Pharmacy & Healthcare

Putting their white coats back to work

Leaders from Walgreens Support Office, who are also licensed pharmacists, are going back behind the counter as volunteers to help our pharmacy teams.
Elyse Russo, Walgreens Stories
Just a few days before Christmas, John Colaizzi walked into store #2513—the East Brunswick, New Jersey location where he started his career with Walgreens as a teenage pharmacy tech in 1997. He put on his white coat, which he admits was a bit snug, and got to work behind the counter for the first time in a long time.
John Colaizzi and Teresa George
John Colaizzi and Teresa George, who has worked as a Walgreens pharamcy tech for 22 years, and worked with John at store #2513 when he was starting out with the company.
“I actually got to work with a pharmacy technician who was a tech when worked here,” says Colaizzi, a licensed pharmacist in New Jersey who is now vice president of Pharmacy Services and Delivery at Walgreens. The pharmacy tech Teresa George has been with Walgreens for 22 years.

Colaizzi is one of several Walgreens Support Office leaders who are volunteering for shifts at Walgreens pharmacies in their communities to provide hands-on support to team members and get real-time feedback on what’s working and what’s not.

“The best ideas to make things better for our patients always come from team members in our stores and pharmacies,” Colaizzi says. “It’s one thing to get feedback through surveys, but it’s another thing get that feedback in real time from our team members.”

After spending a day at #2513, Colaizzi picked up a shift at store #2884 in Elizabeth, New Jersey, where the pharmacy manager today is also his former pharmacy intern. He speaks about pharmacy manager Beatrice Rivera with so much pride.

“It’s a very busy pharmacy, and she knows every patient who walks in—every single one,” Colaizzi says. “To see how much she cares for her community just about puts a tear in your eye. To watch her care for her patients is incredible.”

Rivera says she appreciated having Colaizzi pick up a shift in her pharmacy. It was great to have an extra set of hands in the mix, and she says her pharmacy team liked working with him, too. 

Colaizzi and pharmacy team at store #2513
Colaizzi poses for a photo with the pharmacy team staff at Walgreens Store #2513?.

“It was wonderful working with John again,” she says. “He’s not afraid to talk to anybody, and he’s very engaging and genuine.”

Rivera thinks that having support office leaders volunteer in stores is a good idea. 

“I think it brings a human element to the fact that even though someone is in our support office, they’re still one of us,” she says.

In the Midwest, vice president of Pharmacy Operations Lisa Tomic took a group of volunteers to the Quad Cities to work in some of the stores there that were in need of staffing support. They stayed for a weekend, cleaning, filing and organizing during overnight hours while the stores were closed.

Two of the people Tomic brought with her—director of Pharmacy Systems, Jon Arends and senior manager of Pharmacy Operations Nick Sinclair—have pharmacy licenses in Illinois, so they were able to help with pharmacy day-to-day operations.

Lisa Tomic and group of volunteers
Lisa Tomic took a group of volunteers to help out at Walgreens pharmacies in the Quad Cities over a weekend in Janaury .

“Beyond just helping them with their day-to-day, we actually helped them create different organization and different structure in their workspace, which we hope will be lasting,” Arends says, explaining how they reorganized one pharmacy’s refrigerator so that it’s now in alphabetical order, for example.

Sinclair says the experience showed him that there are opportunities at the support office to potentially make it easier for team members working in the stores, like when it comes to pharmacy inventory.

The one thing that Tomic’s group and Colaizzi have in common? They can’t wait to volunteer again. Tomic’s team already planned their next weekend trip to the Quad Cities, and Colaizzi’s personal goal is to work one pharmacist shift every month.

“Regardless of if you have a pharmacist license, a tech license or no license at all, all support office team members should work in our stores to understand day-to-day operations and identify opportunities for improvement,” Tomic says. “ You will have a better perspective of all the initiatives in our stores and how they come to life.”

Jordyn Holliday contributed to this report.

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