Walgreens' Rina Shah is working to improve patients’ health by increasing access to care through pharmacy experts

Rina Shah, Group Vice President, Pharmacy Operations, Walgreens

Age: 39

Education: She earned her pharmacy prerequisites at Drake University and completed her Doctor of Pharmacy degree at the University of Illinois in Chicago. Still active in the UIC community, she delivered the College of Pharmacy’s 2020 commencement speech for graduates.

About her: She leads a team that is responsible for pharmacy operations, services and specialty pharmacy across more than 9,000 Walgreens pharmacies. Just this year, she led the pharmacy team that secured the first enterprise-wide URAC accreditation in specialty pharmacy for more than 300 community-based specialty pharmacies. 

“Often patients with life-changing health challenges need support from their pharmacy team in their local community," she said. "This accreditation assures patients of the high standards of care in place as they access their medications and understand their treatment.”

In 2019, she helped launch Feel More Like You, a first-of-its-kind pharmacy, health and beauty service available at no cost to help people living with cancer manage the medical and physical changes associated with treatment. “The program empowered more than 15,000 employees in 3,000 stores to become accessible resources for patients with questions about side effects and the visible changes from cancer treatments, driving over 10,000 interactions in the first two months of service, in addition to 14 million social conversations with women using the campaign to inspire each other,” she said.

In addition, she spearheaded the creation of specialist pharmacists at Walgreens known as Health Outcomes Pharmacists, who work closely with patients most at risk of medication non-adherence in order to address barriers that could prevent them from taking their medications as prescribed. In one of these successful interventions, patients who were identified as becoming non-adherent had, on average, a 15.5% higher rate of refilling their prescriptions and staying adherent to therapy than those who received no intervention from a specialized pharmacist.

“I led the pharmacy operations team to shift our strategy during COVID-19 and ensure access to medicines for Walgreens patients. For example, we offered delivery nationwide on prescriptions and waived fees for one-to-two-day delivery (demand increased significantly), and accelerated the implementation of offering essential items from the front end as part of the pharmacy drive-thru experience. Finally, I led the pharmacy team to identify vulnerable senior patients who needed proactive outreach with lockdowns in place to ensure they had everything they needed from a medication perspective as well as essential items.”

First job: A pharmacy technician at Walgreens in 1998.

Accomplishment she’s most proud of: “At the beginning of the year, I couldn’t have imagined that in a matter of weeks we would change how we supported our patients. With COVID-19, the reality hit and my team worked night and day to ensure that our patients nationwide had the pharmacy services they needed, no matter the situation. I’m incredibly proud of how our team—across the pharmacy chain—worked together to make this happen and ensure that our patients were cared for without disruption.”

The problem she’s most passionate about trying to solve: Improving patients’ health by increasing access to care through pharmacy experts, digital capabilities and partnerships.

Book she recommends: She recommends podcasts instead, including Healthcare Weekly and TedTalks Health.

Advice she would you give her younger self: “Don’t let perfection get in the way of delivering solutions for each other, your teams and patients. It is important to focus on being a part of the solution, even if it isn’t perfect.”

What she’d do with his career if it wasn’t this: She would still, in some way, be involved in the healthcare industry.

Advice she’d give to healthcare leaders seeking to make a real impact on the systemic problems of racism: “That it is our responsibility to get educated and realize that a one-size-fits-all approach to manage healthcare will not be effective. Systemic racism directly affects the health of our patients, and without understanding its impact on our patients and communities, we will not be effective in our roles. We will not solve this on our own and have an opportunity to partner across industries to get educated, to innovate and to find new solutions that help all of our patients.”