Meet Our Expert: Inside Larry Alaimo’s Goal to Hit All the Right Notes

Discover why, to Larry Alaimo, the business of pharmacy is personal.

Read time: 3 minutes

By: McKesson Health Systems Editorial Team, Larry Alaimo

Having started as a drug clerk at a chain pharmacy at just 18 years old, there aren’t many things Larry Alaimo has been involved in longer than retail pharmacy – except music. Inspired by his father’s love for Grand Funk Railroad and lead bassist Mel Schacher, Larry picked up a bass nearly 30 years ago and has hardly put it down since, still playing weekly in his own band, at his church, and with various other groups today. A love for music wasn’t the only lesson Larry took from his parents, though. “My parents were hard workers, and they believed in doing things the right way – no matter what it was.” So, whether he is working on a new guitar riff or navigating the complex challenges associated with opening or expanding an outpatient retail pharmacy – a primary function in his role as Managing Pharmacist Consultant, McKesson RxO Advisory – Larry (now Larry Alaimo, PharmD) wants to get it right, whatever it takes.

Striking a chord

Larry still remembers his first day behind the register at that chain pharmacy in Oldsmar, FL. It was April 4, 1997 – a day that would unknowingly lay the foundation for everything ahead of him professionally. Despite being part of a large chain, Larry recalls the strong sense of community that made it feel much more like an independent, local pharmacy. Among his most important tasks assigned early on was memorizing every customer’s name and face – knowing who was walking up to the counter, what their story was, and how the pharmacy team could help them. It was this people-first, professional, and caring approach to customer service Larry learned here that showed him how much of an impact a community pharmacist could make in a patient’s life – “They can walk in the door anytime, with any question, and we can be there to help them” – and it’s something that has stuck with him throughout his career.

It was because of that job – that he thought would be “just a job” – that Larry went on to pharmacy school. And it was because of examples set by that specific pharmacy team that Larry decided to stay in retail pharmacy, returning to work at the same location between school terms for the next seven years. After graduation, he landed at a much busier, more challenging pharmacy in a lower income area of rural Hudson, FL. “Those patients needed the help of a community pharmacist even more than what I had seen before,” he says. So, as Larry does, he got to work – starting by implementing that people-first approach he had learned years before. Not long after, Larry was tapped to help other locations facing difficult challenges, moving into pharmacy management and supervisory roles. “I wanted to find a way to help other pharmacists recreate that very first environment I saw. That combination of professionalism and genuine, top-notch care – that’s the secret sauce.”

Finding a rhythm

In one of his loftier undertakings (and now listed among his most fulfilling accomplishments), Larry accepted the role of pharmacy supervisor in an exceptionally difficult market. “It was failing. We were losing customers, team engagement was down. It wasn’t a good situation.” But Larry was up for the challenge and reminded himself of his now-mantra: “You can get it done.” And he did. Within 6-12 months, Larry’s “secret sauce” had helped to restructure the district, adjust the culture, boost team engagement, and – eventually – even surpass the market share they’d been woefully trailing.

In his current role at McKesson, Larry brings his wealth of retail pharmacy knowledge and experience to health systems, consulting on topics like optimizing front end operations, leveraging technology solutions, fiscal viability, and countless others. And anytime someone will let him, he says, he’ll try and share the added value of that secret sauce. “You can have all the tools, you can do all the things – but without professionalism and care, it just won’t work.”

Looking to the future, Larry hopes to be a part of the strategy to move pharmacy forward – amplifying the pharmacist’s role in case management and patient care versus the current focus on dispensing and education – something he works toward as part of McKesson’s Advocacy Ambassadors. He illustrates the opportunity for a pharmacist to play a more integral role in patient care with a roadmap: “Pharmacy is often the last stop in the continuum of care. That’s where gaps can happen. But a pharmacist may see the patient 12 times per year – more than the provider – they can be a resource for 24/7, 365 care and help close those gaps.” And the end goal? “Improving patient outcomes, of course,” he says. “The pharmacist should be seen as a supplementary partner – not a replacement – that can help patients achieve better outcomes overall.”

Practice makes perfect

While he’d love to get everything right the first time, Larry admits that’s not always the case. “You can’t be afraid to just jump in and figure it out. And you just have to keep going until you do.” And nothing, he thinks, is a better example of that than raising kids. “If I can get my twins (9) to adulthood, that will be my biggest accomplishment,” he half-jokes, “…it’s a work in progress.” Not surprisingly, one of the lessons he hopes to teach his children is to always do the right thing, the right way. “I tell them – try your best at everything – because that will become your nature. The way you do anything is the way you do everything.” As for passing down his passion for music? “I’m trying, I’m hopeful. We’re not quite there yet.” But we won’t be surprised if Larry finds a way.

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