A passion for patient care: Outstanding Pharmacy Alumnus Award winner Melissa Hozack

    By Bernie Poitras on April 13, 2017

    Pharmacy alumnus Melissa Hozack (BScPharm ‘01) has a deep passion for patient care.

    It’s one of the reasons she became a pharmacist and it’s a driving force that guides her every day helping people choose a healthy lifestyle.

    It’s also one of the reasons she was chosen as a recipient of the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences Outstanding Alumnus Award. The award is presented to alumni in recognition of their outstanding contributions to their profession, their communities, society at large or to the faculty.

    Growing up in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Hozack always knew she wanted to have a career in health care. She wasn’t interested in medicine or nursing, so she looked to pharmacy.

    “I always had an interest in health sciences and pharmacy seemed to be a natural fit,” she says. “In school, I enjoyed biology and chemistry classes, so I had a good aptitude for health sciences.  For me, it was the patient care side of the pharmacy profession that drew me in.

    “I didn’t want to poke or prod people so becoming a doctor was out,” she laughs.

    Hozack took some pre-pharmacy courses at Medicine Hat College, then applied to the University of Alberta and her career path was set in motion.

    Hozack says she has fond memories of her time in the pharmacy program, which she started in 1997.

    “It was a great time,” she says. “I absolutely loved it. We had great professors and it was great seeing them at some recent alumni events I attended.”

    Hozack says she developed some very strong relationships while in the program including a lifelong one. “I met my husband there,” she says about Rob, also a pharmacist at their pharmacy.

    She says because the program can be a stressful time for students, classmates bonded very well and formed long lasting friendships. “The program really felt like a close high school – we were very close,” she says. “We attended classes together, went to the same TGIFs and played in the same intramurals. There was a real camaraderie in the faculty.”

    Immediately after graduation, she moved back to Medicine Hat and she started her career with Boylan’s Pharmasave. “The owner had five stores, so we each worked at different stores for years,” she says. “We also started a family and had two kids while I was working at Pharmasave.”

    Then, Hozack’s career took a turn after the arrival of her third child. She no longer felt that her role as a pharmacist was helping patients the way she wanted to help them.

    “I’d spend 30 minutes with a client then I would see them go buy a bottle of pop or a bag of chips at the front of the pharmacy and really not taking what I said to heart,” says Hozack.

    At the time, Hozack was also concerned about her own weight gain due to her pregnancy and decided to take action. She heard about a program called Ideal Protein, a medically developed weight loss program focused on weight loss, followed by a healthy eating education to support better lifestyle choices.

    “I listened to the science behind the program and I was convinced that this was the way to go,” she says. Within 10 days, she had a clinic set up in her pharmacy, which she and Rob bought in 2007.

    She says she spends most of her time these days counselling customers in the pharmacy and a lot less time dispensing medications.

    “We know the program is predictable, repeatable, and measurable and Ideal Protein is looking at clinical trials to have the data to prove it,” she says.

    For Hozack, the proof is in the success of her customers and the healthy lifestyle they now enjoy. As of March 2017, Hozack says she has helped more than 750 patients lose a collective 30,000 lbs., an average of 40 lbs. per patient.”

    Hozack says she is helping people manage chronic conditions such as diabetes, typically associated with weight gain. “One client who was on 13 medications has now come off all of them, lost 45 lbs. and is doing great,” she says. “I have my Additional Prescribing Authorization, so I can de-prescribe these medications as well.”

    While her role within the pharmacy may have shifted, Hozack says her satisfaction still comes from providing patient care at the highest level.

    “I don’t stand behind a counter and dispense medications like I used to,” she says. “I haven’t actually dispensed in about four years. Now, I have consultations and it is so satisfying seeing people so happy for what we are doing for them.”

    “They keep the weight off with the education they get from us and I don’t count pills anymore – it wasn’t the patient interaction I was craving anymore.

    Hozack is also passing on her years of experience and her expertise to the next generation of pharmacists. She is looking forward to taking in a student for the first time in 2018 at her Redcliff Pharmacy. “I’m really looking forward to it as part of the new electives being offered by the faculty in the Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) program.”

    Although she stays busy managing her pharmacy, Hozack finds time to be involved in Women In Business committees in Medicine Hat, gets involved in local charities, coaches soccer and plays soccer and volleyball.

    Ultimately, what drives Hozack and motivates her is still a commitment to patient care.

    “I’m not only being a pharmacist but looking at the whole lifestyle issue as well,” she says. “I want my customers to be healthier. As a pharmacist, we can help people become healthier.”

    Want to nominate someone you know for this year's Outstanding Pharmacy Alumnus Award? Visit our Alumni & Giving.