• Antonio Leal

Episode #4 The interview with Johnny Wong #tntweekly #pharmacy # pharmacist #covid

What's up New Tech Welcome to Episode Four TNT weekly. Check out my website at TNT social media feeds Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter, podcast directories, easily available on Spotify, your app Apple podcasts, Google Apps, and subscribe. It would be great to have you as a listener on our weekly podcast show really, really happy to have in the house. A legend in my books. local community pharmacist, Mr. Johnny Wong.

Hey, Johnny, how you doing? Nice to have you on the podcast.

Hey, Tony, what's up? Oh, no, what's up new tech.

That's what we're here for what's up new tech comes of? Listen, Johnny really happy to have you on the podcast. It's just wonderful. And I think I can speak for the community that, you know, myself and the community. We appreciate so much what you do, especially during these times in COVID. You're an essential frontline.hero in my opinion, and I want to thank you very, very much for everything that you do.

Well, Tony, you know what, this is a very exciting time of me. coming on to your show. Apparently, I'm the first guest for your show.

You're the first guest Yeah,you're you My rock star.

I don't know how I got this honor. Oh, yeah. So right now through this difficult time as a pharmacist in the community, yeah, we have had off challenges. And but you know what? We will live through that. Who lived through that? Yeah,

yeah, absolutely. Johnny listen for for our listeners, I know you will. And I've been lucky to, you know, you're a personal friend of mine. Lucky and proud to say that. But for many of our listeners that don't know you, Johnny, What's your story? What's your story and coming Dalston into the town in new comes with and caring for our community and growing your services in our community? Could you let the listeners know a little bit about Johnny Wong

just a little bit. You don't want to know the whole story,

the whole story Give it to me.

So why don't we start at the very beginning? Yeah, so I immigrated to Canada and 1985 unleaded in Montreal, and I was 15 years old Back then, I still remember going to Montreal is like minus 30 degrees Celsius. I came from Hong Kong plus 30 degrees Celsius is common, minus 30 degrees Celsius is not

welcome to Canada.

Exactly. So that was how I started in Canada, and work moving forward and 1988 I got accepted to University of Toronto Faculty of pharmacy. So I did my undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto, graduated 1992. And since then I've been a community pharmacists. Wonderful. Yeah. And something that people may not know. And I don't tell people much. I did my MBA my Masters of Business Administration at York University, between 1995 to 98. And thinking I'm good Go into the big business world. But through this journey, I discover myself. I know what I like. I actually like my one on one my patient. So after 10 years of working at corporate pharmacy, and 2002, me and a friend of mine, Mr. Wayne Kwan decided it's time for us to go on our own. So we picked Austin as our location. And we come here, start from zero. And we're lucky and honor and then fortunate to be in this community and Allison for 18 years. 18 years, 18 years now, I think of it is amazing. And my oldest daughter is now going to be 18 years old. Yeah. So this is a life journey that I honestly treasure.

Yeah, no, that's wonderful. Wonderful. How many locations in this journey? Are you just open in? and Alliston in this area? Do you have more store locations, Johnny?

Well, we've always my I, I'm the operator of the Alliston location. So I'm in my partnership route. There are other location. But I'm going to focus on New Tech. I'm going to focus on our site

Yeah, it is about new tech and everything. But absolutely. I totally agree. JOHN.

Yeah. So and two years ago, 2018. Yeah. And then we're lucky enough to have a second location announced. And for those of you who don't know, our first location is at Parsons row, and a tiny little store focused on clinical care. Yes. And 16 years later, in 2018. We got an opportunity to open a second location at Mill Pond Medical Center on Victoria Street. Yeah. And so we always tell people We best kept secret in Alliston and now we into the big pond.

Yeah, yeah. Try to make ourselves known in the big pond. Yeah. And it's not easy. And it's not easy. Yeah. Right. And, and then one year ago 2019 there was an opportunity in Angus that for us to open another clinic based pharmacy. And this one is right at the walk in clinic. So we are serving the community, both from the medical and also the pharmaceutical care.

So wonderful, wonderful. So you're really you're really entrenched in the community. Johnny, it's very passionate for you, isn't it?

I've considered myself as a small guy. Yeah, yeah. I'm a small guy. And I like to do the one on one. I like to talk to people and patients have been with me for a long time. I think they stick with Because of this type of environment or attitude, yeah, yeah, I still do delivery to my patients. I like to see my patients and always have that little dream of mine to actually get my own bicycle. A little bicycle called the family pharmacy pharmacist delivery bike.

Oh, yeah. Well, it might be happening. It might be happening for sure.

But I think an insurance license and that those things could be a problem. But I like the idea

like, yeah, listen, we we know we're we're in really difficult times. It's strange times that has happened over the last three months. Obviously, a topic on everyone's mind news. bombarded with news about COVID. How has this affected you personally, your staff and your operations? Could you please share that with our listeners?

You know what? We've gone through the years of SARS back in 2003. That's actually the second deal we opened in August. So this covert scenario is actually way different. Right? Back then we hear of infectious control, we need to wear and 95 mask. And there's some of that going. But this time, it's a pandemic. It's widespread way more people affected. And so in March, when we first come across this scenario of Uber, honestly, rather on the pair, and then our store is very open concept. So immediately, we think, oh, we need to have some sort of barrier to protect our patient and our staff. So we need to think about doing protection screen and so on and so forth. And then the staffing The staff is starting to have questions. customer has question. The first few weeks, we have lots of phone calls, lots of questions about different things about, oh, is there enough medications around? Can I refill my medication early? And for my staff is like, what do we do? Are we opening the same hours? How do we help people to at the same time, protect ourselves? All those questions coming to head? So it was a tough time for the first few weeks because we've never encountered that scenario. Yeah. And but I'm glad that we've established now it's almost like a new norm. Right, you're starting to have a new way of operation. And I think it goes to a lot of other operations to not just pharmacies per se. I agree that people are having new operation procedure, new custom handling procedure. Yeah, yeah.

I think one thing that's important. I think we're lucky enough is that people are overall very calm. Right? Overall, very calm. And then we have a good attitude to and understanding. And so that actually got us through this time. And I think continued going forward. That's what we need. Yeah, right. Yeah. To have that positive attitude to have that understanding. And because this is something new for all of us, Yes, right. All of us.

Absolutely. Absolutely. Johnny being an essential service during this COVID period. How have you been able to better serve your customers during the lockdown? Do you have any online services or options of curbside pickup and delivery? Is there something that you can add to your customer service aspect of providing them You're Yes. humanities.

Yes, yes. So actually interesting enough before the COVID. situation happened in March, about a month or two ago, we started to have this online platform that people can sign up and view their own prescription profile, and also consider doing refills. And at the same time, if they have a new prescription, they can take a picture and send it to us, really. So some people have taken advantage of that. And we actually like that platform is a theory immediate and not and what that we've done is that we we work with our patients, right? Yes. And I remember back in March, when people coming back from the south, we have quite a number of snowbirds in the area. Yeah. So they're coming back home. They need two weeks of quarantine time. So they say hey, we cannot come And we advise them not to come off course. And we say we don't deliver medications to you at the door to the door, of course contact us. And people appreciate it. And we felt good about it. Yes, it's definitely more work. Yes, I've done some of the delivery myself. And I even brought my daughter to do some of the deliveries to experience house like to be a community member of that community healthcare professional.

Absolutely. Yeah. And is there a Is there a website or something online or website address? How would How would customers be able to get online and use this platform,

you know, what we are offering that to our existing customers, so people who have registered with us have pharmacies filling prescription when they either call or they come to us store now we actually tell them we have such platform would give them a unique registration code and soon a very personal That's great. Yeah. And then for people who are not our patients, our first step is to actually come or to call us to register. pharmacy. Yeah. And then we'll build your profile. And then down the road when they have prescriptions, they feel that and then they will see on their platform. So I think going into the future, that's another option. I tell my patients, that is not for us to tell, hey, we don't want to hear from your phone call. We don't want to hear you personally anymore. No, that's not the case. Yeah, yeah. This is just one option for people who likes that type of platform. Yeah, but we still answer a phone call. Personally, we don't have an interactive voice response. So when you call us Yes, you'll get us yeah. And sometimes Yes, we are busy and you'll get our voicemail, but we do call back.

And and with this online platform, obviously with the option to offer that convenience for anyone That wants it right is an option. It's an option. Yeah, we moving along with the rest of the world. Yes. Yeah. As a small guy, and I'm actually pretty proud that we have such an opportunity to play like a big guy.

Absolutely. Absolutely. JOHN, I've heard a lot I, you know, I've heard about it. I've heard wonderful things about these type of medicines. But I understand that you are very, very passionate about compounding medicines and that aspect of medication. Again, please, I'm so interested about this topic. Yes. And let us know a bit about your passion for compounding medicines and why you believe in some cases, that may be a better option than traditional medicines on the market today.

Yeah, one thing about being a pharmacist or going through our pharmacy training, is that we actually learned how to make meditation right and But that particular set skill set really has not really been utilized and modern pharmacy world because most medication can come ready made, and then so we don't have to go back to the lab and then to do work. However, this discipline of pharmacy practice has in the last 510 15 years has really been revive, because this is the thing, right? What we'd like to see is patient getting results right getting the proper outcome. The commercial products out there have gone through major clinical trials and so on and so forth. However, the dosage form like how it comes in, yeah, tablet, capsule, liquid cream, and strength and the combination are limited. There's only as a pharmacist Using our compounding techniques and knowledge, we're able to actually custom make medication to help people with specific needs. So it's more of a problem solving discipline in the pharmacy world. And after practicing community pharmacy for 20 some odd years, what I found in last 510 years in particular, yes, is that this part of my practice really gave me good satisfaction. But there are so many times people come in or physician come in with a case say, Johnny, we have a scenario like this. We've tried this, this and that. We're not getting the outcome. What do you think? Right? So I go to different courses, the compounding training groups, and we have consultant pharmacists in our back pocket. So When there's a challenging question like that comes in, I will use what I learned from those courses. And if I don't know, I'm going to call my consultant. Interestingly enough, the consultants are stationed in Houston, Texas, United States. Yeah. So confused it.

Yeah. Yeah. Calling Houston

we call it Houston. People who are in this space, they're friends, they would probably know what you're talking about. Yeah. So we call Houston. So Houston, we got a situation like this. We've got a problem like this. What have you guys done before? And these consultant over 20 of them has vast strength. Yes. They're either been practicing for a long time or a teaching or they've been solving problems for other people. And they will come up with different solutions. And then we'll bring it back to the prescriber and to our patient and say, Hey, this is what I proposed. What do you think? So it takes a lot of time, but We get some results from it. And in some cases, we have solved problem that has not been solved for years. So I've got satisfaction so amazing. And from a patient point of view, this is magic.

Yeah, that's really interesting. So it to me, it just sounds like you're more, you know, on a on a per patient basis or a customer basis where the option to go to compounding medicine, it's almost like you get closer into their lives. Yes, you're making a decision on the betterment of their lives. Yes. Based on a certain mixture of are the herbs what medicine What are they earn? Oh,

the compounding could be anything

could be anything right. It'd

be existing about prescription medications are ingredients. Yes. Right. And then it could be herbal medicine. It could be nutrition, right? Yes. Oh, yeah, for sure. Yeah. As a matter of fact, there are colleagues of mine who practice clinical news. And then they use compounding as a, as a vehicle to deliver different nutritional combinations was really the problem.

Wow. Yeah,

I would love to learn that because that is one thing I know, using medication in general, we help people to maybe control some of the symptoms. Yeah, but we want what we really want is to help the body to regulate itself. Right? Because if the body can actually have the proper ingredient, or less of the pollutants in the system, yes, it actually can function better. Right. So that is something to me is interesting.

Yeah, that's very interesting and and it just falls in line with my next question here when you know you'd brought up the nutrition aspect of of possible compounding and how it can help someone you know My previous shows Johnny, I've been emphasizing quite a bit through this COVID period, on on health, and obviously inspired by other podcasts that I've been listening to. And, and it makes sense to me, I'm listening to it and it makes sense. And I don't hear the media talking about this. I don't hear anybody talking about this. But for me, one of the best defenses of combat in COVID is the control over your own health and simply being the best that you can be through nutrition, good nutrition, supplementation, in combination in parallel with physical fitness activity and making yourself the best that you can be. And I believe in 100% and everything from being able to feed your immune system and make it the most powerful it can be. Right, giving yourself the best chance that's that's where I feel we should be getting more news on and more media on to get out there instead of hiding at home, waiting and not going out in public. I think that as a community and as a populace, we should be out combating this to the best of our ability for those that are healthy. Take care of those that are most vulnerable are seniors and those that have underlying health issues. But if we can be healthier, why not?

Yeah, so something that I serve through social media through Facebook, Instagram, a lot of people now actually have a bit more time at home. So that should be cooking. Yeah, yeah. So what people have now an opportunity to do is that to discover like natural nutrition, right? Yes. from natural food and stuff like that. Yes, grocery shopping still in issue. Yes. So yeah, but then when they have time now, one thing I found, like I'm also a diabetes educator, right? Yes. So diabetes itself, their particular type two diabetes, there's a very simple underlying condition that's going on is the carbohydrate input and glucose output. imbalance, yeah, how much carbohydrate that we consume? How much glucose or sugar that we've got from the carbohydrate that we have us? Right? So a lot of people who's suffering from type two diabetes when I do education with them, I will ask them, What do you eat for breakfast, lunch and supper? Right? There's so many times people say, Well, you know, I really don't eat breakfast. Yeah. And then lunch. I just got to grab a quick lunch. And at night, I eat well, I eat good, right and so scenarios like that. Is that okay? Probably because when, before the COVID people are busy, so they don't have time to eat breakfast lunch. And when they come home from work now they finally got a chance to eat at night. So they eat more at night. Yes. So that itself is actually not the way the body needs, right? Energy wise, the body needs more energy during the day, because that's the target we feed it. So going back to you say, hey, how we can actually power ourselves. We need to pay attention to how we view ourselves. Right? Absolutely. We need to this is a message I like to public you know is that you know what, have a good breakfast, have a decent lunch and go easy on yourself as demand time. Right? Yeah, like from a diabetes educator point of view. When you have even if you have more carbs during the day, your body likely can use it because your body is using

Yeah, being busy in the daytime

but at night if we come back Home and then have a big dish of pasta, a big bowl of pasta. A lot of potato. We don't use the energy, right, so accumulate, yeah, so that doesn't make us feel good. So if people have time nowadays, explore that, make a bigger breakfast, have a good lunch, and then go easy on yourself. Like you said, Tony, you know, on top of that we need to be physical, right? Yes. So have the opportunity to go out there and do some physical stuff now. So now the weather's better. I see a lot of people doing gardening like they're walking and hiking and you know, let's get fit together. Right?

Yeah. Johnny, what's your opinion on on on supplementation? You know, I hear a lot that you know, vitamin D deficiencies, you know, lack and zinc, etc. You know, are not really great positives for the immune system, etc. Right. What's your opinion on supplementation? And I think you did bring up a bit in the aspect of comp counting how it could be nutritious to the body. I don't know if that's an element of supplementation through compounding and

while compounding is only one way to to supplement, right, yes, there are a lot of nutritional supplements out there. products available and there are actually a lot of them are very useful. I have to say, like through my pharmacy journey. I have more and more respect of nutrition Clinical Nutrition for example, supplementing some base element. One thing I'd love to talk to people about is magnesium supplement. And I'm sure I'm echoing some of our natural Pathak doctor friends in the neighborhood. Yeah. How important certain elements are. Right. You mentioned about zinc, how it helps the system. And vitamin D is a good general vitamin that we don't get enough in North America. Yes, omega three fish oil. I like that. A lot. This is a great anti inflammatory, even for small blood vessels in your heart in your brain. But one thing that people might not have done is that they may not have taken enough. Right? Right. So I like to talk to my patient about that. And then there are many more, but from my perspective is that the body needs certain ingredients for it to function well, right. And sometimes these ingredients are in these supplements. And depending on the person's situation, sometimes they become very, very useful. Yeah, so I will definitely use a part of my therapeutic options for my patients and people who've done medication review with me. They know I always talk about think about supplement if necessary.

Wonderful, wonderful is needed. Great. So now I have a backer and a and a mentor. That is backing up my nutrition push. So come on New Tech. Let's get healthy, that supplement yourself and come see Johnny for vitamins and anything you need. Let's get healthier out there.

You know, I might even add that you know what we need to have a cooking class? Yeah. Yeah. What would be interesting for community is actually to go have some community kitchen class

that would be fun to learn

to cook to eat better, healthier, and have some fun back into the kitchen. And I think that's even one glass of red

one. One colossal red

Ray. And some people will get away with two Yes, yeah, three. I don't know.

No. That is a party. We don't want that.

Johnny listen on on, on the government's reaction to cobit they, you know, I think they've done amazing on keeping our economy afloat sustain during these unknown times. What's your opinion on on the government push and you know what local municipalities have done? And I'll extend that into the pharmaceutical industry, you as an essential service, providing your services much needed services to the community. Do you feel the government, municipalities and local authorities and the pharmaceutical industry are doing their part to support you?

Well, I have mixed feelings on that. Right now. We are in the frontline, we actually have, I think most of our colleagues, including ourselves have not close at all right? We might have shortened our hours, we might have closed one day a week to recoup. And However, most of the time we are functioning, normal, as normal as we can. Yeah. Right. So we are out there dealing with different changes. That's how happening, both on the system supply and also regulation point of view. Right. Yes. So, through this time being at the frontline of being accessible to the community, there are a lot of expectation of pharmacy to provide, right. Yeah. And but at the same time because of the supply chain issue in different levels, like the supply chain nowadays very global, right, if some were along them, somewhere in other country have do not have supply going forward. It might affect Canada, it might affect Ontario, it might affect us. Yes, yes. So at the beginning of the COVID, back in March, when first we heard about, hey, the stores may be closing and then people have to stay home. There's a run on prescription medications, so we have to deal with that. And the government Actually, together with the pharmacists associations come up with the recommendation to control the number of days of medication being dispensed. So within a week, we heard the recommendation from the government. In our cases Ontario government and also from the Ontario Pharmacists Association say hey, pharmacists dispense 30 days supply for people who use to get 90 days or more, because that way we can actually serve more pain people. Yes, actually, that's a very, very logical approach. And some of our patients ups were upset or saying that you know what, I've always getting three minutes medication, three months medication, and I don't feel comfortable with one month at a time. But think through it, if we are low in medication in the supply chain If we give one person 90 days, instead of giving three people 30 days, we have taken away the opportunity to help to other people. Right. Yeah. So with, but the good thing is, a lot of us in our area in particular that I have experiences, people understand, as soon as we explain the toilet paper scenario, right? We use the toilet paper as a analogy. So think about people who are going to fight for toilet paper. We don't want to do that with meditation. So then people say, Oh, yeah, that's right. Mm hmm. Yeah. So Oh, actually, just about two weeks ago, Ontario government come in and say that you know what, for seniors that are they were paid for some medication that each time when they fill a prescription, they have to pay a dispensing fee. ontari come in and two weeks ago and say that was would take care of the two additional 30 days applied dispensing fee for seniors. So that has eased off some of the financial burden for seniors. And we, we are supportive of that. As a matter of fact, I wrote to our local MP MPP. Jim Wilson, two weeks prior to the announcement, yes, saying that this is a, this is the good way to do it. And and I don't, I'm not gonna take credit for that. But I think a lot of our colleagues have wrote to have written to the, to their government official, yeah, yeah. Telling them what's happened in the community. And they responded

that that's what we want to hear.

Yeah, they responded. So I think is a good thing. And again, going forward, we hope to see that supply chain becomes solid, and then we can go back to dispensing more than 30 days at a time. But for now, honestly, from my experience, the drug shortage is not an issue. Because we have even things out.

That's great. So I'm,

I have to say thank our community members, our patients for understanding the scenario and allow all other patients to get the same. Get the same get the medication that they need. Yeah,

yeah. And all those important workers in that supply chain. Yeah, I mean, the drivers the truck drivers were I mean, all heroes a Johnny during a time like this,

they are out there. Continue to function so that our society as a community can continue to operate

and we take it for granted. We take it for granted. Yeah, yeah.

So but also, it's very encouraging, like a lot of people put up a lawn, lawn sign idea around. So that's, that's, that helps. Yeah. So thank you guys for doing that. That's Wonderful,

Johnny and getting close to wrap up here. It's been quite a great interview with you. Thank you for your time. I know our listeners will appreciate it. What does post COVID and the future look like to you? And, and with your thoughts, what would be your advice to the listeners and your customers and friends and family, anybody you can reach out to here on the post COVID world?

Well, I think going back to the very beginning of chat, and how I mentioned about staying positive, and having understanding and then give people room to breathe. I think those are the way that we can help each other to get through a difficult time of this. And honestly, we've done very well in the last 234 months. And then going forward with the same type of attitude. We can fight through this thing. There will be a new normal There will be a new normal, right? That new normal may not be the same way as operates. So there will be changes. So as long as we know, the changes is to help people to stay healthy. And to have that understanding and latitude. I think we can come out stronger, right? Because we now actually have seen people with more appreciation of life or more appreciation of people around you, and opportunity that they were taking for granted before now they say, Oh, you know what? It'd be nice to go out there and talk to people face to face. And we're hoping that you come back before is a no I really don't want to see people say No, I haven't talked to so and so for so long. I want to go and see him or her.

Well, why is words Johnny wise words? Absolutely. So we're going to call this a rap, Johnny. It's just been a pleasure. And I want to tell our listeners out there Johnny Wong at the Allison family pharmacy at the millpond Medical Center and Allison Ontario 106. Victoria streets right on the main drag. And over at Parsons as well. Johnny is over there with his his first location and Alison Ontario. And as he mentioned in our show, another pharmacy location in Angus, Ontario 18 King Street, the Angus Health Center. Johnny has been really gracious, and he wanted to offer a beautiful, beautiful summer basket to our listeners. And all he's just asking, and I'm asking after the podcast and you listen to it, please give us your comments, and share the podcast and I will put you in a draw for this wonderful basket.

Yes, we'll do that. All

right, Johnny. That's great. Well, thank you again, Johnny has been wonderful. Over and out buddy.

is fun. It's been a fun experience, Tony. Thank you. And then, guys, take care. Bye bye bye

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