By RDBA Executive Director, Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Please describe your role.
I am currently the dietitian at Amber Pharmacy, a Hy‐Vee subsidiary. Amber Pharmacy has a sister pharmacy called Hy‐Vee Pharmacy Solutions. Both are specialty pharmacies focusing on long‐term and complex treatment of chronically ill patients. Amber Pharmacy was started in 1998 as a transplant pharmacy. In 2010, Amber Pharmacy and Hy‐Vee joined forces to create Hy‐Vee Pharmacy Solutions, and then in 2014 Hy‐Vee purchased Hy‐Vee Pharmacy Solutions and Amber Pharmacy. Amber Pharmacy is headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, and has locations throughout the U.S.
What's the story behind your experience in retail and your position?
I came to Amber Pharmacy/Hy‐Vee Pharmacy solutions two years ago after spending more than six years in a Hy‐Vee store. My current role is a clinical position providing nutrition consultations for patients over the telephone throughout the country. I am currently able to speak to patients in 22 states through licensure, which enables me to reach our pharmacy patients as we serve all 50 states. Our patient population suffers from a wide range of disease states such as oncology, transplant, inflammatory diseases and even rare diseases such as Tardive Dyskinesia, which is a neurological disease that results in involuntary movements of the body. We have a wide variety of patients and I get referrals to consult them on all ranges of nutrition. It can be basic nutrition like “what is a carbohydrate?”, how to read a food label and eat the MyPlate way to more involved nutrition needs for transplant and oncology patients.
My role in a retail store has definitely helped my role at the pharmacy. My goal with all of my patients, friends, family and coworkers is to help all people have a more positive, healthy relationship with food. I always tried to show all the great items that can be found on the perimeter of the store, as well as within the aisles. I believe you need to meet people where they are by making shopping and nutritious eating easier. That happens in the grocery store and within all sections of the store. Eating is definitely challenging and grocery shopping can be too, so having the top nutrition experts right there helping customers can make both experiences so much easier and less stressful.
What is one thing that you wish you would have known before starting your career in retail?
One thing that I wish I had known more about was just how retail business worked and salesmanship. I had little retail experience prior to joining Hy‐Vee and gained so much knowledge about the business, and I am grateful for that. Sometimes I would get asked “How do you handle all the “unhealthy” food being sold in the store?” My response was “We can fit all foods in a healthy, balanced diet; we don’t need to stop eating or drinking some of the less‐ nutritious foods but can focus on reducing intake and fill in the gaps with more nutritious options. It was like a treasure hunt to find those perfect options for each customer.
Has there been anything specific that has helped you move forward?
One of the best things I did as a retail dietitian that I believe I still consider in my position within the pharmacy is going to the management meetings we had at the store. It taught me a lot about how the business works, purchasing, sales, profits, increases. I was able to work with all departments and help increase their sales and learn why the store is setup the way it is and how to add value to each department and product. Just understanding and considering the return on investment for each job you are in and how you can affect the overall bottom line can change the way you approach your position and give you the drive and encouragement to invest more of yourself in the job you are doing. I had great managers that had worked in the industry for more than 20 years, and they taught me how my role benefited the store as well how gaining more knowledge in business benefited my position as a registered dietitian.
Tell us about one of your initiatives of which you are most proud.
I think coming to Amber Pharmacy as the first dietitian on staff here – as well as one of the first dietitians in specialty pharmacy – makes me extremely proud. Working as a retail dietitian at Hy‐Vee was my dream job and there are so many aspects about it I miss, but I believe making this change has been so good for my career. It is helping me learn how to work with all types of patient populations, with disease states I wouldn’t necessarily get to work with at a retail location, as well as learn more about the pharmacological aspect of diseases. I truly know I am helping these patients who have such complex disease states, and to be able to make one aspect of their daily lives’ easier allows me to fulfill our mission of making lives easier, healthier and happier. I also love that I can still give back to the retail stores by connecting the patients I work with at the pharmacy with the in‐store Hy‐Vee Dietitians.