Jesica Mills, owner of Owensboro Family Pharmacy, was recently awarded the Woman Pharmacist of the Year award.
The award recognizes female pharmacists who are advancing pharmacy in their communities. Mills was nominated by her mother, Daisy Thomason, who was the first certified pharmacy technician in Owensboro and has been involved in the pharmacy’s work since 1982, and who Mills considers her role model.
Daisy and her husband Don owned the pharmacy prior to selling to Mills in 2016, and Mills said since taking ownership, she has seen a 25-to-30 percent growth, and her staff has grown from four to 15 people.
Through the expansion, Mills has integrated natural medical practices into her pharmacy and is a naturopathic doctor, along with having a Doctor of Pharmacology degree. She will soon open an integrated medical practice in the building behind the pharmacy with her husband.
Owensboro Family Pharmacy has implemented protocols for rapid strep, flu and urinary tract infections and if a patient’s test is positive, pharmacists have prescriptive authority protocols, meaning they can dispense the proper medications.
“We can also advise on natural products and herbal treatments,” Mills said.
Mills’ interest in natural medicine began when her father was diagnosed with recurring non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2016, and she did not want to accept that he needed “to get his affairs in order.”
“We put an expiration date on people,” Mills said. “I fell in love with systems of medication that gives people hope.”
Through natural medications and treatment, Mills’ father is still living — and well — but has since contracted Lyme disease, so Mills has been to conferences on treating Lyme disease as well, hoping to become a specialist.
With the healthcare system in flux, including Medicaid, Mills said many patients are not receiving access to primary care, so the pharmacy offers Medicaid outreach programs to the community, including giving families bags of over-the-counter medications and meeting with them to discuss the correct dosages.
Mills prides the pharmacy on being open and accessible and being a community resource.
“We want to educate and empower people,” she said. “We also build relationships with the patients.”
Mills said as a female, she tends to be nurturing and this often helps her form a relationship with her patients while educating them. She said that patients have come in to pick up their prescriptions only to find they have been diagnosed with an illness, which was listed in their chart, but it wasn’t explained to them.
“We are constantly learning and teaching others,” she said.
Part of Mills’ learning is being involved in a group called Pharmacist Moms, founded by Pharmacist Suzy Soliman. As part of this group, she believes that celebrating the female pharmacist is important. Until the 1980s, the profession was male-dominated, but now there are more women, Mills said, adding that in Owensboro, only three pharmacists are owned by women, including one husband-and-wife-owned pharmacy.
With 33 percent of pharmacy graduates unable to find jobs, Mills said she, along with Soliman are working to develop e-content for interested independent pharmacies.
“We want to teach them how they can benefit in non-clinical, non-traditional roles,” Mills said of there being many specialties in the field.
It is hard to be an independent pharmacy, Mills said, and that she has had to differentiate what makes Owensboro Family Pharmacy different, but she said that talking to patients and discussing the approach to medicine and alternative medicines his helpful, along with providing free services and information.
“We focus on what needs our attention,” Mills said.
Mills said she was completely honored to bring attention to independent pharmacists and pharmacies and non-traditional pharmacy jobs.
“It was cool to be nominated and to be recognized for the idea of being able to show that what is good for one is good for all,” Mills said. “The values I was raised with, and continuing the legacy [of the family pharmacy], is what I was recognized for, along with my mission of being inclusive.”
Owensboro Family Pharmacy is located at 720 W. Byers Ave.