Lucas Smith is the recipient of the 2017 Distinguished Young Pharmacist of the Year by the Colorado Pharmacists Society.
He was “excited and surprised” to receive the slick glass award, but, perhaps more importantly, as of last Friday, 29-year-old Smith became the sole owner of Buena Vista Drug on U.S. 24.
Smith came to Buena Vista 3 years ago. It was his first job after receiving his Doctor of Pharmacy degree from UC Denver in 2014.
Buena Vista Drug had been purchased by an investment group of Colorado pharmacists in 2013 called RX Plus Limited LLC after its owners Tom and Connie Smallwood retired. Generally speaking, locally owned pharmacies are bought up by larger chains like CVS or Walgreens, but RX Plus bought the drugstore for exactly the opposite reason: to make sure it stayed locally-owned.
“They wanted to see independent pharmacies thrive,” Smith said. “We are more focused on the patient and try to take care of the patients more (than chain drugstores).”
In addition to being able to interface more directly with patients and better understand their needs, a local pharmacist is better equipped to do custom compounding of medications. Whether a patient is allergic to a filler used in a mass-produced pill or someone needs a drug mixed with flavors that will make it more palatable to their pet, it’s something Smith said he does a lot of.
“We don’t have a corporate structure,” he said. “If we want to change something, I’m the corporate structure.”
He started at Buena Vista Drug in a “junior partnership” in which he would work in the store and buy 10 percent of it every year for 6 years. After three, however, he decided to buy the whole business.
“I’m just having fun running a business and taking care of people,” he said.
Smith initially went to college in Gunnison with an interest in chemistry and engineering. There, at Western State Colorado University, he fell in love with small Colorado towns, and while undergoing drug therapy following a football accident, developed an interest in pharmacy.
Buena Vista Drug is currently holding one-on-one diabetes education classes, but Smith would like to expand programs like that.
He’s also preparing to be able to prescribe directly drugs like birth control and smoking-cessation aids. After the passage of a law in the 2016 Colorado General Assembly, the state became the third after California and Oregon to grant pharmacists this ability.
“More access to care” is what Smith is striving for.