Throughout Hispanic Heritage Month, Cardinal Health is honoring the Hispanic community for its considerable contributions to our country. This year, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its toll, the company is recognizing Hispanic pharmacists for their work to address health disparities.
According to the Census Bureau estimates, more than 62 million Hispanics lived in the United States in 2020 — making them the country’s largest minority. They have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic and the economic challenges it has created. In fact, the KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor reported in December 2020 that about half of Hispanic households had lost a job or income since COVID-19 began spreading across the country.
Hispanics are 1.7 times more likely to contract COVID-19 than non-Hispanic white Americans, according to the Economic Policy Institute, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that Hispanics are more than four times more like to be hospitalized from COVID-19. And, though vaccine hesitancy among Hispanic adults has decreased nationally over the last several months, it remains high in midwestern and southeastern states.
The health of Hispanic communities can be adversely affected by language barriers (more than 28% of Hispanics said they are not fluent in English, according to Census data), as well as by limited access to preventive care and/or a lack of health insurance.
Cardinal noted that various research, including that from the National Institutes of Health, shows that patients visit community pharmacists anywhere from 1.5 to 10 times more frequently than primary care physicians. When those pharmacists are Spanish speaking and culturally competent, they can have a meaningful impact in helping their communities achieve better health outcomes — both during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
Across the country, Cardinal Health is proud to support Hispanic pharmacists who tirelessly work to help ensure long-term equitable health outcomes in the communities they serve.
A few of their stories are highlighted here:
Julio Molyneaux, The People’s Pharmacy Shoppe, Union City, N.J.
“Pharmacists are here to help — and our patients know it,” said Molyneaux, who owns two community pharmacies in Union City, a densely populated town of about 68,000 people, 23% of whom live in poverty. More than 76% of the population is Hispanic, and Spanish is the predominant language. “This is a good community,” he said. “People here support one another and care for each other.”
Today, he said he sees hundreds of patients each day. “We fill more than 300 prescriptions a day, and many more people come in just to talk to me or one of the pharmacists or technicians on staff. Because we’re so much a part of the community, our customers know us and trust us.”
Molyneaux manages one of his pharmacies while his son Juan, who is also a pharmacist, manages the other.
“For both of us and for our staffs, the best part of the work is taking care of patients,” Molyneaux said. “We try to make a difference in their lives. People come to us feeling sick, and we help them get better. It’s very fulfilling work.”
[Read more: Cardinal Health launches Outcomes]
Sonia Martinez, Marco Drugs and Compounding, Miami
Martinez came to Miami from her native Venezuela when she was 27 years old and already a pharmacist. “When I arrived, I spoke no English. My Venezuela pharmacy license meant nothing here. I really had to start all over.”
She got a job as a pharmacy technician and learned English on her own, aided by English-speaking TV and radio programs. At the same time, Martinez began studying for the Foreign Pharmacy Graduate Examination Committee Certification, which would allow her to get a license to practice in the United States. Just three years after arriving in this country, she was licensed by the state of Florida.
In 2006, she and her wife bought an established pharmacy called Marco Drugs and Compounding.
Yet, the transition was difficult. “The former owner was an older white man who’d been the pharmacist here for 30 years. I was still young in comparison, and a Latina who spoke with an accent. Many customers left once I took ownership.”
However, the location, in an affluent area of the city and close to two hospitals and lots of healthcare providers, was ideal. Additionally, the pharmacy had an established compounding practice.
“Compounding is very rewarding because in order to get it right, we have to work very closely both with prescribing physicians and with patients. It enables us to help solve patients’ health issues,” Martinez said. “I felt lucky to be able to buy a pharmacy that already was known for compounding.”
Today, when Martinez is not helping patients, she serves as a leader in the pharmacy industry and sits on the board of directors of the American Associated Pharmacies, or AAP, a national member-owned cooperative of more than 2,000 independent pharmacies.
Diana Torres, Carolina, Puerto Rico
As a recently licensed pharmacist, Diana Torres works as a freelancer, covering shifts as needed in eight or nine different independent pharmacies.
Prior to pursuing her pharmacy degree, she worked for 11 years in pharmaceutical sales and marketing. “When I was in sales, I got to know many pharmacists. I saw that they have so many opportunities to help people. That was really what I wanted to do,” she said. “Besides, my mom and my aunt are both pharmacists, so maybe it was inevitable.”
Torres had a six-month-old child at the time, but she quit her corporate job to pursue her dream. She had to take 19 undergraduate classes before she could get into the pharmacy school at a Puerto Rico campus of Florida-based Nova Southeastern University. As she entered her third year of pharmacy school in 2019, she learned that she was pregnant with her second son. “I was 39 weeks pregnant when I presented my final poster project,” she said with a laugh. She gave birth soon after and got her pharmacy license in October 2020.
“It was a crazy time for me and for my husband,” she said. “But I’m so glad I found my way to community pharmacy. I love working with people, and community pharmacy allows such close interactions with patients. So much of the work is just talking with people out on the pharmacy floor and helping them find solutions that help alleviate health issues.”
She hopes to be established as a pharmacy owner within the next three years. In the meantime, Torres said she is happy to serve the many patients who need her at the various pharmacies where she works.