PINEDALE – Pharmacist Kylah Bowers, PharmD, RPh, leads by example.
As the owner of Altitude Drug in Pinedale and Big Piney, Bowers demonstrates a strong work ethic, determination and excellence in patient care, wrote pharmacy technician Heidi Gay in a nomination letter to the Wyoming Pharmacy Association (WPhA).
Gay worked at Altitude Drug for years, and detailed Bowers’ dedication to patients and coworkers. Bowers explained the ins and outs of every prescription to each person walking through the door, Gay said.
Bowers also took time out of her busy schedule to encourage and assist Gay with her training as a pharmacy technician. Bowers possessed a knack for collaborating with providers to make sure patients received the correct medicine and was sought after by the same providers for advice, Gay added.
“I am so thankful for a mentor like Kylah because I have the knowledge and work ethic she taught me to do a good and thorough job,” Gay told the WPhA.
Bowers sums up her leadership style with a simple statement – “to be the coworker, the leader, that I would want to work for and follow.”
Rather than expand on personal management philosophies, Bowers immediately credited her staff for Altitude Drug’s success.
“I’m really thankful to have the employees I do who make it a positive work environment,” she said. “I’m lucky to be surrounded by great people.”
Bowers’ peers recently acknowledged her leadership and commitment to patients and employees, honoring her as the Wyoming Pharmacy Association’s 2022 Pharmacist of the Year.
“It was a very nice surprise,” Bowers said. “It’s always nice when you get recognized for the work you’re doing, especially in a local pharmacy, where it feels like you have to wear many hats.”
A different path
Bowers entered the University of Wyoming School of Pharmacy as a nontraditional student.
“I fell into pharmacy later in life,” she explained. “I already had my undergraduate degree. I was married with a kid and another one on the way. Then I decided to go into pharmacy.”
Bowers developed an early passion for science, inspired by “the most amazing high school biology teacher.”
“The more I got into biology courses and chemistry courses, pharmacy felt like the next logical step,” she told the Roundup.
Pharmacy programs last six years, including two years of prerequisites before candidates can apply to pharmacy school. The next four years are a grueling push to the finish line – a doctor of pharmacy degree.
Attending pharmacy school “was not always easy,” Bowers said, though support from her “amazing” husband helped her reach her goal.
Pharmacy candidates spend the final year exploring different fields. Bowers worked at the pharmacy at Ivinson Memorial Hospital in Laramie during her studies.
Initially, Bowers planned to follow a career in long-term care pharmacy. Then she landed a job in a retail setting and realized that was where she belonged.
“With the retail field, you have so much more interaction with people, especially in a small town,” she said. “You know most of the people who walk through your door. It’s nice to be able to call people by their names and have that relationship. I’ve had people that I’ve been taking care of here in Pinedale for 13 years.”
Bowers opened Altitude Drug in Pinedale in 2011 before establishing a branch in Big Piney 3 years ago. Becoming an entrepreneur was not high on Bowers’ lists of goals until she realized a gap existed in access to some pharmacy services, forcing community members to travel long distances to seek care.
“I saw a lot of needs that weren’t being met here in Pinedale, in Sublette County,” Bowers explained. “I thought, I can do something and I can do something better, so I decided to open up Altitude Drug.”
Going the extra mile
A typical day in the life of a retail pharmacist can be hectic at times.
“It’s all over the place and never really goes as planned,” Bowers told the Roundup.
In addition to filling prescriptions, pharmacists in retail settings perform a wide variety of tasks. At Altitude Drug, the pharmacists conduct cholesterol screenings, diabetes screenings, administer immunizations, answer questions and dispense advice.
Pharmacists also carry out medication therapy management – reviewing patient’s records, contacting doctors to make changes in medication regimens and monitoring reactions with prescriptions.
Communication plays a crucial role in the operation of a pharmacy, with Bowers acting as a liaison between coworkers, patients, customers, providers and insurance companies.
“A lot of the job depends on who walks through the door,” Bowers said.
The last thing Bowers and her team expected to arrive at their doorstep was a global pandemic. She described the first days as “chaotic.”
“People were scared,” Bowers said. “People didn’t know what was coming. Places were shutting down around us and people couldn’t get in for appointments and services were harder and harder to find. My staff really stepped up and offered more of those services.”
Finding themselves on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19, the team at Altitude Drug performed thousands of COVID-19 tests, immunized people, offered drive-through pickup and curbside delivery and “drove hundreds and hundreds of miles across the county” to bring patients their medications, Bowers explained.
“We did whatever we could do to make people comfortable and get the services they needed,” she added.
The response involved each of Bowers’ employees sacrificing “countless hours” to keep the pharmacy running. Members of her family also pitched in. Bowers’ son, then in high school, “stepped up and did a lot of deliveries.”
Regardless of what comes through the doors at Altitude Drug, Bowers finds a career in pharmacy rewarding.
“If anyone wants to pursue a career in pharmacy, they’re more than welcome to reach out to me anytime,” she said. “It really is a great field and there are a lot of different roads you can take with it.”
Bowers gave a final round of shoutouts to her staff. Pharmacist Sheridan Shultz began work at Altitude Drug in the middle of the pandemic.
“She really jumped right in during a crazy time and helped out with so much,” Bowers said. “She takes the lead on a lot of our clinical services.”
The pharmacy technicians also played a crucial role in Altitude Drug’s operations.
“They work hard – long hours plus a huge learning curve in pharmacy just to be proficient at what they do,” Bowers said.
Bowers thanked pharmacy technician Heidi Gay for the nomination and “kind words.”
Bowers also recognized her family.
“I have great family support,” she said. “They help at the drop of a hat.”