Charis and Caitlin

Pharmacist Spotlight: Charis Dunlap and Caitlin Kongs

This month’s pharmacist spotlight features Charis Dunlap and Caitlin Kongs from Ar-Ex Drug Store in Marysville, Kan. They spoke with us to share why they became pharmacists, what they love about independent pharmacy, and a recent award their pharmacy won that they’re extremely proud of.


When did you realize that you wanted to become a pharmacist?

Charis: Honestly I do not really remember when I realized I wanted to become a pharmacist. I knew I wanted to do some kind of health related career where I could work with and help people daily. A career in pharmacy came to mind so I started working as a technician while I was completing my undergrad degree, and I just ran with it.

Caitlin: Throughout school I always had an interest in the sciences. This predisposition led to me looking for a medical based career. One of my top requirements in a career was the ability to serve rural communities like the one I grew up in. A career in pharmacy fit both of these desires well.


What made you want to become an independent pharmacist? 

Charis:  I worked for a chain pharmacy for six years while completing pharmacy school and it was a good first experience. I felt very lucky because the pharmacists I worked with were amazing! They really cared about their patients. I did some rotations in other chain pharmacies and patients were just a number. I knew right away that I wanted to be an independent pharmacist. I wanted to know my patients. I wanted to be part of their world, not for them to just be a number in my computer system.

We both wanted to work in a rural independent setting, which would give us the ability to offer individualized patient care for people that we share the community with.


What do you find most rewarding about working in independent pharmacy?

Being able to work with our community/customers, alongside other medical providers, to make a difference in people lives. We love that our customers feel like they can come to us, or pick up the phone and talk to us or ask questions. That is what we are here for! We love helping people! We dispense drugs for a living, but sometimes that is the least important part.

Knowing the patient, counseling them, catching drug interactions, or checking in on someone that is sick to make sure they are doing okay is far more important that counting by fives and putting medicine in bottles. We get to care for the whole patient!


What advice would you offer to those still in pharmacy school or those considering becoming a pharmacist?

If you dream it, do it! They world of pharmacy is ever-changing and presenting new opportunities daily. No two days are ever the same. As with any job there are rough days, days where you want to throw in the towel, but then a customer tells you thank you for going above and beyond for them, and that makes it all worth it! It is a fun career as you get to interact with all kinds of other health professionals too.

Explore all areas of pharmacy available to you. Do rotations in pharmacy school even if you think they are not for you, because you never know until you try it. Try veterinary pharmacy, drug research, hospital, or a pharmacist association, don’t just do retail rotations because that is what you think you want to do.

If you choose an independent career, it is hard work. When you lock the door at the end of the day, it is just a door; it doesn’t mean your day is over. You may get called back in shortly, you may run into a patient at the grocery store or gas station, you may head to a ball game and get questioned from a customer, but that just means you live in a great community that trusts you. Take pride in what you do and love it no matter what!


What are you most proud of that your pharmacy has accomplished?

We were recently presented with the “Customer Service Award” from our local chamber of commerce. At first I just thought that was nice because in my opinion we were just doing our job. Later it hit home a little deeper that yes, not only were we doing our job, but we were doing it right! Putting the customers first!

Our little motto is: Feel Better. Feel at Home! We want people to feel like they are part of our pharmacy family and that we care about them!