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Pharmacist driven to improve health care for the community

Posted: February 24, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: February 24, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Moazzem H. Chowdhury poses with pharmacy tech, Debra Stratford, and pharmacist, Bill Henderson, at Desert Drug Pharmacy. Moazzem H. Chowdhury poses with pharmacy tech, Debra Stratford, and pharmacist, Bill Henderson, at Desert Drug Pharmacy.
Moazzem H. Chowdhury poses with pharmacy tech, Debra Stratford, and pharmacist, Bill Henderson, at Desert Drug Pharmacy.

Always his passion to work with people in a healthcare related field, Moazzem H. Chowdhury decided when he was young that working as a pharmacist would give him the most direct ties to the community he wanted to serve.

Licensed in the United States in 1993, Chowdhury first worked with two major retail pharmacy chains, but felt customers weren’t being served in a way that gave them the help they needed.

So he took the entrepreneurial plunge and today owns two pharmacies - Desert Drug Pharmacy in Canyon Country and Desert Drugs in Lancaster. He also manages the pharmacies at two other independent stores for Newhall Pharmacy in Newhall, and Crown Valley Pharmacy in Acton, Chowdhury said.

Keeping his goal of service to the community in mind, Chowdhury said he even makes house visits, at no extra charge, to give some of his customers that might be bed-ridden the flu shots and vaccinations they need. If he didn’t provide this service, he said, sometimes the only other option for his immobile patients might be to take an ambulance to a local hospital for simple treatments he can perform at their home.

“In the Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys, I was the first to give flu shots in 1999,” Chowdhury said. “I was ahead of the trend.”

And his experience that first year showed him what kind of demand existed for basic care in the community.
There was a shortage of flu vaccines that year when a large batch had to be destroyed, sending the public into a small panic. Chowdhury was prepared. He had ordered enough vaccine in advance that he had plenty to share – enough to help a hospital and individual doctor’s offices, he said.

But, when he announced that he would give flu shots at his pharmacy in Newhall, hundreds of people and a bus from a retirement home showed up.

“I saw the parking lot was full of people,” he said. “We immediately called our eight home health care nurses, and they volunteered to help out.”

Chowdhury and his crew ended up giving 700 flu shots in eight hours that day.

“It’s a scene I will never forget,” he said. “Everyone was so happy.”

Owning his own pharmacies, and managing two others, allows Chowdhury to make his own decisions to improve the quality of service in the healthcare industry, he said.

With regards to pricing, Chowdhury said he always tries to match that of the other pharmacies with one difference – if he can buy medicines at a good savings, he passes it on to his customers, so they can save money too.

Believing a pharmacy is a place to support healthcare, Chowdhury is critical of what he calls a double standard in the chain pharmacies that sell medicine alongside alcohol and cigarettes.

“A small pharmacy doesn’t do that. We are not here to make money,” he said. “If I wanted to make money, I’d work with the big chain pharmacies.”

Chowdhury also often finds himself helping people who feel lost and confused about healthcare related insurance issues or questions, he said. And he believes the problems are numerous enough that there should be a place in the city where people can walk into for help – “a team in the SCV that focuses on healthcare for the people that live here,” he said.

Working 12 to 14 hour days, Chowdhury said he has always believed he has to earn his way in the land of opportunity; that no one is going to give him anything, but that with hard work he can achieve anything he dreams.

With that in mind, all he ever wanted in life was to be busy with a good purpose, he said. Happy that he has been able to achieve that with his pharmacies, Chowdhury says work is never stressful and that he works with people who have been with him since 1997 – making for one large family of healthcare providers in the community.

“If you work hard and with a true heart, then it will come true,” he said. “Anyone can fulfill their dream.”


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