Albany native Chris Shay is thankful to be working in his hometown as a staff pharmacist for CVS Pharmacy. Shay is the newest staff member in the department – he started working there a month ago and has found it to be the perfect fit.

“It’s been great,” Shay said of his new position. “It’s a relaxed, yet challenging workplace here.”

After eight years of schooling, Shay is ready to put his knowledge to work in helping others. In his position, he is responsible for ensuring patients receive the medicine and resources they need to live a healthy lifestyle.

“My favorite part of my job is interacting with others,” he said. “It’s a rewarding career.”

Shay is the son of Ralph and Theresa Shay and is a 2010 Albany High School graduate. His interest in pharmaceuticals began his senior year in high school when he job shadowed pharmacist and business owner Will Seiler.

“I really like science, specifically chemistry,” Shay said. “It’s fascinating how chemicals interact with a human body, and it’s never the same from person to person. It’s truly a mystery.”

After job shadowing Seiler, Shay knew it was a field he wanted to go into.

The path to get where he is at now, however, was not an easy one. After completing his four-year undergraduate degree in biology at St. John’s University in St. Joseph, Shay attended the School of Pharmacy and Health Professions at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb.

“It was a lot of studying,” he said of his schooling. “The second year [in pharmacy school] is notorious for being the toughest.”

Shay studied subjects such as pharmaceutical law, physiology and pharmacokinetics (the movement of drugs within a body).

“Anyone who wants to be a pharmacist has to be willing to work hard and have a passion for the field,” he said.

And be a lifelong learner. Shay’s learning does not stop now that he is a graduate. Every two years, he must complete 30 hours of continuing education to renew his pharmacist license.

In his current role, a few of Shay’s duties include dispensing and distributing medicines and health supplies, checking prescription status, calling doctors, administering flu shots, working with insurance companies and assisting customers.

Errors in medications can be the difference between life or death for patients; therefore, it is crucial for pharmacists to have a strong attention to detail, an ability to multi-task, and a firm understanding of how drugs interact with a body, including potential adverse effects, said Shay.

“Pharmacists are the last line of defense against medication errors,” he said.

To prevent errors, pharmacists must make sure prescriptions are filled with proper drug dosage, keep track of product recalls, double check the prescriptions issued by a doctor are appropriate for the condition of the patient; and that patients are educated on how to take medications properly and are aware of a drug’s potential side effects.

One of the greatest challenges for Shay is working with insurance companies on getting medication coverage for patients.

“Insurance companies can be a hindrance when you’re trying to get medication to patients who need it,” he said.

The rewards of his job, however, outweigh the challenges and Shay plans to be a pharmacist for many more years to come.

“It is a fulfilling career and I’m glad to work in a community pharmacy where I can interact with people on a daily basis,” he said.