Sylester Flowers, R.Ph.: Profile
A practicing pharmacist for 46 years, Sylester Flowers has seen the profession become increasingly specialized and complex over the years, with multichain drugstores slowly edging out the neighborhood pharmacies. He misses those days when pharmacists owned their own stores and were respected community figures.
As a poor child growing up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Flowers dreamed of improving his economic class and saw pharmacy as a chance to become a professional. "I thought there was something charming about the profession because the old-fashioned pharmacist had a soda fountain in his store," Flowers said. After graduating from Howard University's School of Pharmacy, getting licensed to practice in three states and years of saving, Flowers opened his first pharmacy, eventually owning at one point six community pharmacies. Today he operates a single state-of-the-art facility serving an ethnically diverse low-income community.
"The pharmacist is the most accessible person of the health care team. You don't need an appointment to see a pharmacist. We have the opportunity to take care of the underserved within their environments," he said.
While remaining a community advocate, Flowers looked for business opportunities. In 1967, he formed Ramsell Corporation, which manages several companies, including the Public Health Services Bureau, a pharmacy benefits management (PBM) company that serves the medically indigent with HIV/AIDS in Washington state and California.
Devoted to improving this country's HIV/AIDS drug programs, he donates his time and money to groundbreaking research in health administration technology. "My driving ambition is to centralize the AIDS assistance programs in the United States so that the level of funding is not based on the policies of individual states but on a centralized federally sponsored program for every eligible patient," he said.
To help move his ideas forward, Flowers has invested in a team of IT scientists who are working at making the program more accessible. "There are no shortcuts to experience. This field is highly specialized, and no other company in the U.S. has our level of experience. Technology gives us the tools to efficiently centralize the program and use our nation's health care resources wisely and efficiently." Now in its beta stage after two years, he hopes to have the full application ready before his 70th birthday in June.
He credits his drive to succeed to a motivational upbringing. "My mother would not allow my brother or me to use being African American as an excuse," he said. "There is nothing like the opportunity that America provides. I was a kid who grew up in the projects, worked for an education and now has a successful company. Through my mother's mentoring, I learned that anything is possible if you prepare yourself well."
Flowers continues to prepare himself well for the future. "I have retained my competence as a scientist by continually learning, reading, and attending conferences and seminars. My challenge each day is to stay motivated and continue to keep the wheels turning, because you never know when the wheels will stop."
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