Andrew Gyorda is a Community Pharmacist and operates Hollis Pharmacy in Hollis, New Hampshire. Hollis Pharmacy is not a chain pharmacy, but an independent pharmacy serving the greater Hollis area. You don’t see a different face every time you visit as you will at a big-box drugstore. Most patrons are recognized and greeted before they are three steps through the doorway, and their reason for stopping in is assessed and addressed efficiently and courteously by him or one of his staff. Andrew looks for unique ways to reach out to the community, including collecting donations for the local food bank and being a greeting card drop-off location for sending thank you cards to first responders, veterans, and soldiers serving overseas. His mission is to customize the pharmacy’s services to satisfy the needs and desires of the people in town.
Andrew was always interested in human physiology as a youth. His Mom was a Registered Dietitian for 50 years and encouraged him to pursue a career in one of the health sciences. He was impressed by how plants and chemical compounds can alter body functions and sought to know more. He completed the pharmacy program at the University of Rhode Island College of Pharmacy and was in the Rho Chi National Honor Society when he graduated in 1991. For diversion, he cycled in college and was on the University of Rhode Island cycling team. He began his career working in a small-town hospital on the coast of Maine where he gained valuable knowledge and experience, prior to commencing his now three-decade-long service as a community pharmacist.
What trends in your industry excite you?
Western society is plagued by a few big epidemics of disease. Diabetes has been growing for years, as well as cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, liver disease, and a condition called metabolic syndrome which is decreasing our culture’s life expectancy for the first time on record. This year our CDC reports that more than 8% of all people in the US have diabetes, and an additional 90 million are classified as pre-diabetic. That’s a lot of people either sick or on track to be sick in short order. Now, there are a lot of drugs available to treat these conditions, and they are interesting to learn about, and it pleases me to be able to instruct patients on their proper use. However, it has become quite apparent that all these conditions, presently being treated or managed with drugs, are being caused by poor nutrition. All of them are secondary to changes in our cultural diet over the past 50-60 years.
My Mom was a dietitian for 50 years. Growing up, we didn’t have junk food around the house. She instructed us kids that processing food, any food, removed the fiber and vitamins from it, delivering energy but deficient in so many other nutrients that our bodies require for optimal performance. It was hard for me to comprehend that achieving good health, or lessening one’s present health, was so simple. That expression we all know sums it up: ‘You are what you eat’. Mom is now 80 years old and lives a regularly active life, with the vigor of a person decades younger, living evidence of the benefit to adhering to a diet that shuns processed foods. We were not always happy with eating oatmeal for breakfast, tuna and celery for lunch and lentils for dinner, but we all developed a taste for these things, therefore preparing them for ourselves was not daunting, and those are the kinds of food we now eat.
What excites me today is the realization that most modern “diseases” are due to the unknowing chronic consumption of processed foods. This is a huge problem and we now know the cause, but how do we remedy it? We have medicines to aid in managing some of these health conditions, but none do the job as well as our properly nourished bodies. Processed foods are cheaper than natural foods, and we have been feeding them to cows, chickens, fish, you name it, for generations. Thus, we can change how we ourselves eat and not consume modified food, but the animals that we eat are being fed processed food too, so we are ultimately eating processed food. Whether we eat it directly or indirectly, the harm to our health is unavoidable. There is a ton of science behind this now, and that is the most interesting thing regarding human health that I find.
What would you tell others looking to become a pharmacist?
I would suggest that as they progress through pharmacy school, they have hobbies or interests to satisfy them and offset the amount of time you must put in for the schoolwork. You should strive to have a good balance of academic, physical, social, and spiritual interests. Develop good habits now while you are in school. It will help moderate the long days of work.
How has your industry changed over the last decade?
We have much-improved access to scientific information and patient records, and it is easier for us to care for patients because of the broader access to treatments and product availability. The whole supply chain has been streamlined. Most products, if we don’t have it today, can be procured within 24 hours. The efficiencies in the modern world have greatly sped up the provision of pharmaceutical services.
If you could change one thing you did in the beginning of your career what would it be?
I would change nothing. It has been a fun journey. I’m happy where I am and happy with how I got here.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Outside of work, I maintain my own home, and that keeps me busy. I run for exercise. I enjoy landscaping. I hike. I read a bit and attend mass. I help others in whatever way I am able. I have two children, and I enjoy watching them grow and learning about what they are up to, and spending time with them. My son cycles for his college, and my daughter runs for her college. Occasionally I run with each of them. I generally fall off their pace, but they will circle back later and bring me in on their cool down.
I also serve on a committee for the New Hampshire Board of Pharmacy in a volunteer capacity.
Explain the proudest day of your professional life.
There have been so many good days. I cannot think of one day to single out. I tell myself: “that was a good experience and I am glad I helped someone”. I have had countless great days. I am grateful for them all, and I hope there are more to come.
What has been the hardest obstacle you have overcome?
Losing patients that you develop long relationships with is difficult. Their absence from your life is hard. I have a friend and I was his pharmacist for more than 20 years, and he died last year on Easter Sunday. He was 90, but he was healthy pretty much up until his last year. Watching him deteriorate towards the end that last year was difficult.
What is one piece of advice that you have never forgotten?
The more you give of yourself, the more that shall be given to you.
What does success look like for you?
Success is me at this very moment. I am healthy in body, mind, and spirit, and I’m being of use to others. Really, that is a success. I don’t need any plaques. I don’t need any awards. If you are needed by other people and you can help make their life a little better, that is a success.
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