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VOL. 133 | NO. 51 | Monday, March 12, 2018

Good Shepherd Pharmacy Continues Growth with new Chief Medical Officer

By Andy Meek

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Whenever Dr. Amara Elochukwu discharges a patient and sends them away with medications, she always worries after they leave if they’ll actually be able to afford the drugs.

If they can’t, she often wonders, what’s the point? Why even prescribe them? That concern explains why Dr. Elochukwu is in the process of joining Good Shepherd Pharmacy in Memphis on a part-time basis as the pharmacy’s first chief medical officer.

A native of Nigeria, her charge will be in part to help figure out how to make more people aware of the pharmacy, which has a mission distinct from traditional retail pharmacies in that it works to make drugs as widely available as possible at the lowest cost to people who most need them.

Dr. Amara Elochukwu

She comes to Good Shepherd from Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, where she’s worked as a hospitalist since August 2013.

She’s also continuing in her position there. As a hospitalist, she’s trained and board-certified in internal medicine, and she admits and discharges people in the acute care center in the hospital. “So I mostly see people when they’re their sickest.”

She’s a graduate of St. George’s University School of Medicine in Grenada, in the West Indies, where she received her doctorate in December 2009.

“I’ve known about Good Shepherd right from the very beginning,” she said. “Phil (Dr. Philip Baker, pharmacist and founder) and I actually attend the same church. When he was in the beginning of this, I really thought it was a very interesting concept and also very important.

“Primarily, I’m a hospitalist, and one of the things I see most commonly is that people have problems with obtaining their medication. So I decided to join Good Shepherd because I believe in the vision they have.”

The way Good Shepherd works: it’s built around a nonprofit, membership model and serves both uninsured and underinsured Tennesseans. Members pay a low monthly fee and get all their prescriptions at cost, with no markup, and part of each membership goes toward sponsoring a low-income member who can’t afford membership fees.

As its new chief medical officer, Elochukwu will partly be responsible for creating strategies to reinvent and expand the Good Shepherd community pharmacy model, developing clinical initiatives, and working to help team up with local health care providers to provide free or at-cost medicine to a larger community population.

The pharmacy has been looking for ways to grow and expand the pool of people it serves. To that end, toward the end of last year it teamed up with the Memphis-based National Foundation for Transplants to help bring affordable medications to transplant patients in Tennessee.

As a result of the partnership, patients of the foundation now have access to either free or at-cost prescription medications through Good Shepherd.

Baker describes Elochukwu, as a “strong leader” who “shares our core beliefs and is committed to increasing access to health care in our community."

“For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to be a doctor,” Elochukwu said. “Being able to help. But it’s one thing to say you want to help people. When you actually start your career, or when you start training for it, what really fascinated me about medicine was the process of learning about diseases and being able to offer people help that could make a difference in their life.

“We’re very different from the other retail pharmacies, so I believe this is going to be an evolving role. My hope for Good Shepherd is it becomes something people are very aware of in Memphis and take advantage of. And that it continues to grow and evolve with the simple goal of making medications affordable to people and just being a place that people can come to and know they’ll be cared for.”

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