Rite Aid CEO discusses health care reform, the economy, technology in visit to URI

Posted on
Kingston, RI – March 31, 2009 – The chief executive officer of Rite Aid Pharmacy told University of Rhode Island pharmacy students during a recent visit that the personal touch is still the key to successful patient-pharmacist interactions.

Rite Aid chief Mary Sammons also spoke with URI College of Pharmacy students about health care reform, the role of technology, the challenging economy and careers at Rite Aid.

In a small group discussion, Andrew Bundeff, a fourth-year pharmacy student from Cumberland expressed concern that an increase in the use of robotics by pharmaceutical companies would result in less of a demand for pharmacists. Sammons largely disagreed, stating that technology would give pharmacists more time to work one-on-one with customers.

“Technology will help pharmacists deliver quality care. The reason for technology is to free up time for pharmacists to spend time with patients.”

Pharmacy students were thrilled to have Sammons visit. “How many times do you get to have a chance to speak to the CEO of a company you could potentially be part of?” said Bundeff. “We received direct answers about the future of health care and the current situation with the Obama administration from a person who is on the cutting edge of the industry. She spoke about her vision, and it was a vision we would all be proud to be a part of.”

With issues in drug safety, the affordability of medications, and federal research in the national spotlight, Sammons talked about the drastic need for health care reform in the United States. She fully supports the Obama administration efforts to accomplish necessary reform, saying that President Barack Obama has taken on the issue and is making it a top priority. ““We see a great opportunity for health care reform positively impacting the profession of pharmacy,” she said. Sammons told the group that those involved in all aspects of pharmacy have come together over the issue of health care reform and are working collaboratively in lobbying Congress to make sure that pharmacy benefits form health care changes.

Sammons also spoke to students about careers at Rite Aid. She said that Rite Aid is the ideal place to work because of its focus on positive culture in the company’s stores and its stress on the importance of the individual. “We are all about pharmacy,” she said. “You can see our dedication to pharmacy and our dedication to the customer. Customer satisfaction is our top priority.”

She told students that Rite Aid believes in empowering their employees to make decisions and giving them all the tools they need to succeed. Sammons also said that Rite Aid focuses on its individual pharmacists because people have reported they relate best to their personal pharmacists. “Rite Aid is the best place to work, and the best pharmacy,” said Sammons.

In discussing the current state of the economy, Sammons said, “we are seeing things we have never seen happen. Times are challenging for everyone. They are challenging for big companies, small companies, not-for-profits, and even colleges and universities.”

Sammons, who was appointed CEO of Rite Aid in June of 2003 and as Rite Aid chairman in 2007, spoke to a group of 10 pharmacy student leaders prior to speaking to a large group of students in the Swan Hall Auditorium.

Before coming to Rite Aid as president and chief operating officer in 1999, Sammons served as president and CEO of Fred Meyer Stores, a food, drug and general merchandise retailer with pharmacy operations in the Pacific Northwest. Sammons is one of only 12 female top executives of Fortune 500 companies and was named the 18th most powerful woman in 2008 by Forbe’s magazine. With the acquisition of the Brooks Eckerd drugstore chain in June 2007, Rite Aid is the third largest pharmacy in the United States and the largest on the east coast. The pharmacy giant generated $26.3 billion in revenues in fiscal 2009, which ended February 28, 2009. Rite Aid has 4,900 stores in 31 states and the District of Columbia.

Pictured above

STRAIGHT FROM THE TOP: Rite Aid CEO Mary Sammons makes a point with URI pharmacy students during a visit to the Kingston campus.

ASKING A QUESTION: URI pharmacy student Andrew Bundeff asks Rite Aid CEO Mary Sammons a question during her recent visit to the Kingston campus.

URI Department of Communications & Marketing photos by Michael Salerno Photography