Walgreens Aims to Transform Future of Pharmacy

Deans Advisory Council will collaborate to address key issues, including staffing challenges and decreasing pharmacy school enrollment
Marian Zboraj
Digital Editor
Marian Zboraj
Walgreens Pharmacist
The Walgreens Deans Advisory Council aims to address staffing challenges and help pharmacists experience greater job satisfaction and better patient interactions.

Walgreens is expanding its long-standing relationships with colleges of pharmacy through the formation of the Walgreens Deans Advisory Council to enhance the pharmacy profession and better support pharmacists. 

The nationwide drug store chain has said that the pharmacy operating model needs to evolve. According to Walgreens, pharmacy school deans are critical partners in helping the company and the industry overall solve the current workplace challenges that are also affecting pharmacy school enrollment – which Walgreens cited as being down 22% in 2022-23 compared with the previous year and has decreased by more than 60% over the past decade. 

Many retail pharmacy locations were forced to scale back on operating hours amid a nationwide shortage of pharmacists last year. In a move dubbed “Pharmageddon,” workers at many retail pharmacies walked off the job later in the year. Pharmacists alleged that poor working conditions put both employees and patients at risk.

The new council, consisting of 17 pharmacy school deans and Walgreens leadership, is sponsored by Rick Gates, chief pharmacy officer at Walgreens; co-chaired by John Colaizzi Jr., PharmD, FNJPhA, VP of pharmacy practice at Walgreens; Angela Kashuba, dean, UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy; and Lorri Walmsley, director at Walgreens pharmacy affairs, who will serve as the vice chair.  

Council members will meet quarterly with the goal of identifying ways to attract, recruit and create a dynamic workplace for current and future pharmacists. The council’s initial objectives include:  

  • Rebuilding the talent pipeline and focusing on recruitment efforts, including through programs that expose high school students to careers in pharmacy.  
  • Elevating community pharmacy as a practice setting of choice through direct feedback from colleges.  
  • Addressing staffing challenges and helping pharmacists experience greater job satisfaction and better patient interactions.  
  • Evolving the community pharmacy business model and advocating for pharmacist practitioner services. 
  • Advising on all aspects of community pharmacy strategy, practice and administration-related topics. 

“Collaboration within the pharmacy profession has never been more important, and I’m grateful to the many academic leaders who have joined the Deans Advisory Council as we work to transform the future of pharmacy,” said Gates. “I look forward to working with the deans to ensure Walgreens expands our reach beyond neighborhood pharmacies into the fast-growing areas of health care and drives outcomes that matter most to our pharmacists, patients and partners.” 

“As the recent pandemic highlighted, pharmacists are the most accessible, trusted health care providers. They serve as the front door to health in their communities, yet community pharmacy remains one of health care’s most underutilized resources,” said Kashuba. “Our schools train pharmacists to fill health care gaps and improve patient care through disease screening, prevention and treatment. I’m excited to collaborate with Walgreens to better align workplace conditions with training to transform the future of community pharmacy.” 

The council will serve as a sounding board and play a key role in helping Walgreens build upon recent initiatives that help reimagine the community pharmacy operating model. These include leveraging centralized services and micro fulfillment, deploying flexible store and staffing models, and eliminating all task-based retail metrics from annual performance reviews.

The council’s first meeting is scheduled for early March 2024. 

Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreens operates nearly 9,000 retail locations across the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, serving approximately 9 million customers each day. The company is No. 5 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2023 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.

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