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UM Alumnus Works to Change Lives Through Local Pharmacies

By Ciara Walker Williams

University of Mississippi

Lee Griffin (left) is working to make health care more accessible to customers at Iuka Discount Drugs, where he started working as a high school student. After buying the business in 2020, he and his staff have been working to provide more clinical services at the pharmacy. Submitted photo

Many people see pharmacies simply as a place to get medications when they’re sick, but the owner of two north Mississippi drugstores is expanding his business by helping customers maintain and protect their health.

Lee Griffin, who earned a bachelor’s degree in pharmaceutical sciences and a Doctor of Pharmacy from the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, is focusing on making health care more accessible through his businesses, Iuka Discount Drugs, in Iuka, and Saltillo Pharmacy & Solutions, in Saltillo.

“We want to see the retail side get more clinical, meaning instead of traditionally dispensing prescriptions, we’re helping doctors and clinicians follow patients by monitoring their blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol; educating them on nutrition, wellness, exercise, smoking cessation; and conducting depression screenings,” Griffin said. 

“There’s a lot of clinical stuff that I believe pharmacy can impact in a positive way just because we’re so accessible to patients. Patients may see their doctor twice a year, but they see their pharmacist multiple times a month. We try to make those trips to the pharmacy fewer by making it a little more convenient for them.”

This is where Griffin’s wife, Holly, pharmacy residency program director at North Mississippi Medical Center, comes in, he said. The two met at Ole Miss and while they work in different settings, they share the same goal of wanting to help their community.

“The hospital is her primary responsibility and she’s really passionate about that side,” Griffin said. “Our vision is to get her more involved as we begin to offer clinical services at our pharmacies.”

Griffin’s passion for pharmacy began in high school in Iuka, after he was hired by a local pharmacist to deliver prescriptions. He played sports, but pharmacist-owner Chris Cornelison, who knew Griffin from church, offered him a part-time job and agreed to work around his practices and games. 

“I really admired Chris and the small business field,” Griffin said. “I valued the way he strived to make this small-town pharmacy really impactful in the community, and I think that’s what steered me in this direction. 

“I always knew there are a lot of options with pharmacy, but I was never 100% sure what I wanted to do. It certainly has worked out.”

Griffin’s parents are Ole Miss alumni, and he grew up following the Rebels. Once he became passionate about pharmacy, attending the university was a win-win.

After completing his Pharm.D. in 2017, Griffin returned home to work at the place where it all started. Cornelison hired him right out of pharmacy school, and in April 2020 began discussing the possibility of selling the business to Griffin.

“We have a great relationship, so I think he felt comfortable doing that,” Griffin said. “Chris started another business and felt it was best if he simplified what was on his plate.”

Griffin admits that taking over the pharmacies during the COVID-19 pandemic was stressful.

“It was challenging and changed the way you had to do things,” he said. “Fortunately for us, we were already trying to differentiate ourselves to provide better service for patients. 

“We were offering delivery and doing vaccines, so we were ready when the vaccines rolled out. If anything, it kept us busy and distracted from freaking out too much in the beginning.”

The stores provide compliance packaging for patients who are on multiple medications. They also offer compounding for custom medications. The next step is rolling out clinical services, which is underway at both pharmacies.

In the meantime, Griffin is giving back what he says many of his professors and mentors – including clinical professors Rachel Robinson and Laurie Fleming – gave him during his time at Ole Miss. He regularly employs student pharmacists at his businesses so they can get real-world experience while completing the program.

“We want to show people that because we’re so accessible to the communities, we can offer great care,” Griffin said. “I want to inspire students to think we’re on the journey with patients and we want to take the best care of them now instead of waiting until they get sick. 

“Let’s help them now and hopefully, they can rely on us to be a resource for wellness and promoting a healthier lifestyle.”

Adam Brown
Adam Brown
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