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Wide shot of a pharmacy

Innovator profile: An apothecary for all

To be able to provide the kind of holistic healthcare she believes in, Lisa Zaretzky has built her ultimate pharmacy.
10/18/2022
A smiling woman in a blue cardigan

Manitoba pharmacist Lisa Zaretzky believes everyone is unique— and so is their health profile. With that in mind, she had one key mission in opening the Apothecary of Morden: to create a welcoming space where people could get personalized advice and solutions on all their health and wellness goals.

“With traditional healthcare applications, I think we sometimes forget to consider a person’s whole story and I wanted to be able to do that with my pharmacy,” says Zaretzky, who is based in Morden, a southern Manitoba city with a population just over 10,000. “Someone may come in with a stomach issue or skin condition, but ultimately it could come down to stress and mental health; every solution is unique and you can’t implement the same regime for all people.”

Aside from more traditional services, such as medication management, smoking cessation and immunizations, the Apothecary offers travel consults, counselling on sexual health, nutrition, anxiety and weight loss, DNA analysis, pain management and naloxone training. There’s also flotation therapy on the premises via a light- and soundproof tank where patients float in magnesium sulfate-infused water to improve their immune system or relieve anxiety. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, Zaretzky also did many appointment-based services through her telehealth platform. “I still have patients from as far as the U.S. who heard about me through word of mouth who I still [connect with] this way.”

Several shots of a pharmacy

The Apothecary’s design is carefully crafted to provide the ultimate work and patient space. There are sliding doors between the dispensary and office rooms so there is no need to enter the patient waiting area. “We can have privacy but then have complete accessibility when we need it, too,” says Zaretzky, noting that one office is dedicated to vaccine administration, while another is used by a naturopath for patient appointments as needed. With a lovely barn door and custom logo in the ceramic tiles on the floor of the pharmacy—along with a glass case showcasing apothecary antique gems—the aesthetic is welcoming, encouraging people to come and stay a while. “Even the shelves are wooden, lending it to feel like a warm, friendly environment—I didn’t want it to feel like a retail space,” says Zaretzky, who designed her location from the ground up to her own specifications.

Along with medications and supplements, the pharmacy carries unique, locally made products too, such as various tea blends, and wormwood ointment (which boasts antioxidant properties and is also used for pain relief). The Apothecary has its own cosmeceutical line available in-store and online.

Experience counts

Zaretzky, who has been a pharmacist for 27 years now, has gleaned experience working in a variety of different settings, including hospital, community, personal home care and even a correctional institute. Prior to pharmacy, she spent seven years as a draftsperson for her parent’s log home business, a skill that came in handy when designing her pharmacy.

She took the plunge into independent pharmacy ownership in 2005 because “I was hungry for an environment where I could apply all I knew into useable health and wellness solutions—and could keep on learning.” True to her word, even after becoming her own boss, she secured a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) in 2013 and went on to become certified in travel medicine in 2019 and palliative care in 2020. She is currently working on her sexual health certification from the University of Alberta.

Never one to shy away from talking about compensation for pharmacy services, Zaretzky charges $150-$175 per hour and says very few patients question her about it. “When I started to work with other practitioners (e.g., registered dieticians, naturopaths etc.), and stopped to compare what they do and I do, I realized I deserved equal remuneration for my time,” she says. “You have to believe what you’re offering is valid and life-changing.” To prevent people from asking a question that requires professional advice, and then going to Amazon to buy a cheaper product, Zaretzky always leads with: “I can help you with that and it will be xx [dollars] for the appointment. When would you like to come in?”

“I don’t give them an option to debate it.”

She says pharmacists need to invest the time and resources necessary to become skilled experts in their prospective areas so they can be confident in offering these services to patients. “Investing in your staff is important too,” adds Zaretzky whose team consists of a full-time receptionist/cashier and three pharmacy assistants, two of which are Ukrainetrained pharmacists.

“I meet regularly with staff to go over what went well and where we struggled,” she says. “I also give them the freedom to explore the things that make them feel excited and rewarded.” One example of this is offering her pharmacy assistant an opportunity to take over the pharmacy’s social media. “I gave her a $2/hour raise because I could see her potential and she has really bumped up my Instagram posts with her videos and pictures,” she says, adding that any time staff are interested in doing something new, they research the idea together. “One of my staff is doing her PEBC exam and I gave her a research project to augment her studies.” In fact, Zaretzky is a regular preceptor of both pharmacy students and new pharmacists training to become licensed.

This pharmacist owner also walks the talk when it comes to her own health and wellness. Her pharmacy operates 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and is closed on weekends and holidays. For a time when she was dealing with a health issue, she even closed down during lunch. “I didn’t get pushback from my regular patients as they thought that was reasonable,” she says. In her free time, she loves to do some creative writing and enjoys blogging on both her own website, ApothecaryofMorden.com and on CanadianHealthcareNetwork.

In April this year, Zaretzky was honoured with the Patient Care Award from Pharmacists Manitoba for her lasting impact on patient outcomes and community health and wellness. “That was really rewarding [because] patients came forward and said I was a big part of their health and life journey,” she says. “All I’ve ever wanted to do is make a difference in my community.”

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