Sometimes life’s challenges can become its biggest opportunities. Melissa Hozack, pharmacist and co-owner of Redcliff Pharmasave, was having difficulty shedding her pregnancy weight following her third child.
By Talbot Boggs
Photography by Jaylyn Wereley
Her research led her to bring in Ideal Protein, a medically-supervised weight loss program, and she decided to follow the program herself (soon to lose over 100 lbs over seven months), meanwhile coaching her patients through their own weight loss.
That was back in May, 2013. Today, obesity and weight loss management have become the core of her practice. “I started with just a few patients, but it has grown into a full-time job.” says Hozack. “I don’t go into the pharmacy to dispense prescriptions anymore. I spend my entire time on weight loss. Patients have my cellphone number and I am on call 24 hours a day for my patients. It’s all I do anymore, and I love it.”
Hozack and her husband saw an opportunity and invested in renovations to accommodate their growing weight loss practice. They built a dedicated 100 sq. ft consultation room and added shelving, fixtures and cabinets, a laptop computer, weight scale and body fat composition machine. They moved the dispensary counter out about 8 ft. to provide more space for the diet-related foods and products which must have specialty access because the program is medically-supervised.
Hozack also brought in a line of low-fat, sugar-free and low-calorie food products, which are proving to be very popular with the pharmacy’s dieters as well as other customers and she is planning on adding another one, and possibly two, private consultation rooms this year.
“We have seen a complete turnaround in front store sales and increases in the diet and nutrition departments as well,” Hozack says. “We were awarded this year’s Pharmasave Western Region award for the biggest increase in front store sales. We’ve had a great response to the program. It has provided a real positive impact to the store.”
Hozack currently has about 300 diet patients in either weight loss or maintenance. In the beginning, she did everything herself, but the volume of work has increased so much she now has four other people helping her out scheduling appointments and ordering and stocking food and other diet products.
“It has been very profitable, but when doing everything myself, the workload became too much,” she says. “If we had the space, we could handle twice as many patients, but we can only do what we can with the space we have.”
The provincial government does not compensate Hozack for her work on the weight loss program specifically. “I make money on food and vitamins and supplements, but we also do medication reviews, comprehensive care plans and follow-ups, flu shots and other injections, which are compensated when being seen by a pharmacist. During the patients’ weekly appointments we make recommendations on over-the-counter products compatible with their diet protocol,” Hozack says.
The pharmacist has had phenomenal success helping patients lose weight and manage other obesity-related conditions. As of Dec. 2014, her diet patients had lost a total of more than 7,000 lbs and also reduced, or in some cases, eliminated the need for prescription medications for asthma, diabetes, blood pressure, thyroid, cholesterol and depression.
Besides providing clinical assistance, Hozack counsels patients on some of their psychological issues as well, “There can be a lot of issues related to dieting such as stress eating, hormone cycle changes and self-esteem that we deal with on a day-to-day basis,” she says. “I never thought I would end up working on weight loss, but it has transformed everything, and it is so rewarding.”