By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
In 2011, a clinic opened on North 37th Street and West Wisconsin Avenue and inside that clinic was a pharmacy called Hayat Pharmacy. Since its inception, Hayat Pharmacy has committed itself to serving the community and it has no intention of slowing down.
Hashim Zaibak, pharmacist and chief executive officer, founded Hayat Pharmacy. A lot of pharmacies are chains, and their headquarters are in different states, Zaibak said, but Hayat is based here in Milwaukee.
The pharmacy’s current headquarters is located at 807 W. Layton Ave., but it has over 20 locations – many are located in Milwaukee’s underserved communities – with plans for more.
The key to Hayat’s success, is knowing the community it based in.
“In order for us to be different, in order for us to be successful we have to offer something different otherwise it’s the same medication,” Zaibak said. “A Lipitor from this pharmacy is the same thing as a Lipitor from that pharmacy so the difference is how engaged you are with the community with the people you serve.”
When it comes to engaging the community, Hayat takes a cue from the community around it. For example, most of the staff speak multiple languages and currently, over 20 languages are offered.
“We felt that, when you’re taking care of the community, you’re looking at what the community needs and if you can speak their language, you can make a big impact on their health,” Zaibak said. “When it comes to adherence of medication – which is the biggest topic in pharmacy – you can’t improve their adherence if you don’t really communicate to them in the language that they speak.”
Tamir Kaloti, president and chief financial officer, noted that speaking a patient’s language helps develop a better connection with them. It establishes trust, he said.
For example, when one man expressed hesitancy over the COVID-19 vaccine, Zaibak was able to talk to him about it and convince him to receive the vaccine.
In addition to its language offerings, Hayat Pharmacy tailors its programs to suit the community’s needs, Zaibak said.
Kaloti, who is also Zaibak’s cousin, explained that the pharmacy has many patients with chronic conditions and medications, so it developed a medication packaging program.
Through the program, patients receive a pill organizer and all they have to do is take the medicine as indicated on the built-in time chart.
The pharmacy also offers a medication delivery program and an in-home service program. Pharmacists will visit patients in their homes to do injections, consult them on their medication and more.
Dimmy Sokhal, clinical pharmacist and director of clinical services, joined Hayat Pharmacy in 2014. During her residency, Sokhal shadowed a home visit, which solidified her interest in Hayat.
“I wanted to break out of the traditional role of pharmacists, and this was the right platform to be able to start my career,” Sokhal said.
Sokhal spends a majority of her time in the community and calls herself a community pharmacist. Making that extra effort to ensure a patient understands is worth it, she said, as it encourages them to be more invested and engaged in their health.
These efforts have continued throughout the pandemic.
Hayat Pharmacy started offering testing in May 2020, Zaibak said. As soon as it was available, the pharmacy was in ZIP-codes such as 53206 offering testing services. During the pandemic, the organization became known as a COVID-19 information center.
Hayat’s established presence in the community along with its testing efforts and PPE drives made it a reliable, consistent and trustworthy source, Sokhal said.
Earlier this year, when the vaccines became available, Hayat became the first pharmacy to offer them, Zaibak said. The first week, the pharmacy administered 100 shots, since then, it has administered over 45,000 shots with a peak of 1,100 shots a day.
Kaloti explained that when capacity became an issue, the pharmacy rented the gym from Salam Elementary School, 815 W. Layton Ave.
“We did mass vaccination clinics every day,” he said. “That was one way of getting the vaccination rate up.”
At this point, the pharmacy is encouraging hesitant individuals or anti-vaxxers to get vaccinated. Many hesitant people are just busy, Zaibak said, which is why the pharmacy continues to offer vaccine clinics seven days a week.
The pharmacy continues to do vaccine clinics through churches, community centers, barbershops and more. It’s about meeting people where they’re comfortable, Sokhal said.
“You have to go to them,” Kaloti said. “If you’re there with them, then they’ll consider it but they’re not going to drive to a pharmacy and get vaccinated on their own.”
The pharmacy wants to address people’s concerns and needs and help them make an informed decision.
“We don’t care about your immigration status or if you have insurance or don’t have insurance, we’ll take care of you,” Zaibak said. “When you remove all these obstacles, people will come.”
Sokhal explained that the pharmacy has made educational materials more available to address the misconceptions or worries that people may have. When testing became more normalized it became more accepted, she said, the same concept applies to the vaccine.
Although vaccination rates have decreased, Hayat Pharmacy continues to offer all three vaccines. The pharmacy’s efforts remain in line with its overarching mission: to meet the needs of the community. This means offering employment opportunities as well as meeting the community’s pharmaceutical needs.
For Zaibak, he’s most proud of the impact Hayat Pharmacy has had on employees and the community. Hayat Pharmacy employs close to 200 people, he said, and many are from minority communities. The pharmacy helps people develop their careers and gives them a place to grow.
“Every time we make a patient adherent to their medication that’s a heart attack or stroke, we are preventing,” Zaibak said. “Every time we vaccinate somebody that’s an ER visit or someone being in an intensive care unit that we’ve prevented. Those are things that we are proud of.”