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‘We Need More of Us In the Medical Field’: Tampa’s Only Black-Owned Pharmacy Aims to Build Patients’ Trust

*‘I Wanted to Make Sure We Had Access’: Black Pharmacist Opens Pharmacy In African-American Community

Health Matters Community Pharmacy is the only completely Black-run pharmacy in its east Tampa, Florida, district.

“I wanted to make sure this community had the same resources and access to medical care as other communities,” said Dr. Vondalyn Wright, who has a Ph.D. in pharmaceutical science from Florida A&M.

Wright, a Tampa native, said her original plan was to work for a big chain company, not to start her own business.

Pharmacist counsels patients at Tampa’s only Black owned pharmacy, Health Matters Community Pharmacy. Ashonti Ford/Atlanta Black Star

“It was really difficult, and really that first year was just trial and error,” explained Wright. “It was expensive, but luckily my husband and I had some savings, and we were able to make some sacrifices to get this place up and running; it was an old check cashing place before.”

Wright says opening a black-owned business and hiring black people to work there increases neighborhood economics.

“My goal is to make sure we aren’t left behind,” said Wright. “Young people and people of color are disproportionately affected by the virus and we aren’t the ones running in to get the shot.”

Health Matters’ pharmacists say they hope to help heal built-up mistrust between the black community and the health care system. 

“You have a lot of different things that have happened in the past; them being discriminated against in the health care system so, they’re very leery,” explained Dr. Jamaris Glenn. “You have Henrietta Lacks, you have Tuskegee experiment; [my patients] will bring that up as well.”

Glenn, who also has a pharmacy doctorate, says that having a black pharmacy in a Black neighborhood is essential, especially during a time when some may be deciding on if they should take a COVID-19 vaccination.

“A lot of the trials that are out there right now, new drugs, were basically a white demographic. So sometimes these medications don’t work on African-Americans as it would say a Caucasian person,” Glenn explained.

Glenn has been working for Health Matters Community Pharmacy since it opened three years ago, and he says servicing his community is what drives him to encourage other people of color to do the same.

“We need more of us in the medical field,” said Glenn. “I’ve had patients that say their doctors in the past have been very short with them; they don’t trust them so when you have someone that looks like them and shares their experiences, it really helps.”

Health Matters Community Pharmacy has been open for three years. The facility offers COVID-19 vaccines and and a full range of pharmacy options.

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