Having spent the last seven years earning his PharmD through the Distance Degrees & Programs, Lokendra Upadhyay is ecstatic to be able to spend his weekends not studying. “For me, it’s been a great investment of time and energy,” says Upadhyay.
Twenty-five years ago, Upadhyay had the opportunity to tack one more year onto his BS and obtain his PharmD from CU but declined. “I was ready to get out and start earning money. In retrospect, it would have been a lot easier, but then I wouldn’t have all my life experiences,” says Upadhyay.
Throughout the last 25 years, Upadhyay’s career has been varied, including informatics, sales, marketing and consulting for a Pharmacy Benefits Management (PBM) firm. Except for the first seven years, he’s done “just about everything but count pills.”
Now, as a consultant with Willows, Towers, and Watson (WTW), he helps large employers like the University of Colorado analyze their total drug span, review drug utilization of their workforce and make suggestions about why a program is a good fit. His recommendations filter up to the C-suite level through the HR department. “I represent the client; challenging the PBM to prove why a specific program is good for the company and its employees,” says Upadhyay.
At WTW, he determines how many people the program would affect, and the savings the company might gain. But savings is a very small portion of what he ascertains. “Contrary to what people might think, employers want to provide benefits. They don’t want to interrupt members. I have to assess the culture, the philosophy, the client’s appetite for disruption and if the program makes sense culturally. It’s not just about dollars and cents,” he says. “There are a lot of nuances and that’s what I like about it.”
Upadhyay’s philosophy is that there’s a lot more choice in pharmacy than people realize. “There’s more even in retail. You just have to look for it.” And even though he’s been involved in various aspects of pharmacy practice, he’s come full circle to where he began.
In addition to his day job, Upadhyay recently opened an independent pharmacy where he is using the marketing and business skills he’s acquired over the years. He’s hired a pharmacist to oversee and the fill the prescriptions, while he focuses on building and managing the business – in his spare time! Of course, he has more of it now that he has completed his PharmD. “I’m so happy I went through the program. What I learned will be very helpful in building my business and addressing the distinct market needs, providing personalized service like prescription delivery and volume immunizations to local companies,” says Upadhyay.
Housed in a building that Upadhyay and his wife (a pediatrician) purchased, and nestled in an industrial area, “I will need to be more creative than a traditional community pharmacy,” says Upadhyay. A task which shouldn’t be too difficult for this non-traditional student who will now add business owner and entrepreneur to his resume. The building is already fully leased out with three tenants including a pediatric cardiology group, his wife’s practice, and the pharmacy.