Renzo Gonzalez, PharmD ’16 (PCOM School of Pharmacy – Georgia Campus)


August 28, 2017

Community Pharmacy Resident, DeKalb Medical Center, Norcross, Georgia

[as told to Janice Fisher]

Renzo Gonzalez, PharmD ’16 “In my pharmacy work, I want to exploit the fact that I’m bilingual. In areas with large Hispanic communities, it’s an injustice when local pharmacies don’t have bilingual personnel. Sometimes patients will go up to the counter and, if they don’t see anybody who looks Hispanic, they’ll just walk away. There is a significant cultural component when delivering health care. This is where I feel like I can make a significant impact, especially in underserved Hispanic areas. . . . Many patients require education about the disease they have. I try to give them the whole picture—exercise tips, diet, lifestyle modifications. . . . I see patients who come into the pharmacy who’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, and their doctor wants them to get a glucose meter, and they have no idea how to operate it or what the numbers mean. . . . I’m doing a PGY1 Community Pharmacy Residency in a joint program offered by Mercer University and Walgreens Specialty Pharmacy at DeKalb Medical Center. We’re dealing with patients who have HIV, hepatitis C, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease—isolated diseases with medications that are very expensive. . . . Pharmacists partner with doctors to work together on prior authorizations and appeals, if necessary. But that’s only half the battle. Sometimes the associated copay is extremely high and may still be unaffordable. For example, a class of medications called PCSK9 inhibitors, injectables for patients with very high cholesterol levels, works wonderfully in dropping LDL-C, or bad cholesterol. But even if the medication is covered, the patient can still end up with a $300 or $400 copay. Assistance programs help cover high copays, and pharmacists are involved in that process as well. . . . It’s very gratifying when I call to tell a patient that I was able to get a medication approved. And I hear the surprise in their voice, because sometimes their experience with an insurance company, with health care, has been denial after denial.”