What is a specialty pharmacy? 

A specialty pharmacy focuses on high-cost meds for complicated diseases like diabetes, HIV, and hepatitis C. These drugs are difficult to access and require special handling. Specialty pharmacists have additional training, and patients have to meet certain criteria. At our company, we provide testing, dispensing, packaging, delivery, and clinical support, and we have to file reports to show that our patients are complying with and benefiting from treatment. A UCSF study shows that patients who get HIV medications through HIV-focused pharmacies have higher adherence than patients treated in other settings. 

Tell us about your PrEP program. 

We are the first California pharmacy to have pharmacists initiate PrEP, pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV. It’s a once-daily pill with more than 90-percent efficacy in preventing HIV infection. Mostly, PrEP has been studied in gay white men, but our goal is to increase access for Latinos and African Americans, who are disproportionately affected by HIV. We’ve tested several hundred patients and now have a number in treatment. 

What inspired you to become a pharmacist? 

I never thought I would be a pharmacist or a businesswoman. My mother’s family has been in California many generations, and my father was an immigrant farmworker. Education was not a priority, and I went to college against my parents’ wishes. But right after I graduated from UCSF, I got the call that my father was dying. In the hospital, he was telling everyone, “My daughter is a doctor.” He was so proud. 

What’s the best part of your job? 

It’s rewarding to see my employees and patients grow and reach their goals. Our care is very individualized, and our patients and providers really appreciate it. That’s very gratifying. 

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