A fulfilling prescription

Andrea Reed brings passion to pharmacy and COVID-19 vaccine response

Andrea Reed always knew she wanted to work in healthcare, but the specific field wasn’t always clear. Early on, she faced a choice: medical school or pharmacy school. Little did she know, her choice would eventually lead to her role at the center of the first major pandemic in 100 years and the equally unprecedented vaccination response. 

Today, Reed is vice president of pharmacy values and outcomes at Novant Health. Her mission is to support the pharmacy departments and leaders across the entire system. 

“I make sure our pharmacy team has everything they need, including the most up-to-date resources and coordination,” Reed said. 

A lifelong dream

Reed’s journey to becoming a pharmacist began when she was only 5 years old. She pictured herself working as a pediatrician or in the emergency room, and her passion continued through the years. 

“I just had this thirst for medical knowledge and learning about bodily systems in health class,” Reed said. “I couldn’t read enough about it.”

She graduated with her undergraduate degree from Indiana State University and took a year off to decide between medical school and pharmacy school. During that time, she worked in a group home for adults with both physical and mental impairments. She grew to know the psychiatrist, pharmacist and other providers, and her experience there influenced her to attend the pharmacy program at Purdue University. As time went on, Reed gravitated to hospital roles over community settings. 

“Throughout my residency, I loved critical care, emergency medicine and treating infectious diseases, so I chose a career working in the ER because I got to see all of those disciplines,” Reed said. 

Preparing for a pandemic

Reed was overseeing acute care facilities when the COVID-19 pandemic began. She immediately joined several message boards and did as much research as she could to help prepare her team. 

“I remember that first weekend when there was so much going on in Seattle,” Reed said. “I knew it was coming to our hospitals, and I’m not one to get worried about things. I knew I needed to take the entire weekend to learn everything about COVID-19. I just felt so much pull to serve our patients with the best information out there.” 

Bringing vaccines to everyone

Reed joined the North Carolina COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee in August 2020 to help guide the ongoing vaccination effort. Health equity was at the forefront of the group’s discussions. 

“We had a lot of upfront conversations around how we would address vaccine hesitancy,” Reed said. “We spoke about historically marginalized populations, and that’s one reason why Novant Health is leading the country in equity today.”

The group worked together to ensure Novant Health was ready once the Pfizer vaccine received its emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration and worked with Novant Health’s community engagement team to address vaccine hesitancy head-on and provide information to underserved individuals. Together, that partnership has helped the vaccination effort to make inroads within the community. 

“It has been so awesome to work with the community engagement team,” Reed said. “They are so deeply ingrained in our community. They’re coming up with different ways to do events. It’s just amazing to see all the outcomes there.” 

Supporting a team effort

The initial vaccine rollout, which focused on patient choice, was a success. Reed was proud to work with the community engagement team to host pop-up vaccination clinics at multiple locations to reach individuals from all walks of life and mitigate transportation challenges.

“I can’t tell you enough about the teamwork we experienced across all of Novant Health,” Reed said. “Everyone was all in to make sure we had the right messaging and we were making the best possible decisions for our communities.”

Now, the work continues to encourage vaccination as the delta variant looms and the threats to unvaccinated individuals becomes more apparent. 

Reed has no regrets about choosing pharmacy school over medical school. She has enjoyed playing a role in what has been an incredible year to be a pharmacist.

“When the pandemic began, we had little to offer from a medication standpoint,” Reed said. “Today, the response is a vaccine, and life can get back to normal, should our vaccination rates continue. It’s exciting to be part of this. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

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