Walgreens, one of the country’s largest pharmacy store chains, played an essential role in vaccinating and protecting the United States against the COVID-19 pandemic – which disproportionately impacted Black and Brown communities – with its suite of products and services. Walgreens and BET teamed up to drive awareness about how the company’s trusted, expert pharmacists play a critical role in the U.S. healthcare system by providing a wide range of pharmacy and healthcare services.
Lauren Ash, founder of the Black Girl in Om brand and podcast that has reached more than two million listeners in its four-season run, focuses on offering Black women specific content designed around their wellness. Ash sat down with Loza D. Theodros, PharmD, a Walgreens pharmacist at a specialty pharmacy in Los Angeles, to talk about her work with the chain and their overall commitment to making healthcare more accessible for all communities.
"What makes me feel good about what I do is that I'm a Black female healthcare professional," she said. "Not only do I get to represent my community in a great field, I also provide Black customers with someone who they can trust. Someone who grew up with similar life experiences and understands their needs."
Theodros acknowledged that among the numerous barriers to improved health outcomes in the Black community is a cultural mistrust of the medical system that has implications that are important to acknowledge in order to build trust.
“You can’t blame us,” she said. “We’ve seen it historically…the lines of communication have never been as open as they are now. It feels good knowing I can be on the forefront of fixing that; opening the lines of communication and answering questions that people feel are hard to ask anyone else.”
“While I can’t fix the entire problem, being a trusted healthcare provider who reflects my community makes me feel like I can help tackle these things on a local level.”
Theodros reveals that one of the most commonly asked questions she receives from her Black customers is how pharmacists can help them find the best-priced options. Walgreens pharmacy team members are adept at answering those questions with both honesty and clarity.
While she admits that some of the biggest health challenges the Black community faces are a result of the disproportionate effects of diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol, Theodros believes that Walgreens pharmacy team members are among the most accessible and trusted healthcare providers in the communities, offering support, information and expertise.
For many people, a medical doctor serves as the primary resource for anyone seeking to better understand "why" they aren't feeling well. Theodros views herself and other Walgreens pharmacists as the "how" people - the ones who can provide customers with immediate answers on how they can feel better.
“We’re the ones who explain how things work, why certain meds work, why certain conditions show up in our body and how the meds affect us,” she said. “With that understanding comes empowerment for the community to live healthy lives all around.”
As one of thousands of healthcare professionals across the Walgreens network, Theodros hopes that she makes the healthcare experience seem less intimidating by serving as an approachable source of information to all of her patients.
“I hope that my patients view me as a trusted, convenient source of care. Like all of our team members, I keep the conversations confidential. It’s important to me that they know we offer them a trusted and safe space to seek care.”