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Leanne Galante Jasset

#WomenPharmacistDay: Catching Up With Independent Pharmacy Owner Leanne Galante Jasset, BSP '78

  • Friday, October 12, 2018 will mark the first ever #WomenPharmacistDay. Founded by the non-profit organization Pharmacist Moms Group, the day is meant to recognize the significant gains that women have made in pursuing careers in pharmacy and to honor the important contributions that women make to the industry each day.

    To celebrate, we caught up with alum Leanne Galante Jasset, BSP '78, who has created a virtual MCPHS outpost at her independent pharmacy, Dedham Pharmacy & Medical Supply. Carolyn Arnish, PharmD ’14 manages the counter, which is staffed today by two MCPHS students: Abby Jenest, Nursing ’21 and Matthew Jenest, PharmD ’22. Having recently celebrated a significant milestone, the two year anniversary of her business, we sat down to talk with Leanne about her lifelong engagement with the pharmacy profession, her passion for her community, and what it takes to launch a successful business today.

    Tell us a little about your journey to MCPHS, and what drove you to select pharmacy as a career?

    When I was 13, my grandmother, who lived next door, spoke to me after school. She said in her sweet Italian accent, “Go la pharmacia”—I went down to the closest local pharmacy, of which there were many in that day, and said, “My grandmother sent me here.” They said, “We’re looking for a person to work the soda fountain, and your grandmother said you would do it.” I’ve been working in pharmacies ever since! That first place, a local shop owned by two brothers, was beloved in the community; it was a wonderful introduction to the profession.

    What was your experience at MCPHS like, and how did it shape you as a pharmacist?

    I’ve always loved school, and I enjoyed my time at MCPHS. I was a member of student government all five years—and I held almost all of the offices it was possible to hold! MCPHS was such a majestic and beautiful school in the center of such a hustle-bustle city. Like many students at that time, I was a commuter student—the school was hard to get to in the mornings, but I loved my time there.

    Were there professional experiences that led you to independent pharmacy?

    For many years, operating an independent pharmacy had been my goal. My original plan was to buy an existing pharmacy. But that’s become very difficult with the large chains and pricing wars, so the next best thing was to start a new pharmacy. I’m blessed to have the support of the community here in Dedham. The support of small businesses is like nothing I’ve ever seen. I think it’s because of our history; Dedham is a very old town, and there are so many small local businesses here that have continued for decades. For example, Wardle's Pharmacy, where I worked for many years, was established in 1852. It was Dedham’s oldest business when it closed a couple of years ago. You hear a common refrain from people in this community who are transferring their business: “I want to support small business.”

    Starting your own business is a huge step: what led you to take that step?

    I never wanted to say, many years down the line, I should have done that; I could have done that. I’ve worked for many years for someone else, felt a void in the community, and decided to take that leap of faith. I saw the need in the community around me, the desire to have a choice of pharmacy. I firmly believe people should have a choice—if they want access to the chain that’s open 24 hours and has a drive-through, then they should have that. But they should also have access to the small business where everybody knows your name. People should have that choice, too.

    What’s been challenging about the first year?

    The biggest challenge comes from insurance companies, and that’s true for all of us in this business. The reimbursement process makes it nearly impossible, in some cases, to profit, or even to break even. The pushback we’ve received from chain stores has also been astonishing: they try to talk people out of transferring, refuse to transfer prescriptions, make people wait days after their medication has run out. Those issues have been challenging. But overall, we’ve had a really positive first year.

    What has been most rewarding about the experience?

    The feedback from the community has been wonderful: people are so happy to find us and become customers. The positive feedback and referrals from area clinicians also has been so humbling. I think it’s because I’ve been a member of this community for so long. In fact, I’ve been an elected official in Dedham for 21 years, as Chairman of the Board of Health, Chairman of the Council on Aging, and Co-Chair of the Coalition for Drug and Alcohol Awareness. Additionally, I’m so lucky to have a staff who are all on the same page when it comes to how you treat people—we are very much a family here. Many of the employees here have worked with me for many years at past businesses. My pharmacist (Carolyn Arnish PharmD ’14) worked with me as a high school student; my tech worked with me at another business 20 years ago. It’s very comforting for customers to see these familiar faces when they come in.

    What has surprised you and what have you learned?

    I’m surprised at both the number of people in the community who vocally support small local businesses, and at the continuous influx of new customers every day. We ran some stats and discovered that we average two new customers every day. It’s always so surprising when someone comes in with a prescription referral from a specialist we’ve never heard of—just the other day we got a referral from an eye doctor in Needham. That really points to the positive reputation we’ve earned in a very short time. And in terms of learning, I think that running my own pharmacy is a constant reminder of the Golden Rule: “Treat others as you would like to be treated.”

    How and when did you prepare for entrepreneurship? Did MCPHS play a role?

    When I was at MCPHS, it seemed that everyone’s father, grandfather, or uncle owned a family business. Almost everyone had some exposure to the workings of a small business. I had that experience too, not from my family but from my employers, since I was 13! As a result, I was always sitting in class with this community of small business owners and future small business owners, and there was this camaraderie. You could learn a lot from the people sitting next to you.

    What advice would you give to current MCPHS pharmacy students who are on the verge of launching their own careers, or even their own businesses?

    They need to know their geographic area and the community in which they’re thinking about starting a business. It’s important to be part of that community in some way. I’m not saying that you have to live there. But if you want to build that community business where everyone knows your name, you need to give back. Not just monetarily, but your time and your engagement. And yes, even though all the big chains are moving in, I’m seeing a lot of local independents opening as well. You have to make a profit, but your love for the profession and the community also has to be a part of it. For years, pharmacy topped the list of “most respected professions”, and you can be part of that. People say you can’t possibly love going to work every day, but I truly do. I truly do.

    The School of Pharmacy prepares students for successful careers in pharmacy. Learn more about our six year, direct entry PharmD program in Boston or the accelerated 34-month PharmD program in Worcester and Manchester, NH.