Uncertainty related to COVID-19 and its effects on our health and everyday life lead us to seek small comforts and expertise. On the health front, the collaboration of the physician and pharmacist helps to ensure patient medications are taken as needed and prescribed while also reducing potential harmful side effects. Community pharmacies do the preparation and dispensing of the medications, and their pharmacists provide frontline medical advice.
Thad Schumacher, pharmacist and owner of Fitchburg Family Pharmacy, says his biggest influence to go into healthcare was the pharmacist in his hometown. There, the pharmacist seemed to know everyone and have the answers to every problem. Thad wanted the same for his pharmacy.
“My wife is a professor at UW–Madison in the School of Pharmacy. We met in pharmacy school, and when she changed careers, I was the trailing spouse.” In 2008, they moved to the Madison area, where Thad felt there was a disparity in pharmacy care. “Right away I could tell by driving around that in some areas there wasn’t an equal share of [pharmaceutical] services.”
When an independent pharmacy closed in Fitchburg, Thad found his opportunity to open a store in 2013. “I knew from a business model that if I was going to survive, I’d need to expand my services to Greater Madison. The local area was not going to be enough to survive, which started my idea of offering free delivery. People could access [our] pharmacy services wherever they lived, and it seems to have worked and paid off.”
In the beginning, bicycle deliveries were Thad’s way of reaching customers and decompressing. “I don’t do it as much anymore because we do 30 delivery stops a day, but from time to time I do it,” says Thad. “It’s not uncommon that someone will need something over the weekend, and I’ll tell my fellow cyclists we’re going to do a delivery ride Saturday morning instead of riding south into the country. We’ll ride across town, drop off the delivery, and be on our way.”
A bonus to delivery is that drivers are able to check on their customers’ other needs as well. They may go into a home and, while there, check for fall risks, make sure there’s enough food, and look for any other potential concerns. This not only makes the service convenient, but invaluable for customers and their families.
Fitchburg Family Pharmacy provides medboxes to over a hundred patients on a weekly, biweekly, and monthly basis. “We charge a $30 service fee, which some insurances pay,” says Thad. “We like [the medboxes] for multiple reasons. People can have confusing medication schedules with multiple prescriptions. Some may not be able to set them up for cognitive or physical reasons, so their adult children are coming in to help on a weekly or monthly basis. … We eliminate this step because we do all the work. I think that’s where our medboxes have the largest impact.”
Implementing more accessible primary care is a long-term goal. “We already do some telehealth for psychiatric patients, and I would like to expand more to be like an urgent-care setting,” says Thad. “Our goal is to find a medical professional willing to have onsite hours once a week and be available by phone for another two to three days.”
Community awareness is a driving force in Thad’s work and life, and he loves to be part of a good cause. He’s serving on the board of directors for Boys & Girls Club. “We need to invest in underprivileged youth so they have something to do after school.”
Thad has also participated in Boys & Girls Club’s annual bike ride fundraiser. “We’ve been able to generate quite a bit of money over the last five years, helping to raise over $30,000,” says Thad. “Each year, my teammates and I up the ante; if we collectively raise a certain dollar amount, we bike extra miles. I think the highest we raised was $12,000, which led us to bike 150 miles—the 50-mile route loop three times. We started at midnight with two laps and did the final lap in the morning with everybody else.”
This year there will be a virtual bike ride. Part of the money will help expand their help to first responders. “In the initial phase of the health crisis, workers couldn’t go home,” says Thad. “Boys & Girls Club partnered with local restaurants to provide meals.”
The rest of the bike-ride money will help build an infrastructure for online learning. For safety reasons during COVID-19, kids cannot go to the club in person, but online programming allows them to participate from home. “This option is vital for operating during the pandemic,” says Thad. “But even once we get through this, online learning will be a great way to reach out to kids further away from the club.”
Thad also served an eight-year term on the pharmacy examining board that oversees licensed pharmacists and pharmacies. The board brought a lot of new innovations to practice and helped rewrite some rules that had not been updated since early ’80s. “I took pride being a representative of independent pharmacy on the board.
“I like that about being a local pharmacy. I know we’re impacting the community, and our taxes from sales stay in the area.” Every day is different for Thad, with patients seeking help to solve different problems. “I tell the staff that we’re not the first place they come, but if we do this the right way, we’ll be the last.”
Krystle Engh Naab is a freelance writer and copy editor for Madison Essentials.
Fitchburg Family Pharmacy
3050 Cahill Main, Suite 6
Fitchburg, WI 53711