Sep 2, 2021

Charlie Lager

Provider Profile: Dirk & Trish White

by Lesa Merchant, VP of Pharmacy/DMEPOS Division at The Compliance Team

Harry Race Pharmacy and Photo has been a client of The Compliance Team since 2009. They are located on the beautiful Baranof Island, in the town of Sitka in Alaska, and are a family-owned pharmacy. They also have a durable medical equipment (DME) location, with all types of DME available to the community.

Sitka is a coastal fishing community, with an estimated population of 8,500, in the southeast of Alaska.  Picturesque boats nestle in the harbor against a stunning mountain backdrop.

Dirk and Trish White are married pharmacy owners and both are pharmacists. They have a great team of about 30 employees and both are deeply involved in day-to-day operations.

Trish was kind enough to take some time to be interviewed for our newsletter profile.

How long have you been in the pharmacy business?|
Forty one years! After graduating as a pharmacist from Oregon State in 1980, I came back to Sitka to work in the pharmacy. I started thinking maybe I should try living in a different environment since I was born and raised in Sitka. I got a job in Seattle, near the University of Washington, and was all set to move.

My boss needed a replacement and hired Dirk. He arrived on the island (in clogs and a pink shirt) and I wanted to help him feel at home and get to know the community. I introduced him to friends and we started going to events like the summer chamber music festival together. For some reason, it usually ended up the two of us.

I eventually went to Seattle for the new job orientation but ended up going shopping for a wedding dress! We had only known each other a month, but knew it was meant to be and have now been married 36 years and have two kids.

Our son graduated from Oregon State with an MBA and PharmD and just returned home to Sitka. Our daughter graduates next year from the University of Santa Cruz with a PhD in marine environmental biology.

Any advice for avoiding friction in a family run business?
Hire a manager that employees need to go to and not you or your husband! Don’t have them come to you or your spouse for the yes/no decisions.

What is a pharmacy challenge that comes with being on an island that we might not expect?
Delivering items from Point A to Point B. Freight costs have almost doubled. Some items can be delivered to patients at the local healthcare facility, but some items have to be delivered by plane or boat. Delivery planes must be hired to transport items.

Aside from the pandemic, what do you see as the biggest current industry hurdle?
Hiring new staff is a big challenge. You still have to be open even if you don’t have the people for the job. Your folks get weary and there has to be some means of giving them a break and taking good care of them. We would love to be able to increase our ability to provide additional clinical services to the community but need enough staff to do that.

The old guard is retiring, and the new guard is not as interested in taking on a community Mom & Pop pharmacy and doing face-to-face business. Schools don’t incorporate community pharmacy into curriculums and keep predicting the death of community pharmacy, so do not generate enthusiasm in students.

If you weren’t in Sitka, where would you be?
Wherever I could grow a garden near the sea. I get excited about seed catalogues!

Knowing what you know now, is there anything you might have done differently?
Get help sooner! I thought we couldn’t afford it. I would have tried to get someone to take over my job for longer than just two weeks after each child came. The kids went from daycare to night care and I missed big moments like first steps.

Any travel destinations on your list?
We must get a relief pharmacist to come to the island to allow vacation time, but we have traveled to some interesting places like Cuba and Oman. I’d like to go to the Cotswold’s in England, visit the Chelsea Garden show, take the train and spend some quality time there. Gardening is a passion.

Desert Island music?
New school answer: The Avett Brothers. Old school answer: Pablo Cruise and Cat Stevens.
*Dirk is a music aficionado and piped in on this question with The Runaways – a favorite that had been on the radio earlier.

Is there a question or comment you have for us?
TCT makes training staff so much easier and having job description templates makes a little business be more professional. When interviewing for staff, some ask for a job description and we’ll give them several – everyone has to wear multiple hats around here!

We appreciate Trish taking time to sit down with us and letting us get to know her better and learn a little bit about what it’s like to serve an island community.

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