A Cheerleader to All: Saying Farewell to Pharmacist Sandy Anderson

Monday, September 21, 2015

To the thousands of patients who receive their medication and medication management assistance from the Old Town Clinic (OTC) Pharmacy, Sandy Anderson is so much more than their pharmacist. She is a cheerleader. She is a sounding board. She is a constant.

But as of Friday, September 18, 2015, both patients and Central City Concern will have to endure a mighty change. After six years of steadfast dedication to and compassion for Old Town Clinic patients, as well as decades of prior pharmacy work, Sandy, OTC Pharmacy’s original head pharmacist, has headed off into a well-deserved retirement.

Sandy started as a volunteer at OTC in the mid-2000's, before the clinic had a proper pharmacy. She and a former co-worker decided to volunteer as a way to spend time together while also doing something of service. They spent their volunteer hours pre-counting prescriptions to ease the burden on clinic providers, who, at the time, had to take time out of each patient visit to count and dispense medications.

Eventually, thanks in part to Sandy’s volunteer work, the clinic realized that they were dispensing more than 10,000 prescriptions annually. It became clear that Old Town Clinic and its patients would benefit greatly from an on-site pharmacy. By then, Sandy had found a place she truly enjoyed in the Old Town Clinic.

“It was really rewarding,” she says. “I loved all the people. I really bonded with the providers.”

Even after her friend and fellow volunteer moved on, Sandy continued volunteering, coming into the clinic early in the morning and heading to her day job at a retail pharmacy after completing a few hours of volunteer work. So when Sandy was asked to head Old Town Clinic’s new pharmacy, she jumped in.

The rest, as they say, is CCC history.

Sandy has steered the pharmacy effectively through rapid growth and increased efficiency in a relatively short time, never losing sight of the goal to serve our patients better. She oversaw the pharmacy’s transition into the appointment based model, intended to not only increase efficiency in pharmacy operation but also to improve how well patients, many of whom are on multiple prescriptions, stick to their medication schedules. Under Sandy’s direction, the size of the pharmacy, as well as its staff, grew to keep pace with the number of patients accessing primary and psychiatric care at Old Town Clinic. She was integral in securing a donation of the IntelliCab System, a technology that eliminates filing and retrieval errors that can be particularly dangerous for patients who are homeless and hard to reach.

In 2012, Sandy was named 2012 Pharmacist of the Year by the Oregon State Pharmacy Association.

Barbara Martin, CCC’s Director of Primary Care, sums up Sandy’s impact on the pharmacy.

“The quality of pharmacy services we are now able to offer is unsurpassed, and this is due to Sandy's vision and commitment.”

And while Sandy has brought the pharmacy to heights that were unimaginable back when she was simply pre-counting medications out of a small room (“not much bigger than a closet,” she remembers), she is perhaps best known for the way she treats each patient she sees.

According to colleagues and patients, Sandy’s kindness and genuine care have never wavered. Her near-constant motion behind the pharmacy counter belies the undivided attention and patience she affords every patient with whom she meets. Giving information about each medication and its potential side effects is only part of her consultations; Sandy asks and listens intently, building a deep trust with her patients.

“I just believe anybody can do anything that they really want to do, but they have to have a cheerleader: someone who’s there for them and believes in them and says, ‘Yes! You can do it!’” Sandy says of her patients. “It’s been so much fun watching patients get the confidence in themselves and to keep trying and to be successful. They’re great people. They have great stories and they have great things to share with me. That’s what I love about them all.”

Sandy plans to fill her time in retirement with activities she loves: quilting, hiking, biking, playing tennis, and reading. She also hopes to use the time to practice a skill that has fallen by the wayside over the years.

“Everyone knows I’m the worst cook ever,” Sandy laughs. “So my biggest goal is to start cooking again and experimenting with food and making some great dinner.”

She will also give some time to SIRUM, a nonprofit that helps match providers and patients with no medication coverage with supplies of unused medications.  Sandy was the one who originally connected Central City Concern with SIRUM in late-2014, increasing the pharmacy’s (and its patients’) access to difficult-to-afford medications. CCC's partnership with SIRUM was the first of its kind in the state of Oregon.

Sandy’s impact and legacy at Central City Concern is undeniable. 

According to Barbara, “Sandy Anderson is the reason why we have a Central City Concern pharmacy. The patients, staff, students, volunteers here will be forever grateful. We are poised to continue her great work with our current pharmacists and pharmacy techs, as well as students and volunteers. We will strive to make Sandy proud of the work we continue to do.”

 “I always want to instill hope in people,” Sandy says. “That’s why I just know that they have to have a cheerleader. And I think many of them have caught on to that hope in life. And I guess that’s what it’s all about.”

Thank you, Sandy, for everything you’ve done for Central City Concern and those we serve. You will be missed!