With the end of a career spanning almost four decades of involvement in community pharmacy close at hand, Chris Dimos remains as optimistic about the business and the meaningful contributions it can make to health care delivery as when he earned a pharmacy degree from Purdue University in 1988. Dimos — who announced earlier this month that he will step down as president of retail solutions at McKesson — foresees the continued expansion of pharmacists’ role and impact.
“There’s going to have to be an evolution of how we engage patients, both physically and virtually,” says Dimos, who also leads the Health Mart network of franchised pharmacies. “We’re going to find innovative ways to continue to bring effective pharmaceutical care. There’s a need for the advancement of utilizing health care professionals in new and exciting ways. We’re seeing it now with some of the innovative services that pharmacists are allowed to perform and how paraprofessionals are engaged in the process.
“As I’ve told my colleagues at McKesson, I don’t want things to go back to normal. I want them to go forward, and I want us to influence that future. Patients will engage differently, but the core value that runs through all of this is that patients and caregivers and providers still need a very strong relationship, whether it is virtual or whether it’s in person. Pharmacists, with their accessibility and availability, are going to play a huge role in being an advocate for the patient and for moving their health care experience to a much better place.”
Dimos has looked ahead throughout his career. After working as a frontline pharmacist, he served as a regional pharmacy manager at American Drug Stores, vice president of pharmacy services at Albertsons Inc., and president of Supervalu Inc. After a brief retirement in 2013, which, he admits, “I failed miserably at,” Dimos joined McKesson, where he has held a leadership role for the past seven years.
Now Dimos and his wife, Theresa, who is also a pharmacist, will devote their time to philanthropic causes related to health and nutrition. That won’t prevent Dimos from taking satisfaction as the scope and impact of community pharmacy continues to expand.
“I have always felt confident that the industry would evolve to this place,” he says. “Where I made mistakes was underestimating the pace of change. Maybe I was too eager, anticipating that things would happen faster than they did. Early in my career, 20-plus years ago, we started doing disease state management and creating environments where the pharmacist could do much more than just the distributive process. It took some time for a lot of people to come around.
But I always thought the value of a pharmacist, in the health care ecosystem, was around knowledge provision, not just product provision.
“What’s happened with COVID-19 and the recent turn of events is that people outside of the pharmacy ecosystem have started to understand the true value of these essential health care workers, and they can do much more than they are currently allowed to do, in such areas as diagnostic testing, immunizations, disease state management or managing complex patients with complex diseases.
“Understanding the value of that underutilized resource, patients have started to figure out that they’ve got to help change the status quo. That’s been the shot in the arm, and the accelerator to make that change happen faster.”
Dimos is clear-eyed about the challenges confronting the pharmacy profession, noting that everyone from the megachains to independents “all have opportunity and risk.” But, in the end, he expresses confidence that patient interaction with the provider is a catalyst for more effective health care.
“One of the challenges that we’ve faced in this industry forever is being paid for the value that we provide,” he says. “The times are right for patients to see value in these practitioner engagements. That will drive the evolution of the market, and we’ll start to be paid for helping patients achieve better health in new and interesting ways as we go forward.
“I’m not one to tell you that everybody in the industry today will just get paid more. I don’t think there’s a magic wand or a silver bullet, but I do think that the valuable services that we can provide in the health care ecosystem will be properly remunerated. The future is being created, and we’re influencing that future as we create it.”
Dimos’ optimism in the future of community pharmacy is well placed, but his colleagues at McKesson, Health Mart and throughout the industry will have to work a little harder to bring it about without the benefit of his presence and leadership.
“McKesson is indebted to Chris for his valuable work with our retail pharmacy customers, including his leadership of our Health Mart family of community pharmacies,” says Kirk Kaminsky, president of McKesson’s U.S. Pharmaceutical division. “The work we do is essential to health care and we care deeply about doing this work well. Taking care of our customers will continue to be our No. 1 priority.”