How Grubb’s Pharmacy built diversity and community support

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Create a pharmacy that welcomes diverse patients and staff

In brief:

  • Communities across the U.S. are becoming more diverse
  • To serve these communities, pharmacies must treat all individuals and staff with respect
  • A success story in Washington, DC shows that when a pharmacy supports the diverse community, the community will support the pharmacy

Diversity is on the rise — in communities and pharmacies

The patients walking into your pharmacy today may be very different than in previous decades, as the racial, ethnic and demographic mix in the U.S. has changed.

In addition, since 2010, almost 70% of America’s largest cities have become more racially and ethnically diverse.2

Over the past decade, the face of pharmacy has also changed.

Programs such as RxOwnership’s Women in Pharmacy — Own It are giving women pharmacists the mentors and other support to go even further.

The progress being made in pharmacy is intentional. While many high-profile companies recently launched diversity initiatives, in 2016, the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy issued a statement on diversifying pharmacy’s human capital:4

“AACP affirms its commitment to foster an inclusive community and leverage diversity of thought, background, perspective and experience to advance pharmacy education and improve health.”

Paying attention to diversity isn’t just a good policy; it’s better for patients’ health. That’s because patients receive better care when pharmacists understand the multiple factors affecting patients’ health. That includes economics, gender, race, ethnicity, culture, age and more.

Increasing diversity doesn’t always go smoothly

While progress is being made in communities and in pharmacies, challenges remain. Data from the 2019 National Pharmacist Workforce Study5 shows:

  • 31.5% of respondents reported receiving demeaning comments related to race or ethnicity
  • 27.4% reported offensive behavior of a sexual nature
  • Only 17% reported the harassment to their employer

Joan Kim, a Korean American pharmacist who co-owns four pharmacies in Washington, DC, has heard racial slurs on the street and at work, most recently with someone making a remark about the coronavirus. Before moving to DC, Kim encountered hostility from high-income customers at a pharmacy in New York City where “they screamed at me to go back to my country.”

Clearly, with so many negative experiences in just the past year, more strides are needed.

Grubb’s Pharmacy: An example of diversity in Washington, DC

Grubb’s Pharmacy, owned by Joan and Michael Kim, is Washington, DC’s oldest pharmacy, in business since 1867.

Michael and Joan Kim at Grubb’s cleaning up after break-ins during civil unrest

The Kims’ other pharmacies are:

  • Grubb’s Southeast Pharmacy in Anacostia, co-owned by Bill Fadel, serves a largely indigent community, mostly African American patients who tend to have higher rates of chronic diseases
  • Morgan’s Pharmacy in Georgetown, the second-oldest pharmacy in the district, serves an affluent and mostly Caucasian demographic, including nearby embassies
  • Grubb’s NW Specialty Pharmacy in Dupont Circle, which serves a mixed-race LGBTQ community

Michael Kim observed, “It amazes me how diverse the patient population is,” as Grubb’s flagship location serves the most diverse patient population ranging from members of the U.S. Congress and Supreme Court to the homeless, and everyone between those extremes.

Promoting diversity within the pharmacy

  • Treating patients as individuals. At its core, independent community pharmacy embraces diverse patients by knowing them as individuals. “It’s hard to be judgmental and critical when you know them by name,” notes Joan Kim. The best way to welcome all patients, she said, is to “get out from behind the counter and engage with your customer base.”
  • Showing everyone respect. The Kims remind their staff not to have preconceived ideas of who someone is based on how they are dressed or look. “You never know who is walking in, what their background is, what their job is. You could be speaking to a future president of the United States,” Michael said.
  • Hiring diverse staff. The staff is also diverse. “We’re like a UN here on Capitol Hill,” Michael Kim said. That hasn’t been a goal; but rather just the result of hiring the best candidates fit for the jobs.
  • Being compassionate. The Kims frequently remind their staff that patients are often dealing with illness or caring for sick relatives, so compassion is key for everyone.
  • Supporting the community. The Kims sponsor a Little League baseball team, buy ads in the local newspaper and are involved with the business improvement district and the Chamber of Commerce. They also participate in events sponsored by a local parenting group. “When you do that, you are marketing yourself as part of the community,” Michael Kim said.
  • Demanding respectful treatment. While the Kims expect their employees to treat all customers with respect and offer great service, they won’t tolerate disrespect from customers. If a customer is harassing or abusive, the owners:
    • Train staff to call a manager and step out of the situation
    • Tell customers to leave if they can’t behave in a civilized manner
    • Call the police if necessary

How to rebuild from unrest

Many businesses faced vandalized storefronts and damage during the protests and riots that shook the nation earlier in early June 2020 — including all four of the Kims’ pharmacies. But the Kims and the community responded.

  • The Kims cleaned up, repaired damages and continued COVID-19 testing within a few days.
  • They were overwhelmed by community members wanting to help, and with customers stopping in to hug, pray, offer to help clean up and pay to replace a broken door.
  • Their oldest son set up a GoFundMe page to cover damages and repairs. Within three days, more than $25,000 was raised. “The community support has been nothing short of amazing,” Michael Kim said.
  • To dress up the plywood in place of windows, Joan Kim reached out to local art organizations. One organization (Radical Empathy Now) created murals that will be auctioned to support artists.
  • The Kims are planning an outdoor “meet and greet” event when the windows are replaced. “We’ll make it into an occasion to celebrate,” Joan Kim said.

By creating a diverse, supportive environment where pharmacists and staff show compassion for patients, at a moment of need the diverse community stood with and supported the Kims.


1A New Analysis Finds Growing Diversity in U.S. Cities,” Deidre McPhillips, U.S. News and World Report, Jan. 22, 2020.
2A New Analysis Finds Growing Diversity in U.S. Cities,” Deidre McPhillips, U.S. News and World Report, Jan. 22, 2020.
32019 National Pharmacist Workforce Study,” American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, Jan. 10, 2020.
4AACP Special Taskforce White Paper on Diversifying Our Investment in Human Capital,” Carla White et al., Am J Pharm Educ, Oct. 2017.
52019 National Pharmacist Workforce Study,” American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, Jan. 10, 2020.