. Choudhry found that the patient hadn’t really paid a lot of attention or given it much thought when his doctor suggested the medication because he is pre-diabetic. She says she challenged him to make some lifestyle changes, such as exercise and diet, to avoid having full-blown diabetes.
“I scared him,” she says, “but sometimes people need that, especially if they’re pre-diabetic in their early 30s.”
Dr. Choudhry says that at another pharmacy, they would just hand you your medication and you would leave. “We don’t want to do that,” she says.
Dr. Choudhry has also taken classes to specialize in hormone balancing for women and men. She reviews lab work provided by a patient’s doctor, prescribes the appropriate hormones and gets approval from the doctor for them.
She says it’s gratifying to have the doctors’ trust and help patients in this way.
Unique Gifts, Too!
Palms Pharmacy also sells natural vitamins and supplements, from companies such as Pure, Nordic, Metagenics and Mason. The store also sells LovePop pop-up greeting cards and all-natural products in the Zum line, such as Zum Bar all-natural soaps, Zum Kiss lip products, Zum Body lotions, Zum Rub moisturizers with shea butter and Zum Mist aromatherapy & body mists.
Palms Pharmacy patients also can use a free app, called “RxLocal” to refill their prescriptions, receive reminders and interact with the pharmacy staff.
Dr. Choudhry says opening her own pharmacy has been extremely rewarding.
“I love it,” she says. “From the clinical side, I have a say in patients’ health care. Physicians listen to me and they ask me what I recommend. This is why I went to school, to affect my patients’ health care.”
In addition to helping patients, Palms Pharmacy works in the community, from supporting the Parent Teacher Associations at Chiles and Tampa Palms elementary schools to providing over-the-counter and prescription medications for medical students from nearby University of South Florida who travel around the world on medical mission trips.
“We’re growing every day and it’s a blessing,” Dr. Choudhry says. “I wake up every morning and I’m excited to get to work every day.”
Palms Pharmacy is located at 17008 Palm Pointe Dr. and is open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. For more information, call (813) 252-9063, or visit ThePalmsPharmacy.com.