Imagine you’re working behind the counter of a retail pharmacy. In front of you, elderly Mrs. Jones looks on with furrowed brow while you scan the computer screen for her prescription. Behind her, two more customers wait in line, as the phones ring non-stop.
“Oh, I see,” you tell Mrs. Jones. “It’s an authorization problem.” She looks up at you in confusion, while the bell sounds to tell you a drive-up customer awaits.
Welcome to the busy world of retail pharmacy. Amir Rahemi, a district manager for Walgreens, has felt the stress and problems of working that pharmacy counter.
Minutes are Everything
“It can be natural sometimes, just to pass off the problem,” said Amir. “Just to tell the customer she should get with her doctor or call her insurance company.” But Amir is a graduate of Palm Beach Atlantic University’s Lloyd L. Gregory School of Pharmacy, where, he said, “The school really engrained in us that servant leadership mentality.”
Amir graduated in 2010 and now oversees a Florida Walgreens district having more than 400 employees. He helps his teams understand that sometimes they’ll face a customer having one of the worst days of his or her life. “So let’s be different,” he coaches. “Let’s try to be the best couple minutes of that customer’s day,” helping the customer navigate the difficult landscape of medical matters and insurance complications.
Customers well served will come back
When customers stumble over those complications, Amir said, the pharmacist should be there to “pick them up,” smile and help them over the barriers that might keep them from taking medications well. And after customers leave a store that provides such gracious service, they feel different, Amir said, and they’ll come back.
Dr. Wagdy Wahba, professor emeritus of the Gregory School, recognized that heart for service in Amir as a pharmacy student. “He has a great compassion for people, a great sense of initiative and a great gift of leadership,” Wahba recalled.
As a student working through the rigorous Doctor of Pharmacy program, Amir found time to do volunteer work, including medical mission trips to Costa Rica. “Those trips really molded me and had a lot of impact on me,” he said.
He also played a leadership role with pharmacy students reaching out to serve the homeless around West Palm Beach. After graduating, he quickly demonstrated his leadership skills to Walgreens supervisors, who moved him up the management ladder.
Amir read and thought much about how he could serve his Walgreens teams, supporting team members in their goals and dreams, providing what they needed to succeed and encouraging them to focus on the right areas. “When you build those relationships with people,” he said, “it creates a better working environment, and people are happier to come to work, and more productive.”
Under that leadership style, Amir’s teams shone, so Walgreens sent him for special training to learn new tools and skills that he would then teach to store managers and other supervisors. Meanwhile, his example and leadership was having an impact on his own family.
A family of pharmacists
His brother Arman followed Amir’s footsteps and enrolled in the Gregory School. Next came brother Ramin. In 2016, when brother Reza was about to enter PBA’s pharmacy program, the alumni magazine published a story and photo of the brothers, with the headline: “Hey, Bro! We’ll need one more white coat.”
Today, all four brothers have earned their white coats and Doctor of Pharmacy degrees. Amir’s three brothers are licensed pharmacists, all working for Walmart. “They’re all very hard workers and good with people,” Amir said. “All of my brothers and I got that work ethic and ability to connect with people from our father, who has been in the retail business for as long as I can remember.”
Jeff Snow, director of community engagement for the Gregory School of Pharmacy, has kept up with the four Rahemi brothers. “They’re all wonderful alumni and serving their communities well,” he said.
I find it so encouraging to see PBA graduates demonstrating a lifestyle of servant leadership: in their homes, their professions, their communities and beyond. Amir Rahemi now lives in Vero Beach, Florida, where he gets together regularly with a group of like-minded businessmen.
“We have Bible study and talk about everything from our own personal walk with the Lord to how our faith in Jesus impacts our businesses,” Amir said. He goes with that same group of guys to do mission work together.
He recalled the partnership he enjoyed years ago, serving the homeless, alongside his fellow pharmacy students at Palm Beach Atlantic. “So many positive influences from the school have really shaped my friendships, my career, the way I serve,” Amir said. “It felt like home on that first day when I came to PBA, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.”
Dr. Debra A. Schwinn, a physician, researcher and innovator, is president of Palm Beach Atlantic University. (www.pba.edu) For more articles by Dr. Schwinn, visit goodnewsfl.org/author/dr-debra-a-schwinn/