Pharmacist co-pays it forward

Truly living up to the spirit of giving, Dr. Laura Smith, a pharmacist working at the Fred Meyers pharmacy on 2855 Broadway St NE., took $500 and on Dec. 19, her 45 birthday, paid the co-pays for patients at the pharmacy. 

A West Salem resident, Smith described her reason for giving back as partly altruism and partly the result of talk radio shows describing the emotional fullness that giving back to your community provides once you overcome your own financial struggles. 

One show provided an example of a company paying for its employee meals and prompted Smith to conduct a similar giving event, though on a bit of a smaller scale. 

Smith described how a busy work schedule disallowed her and her family from donating in a timely manner this year. 

That’s when she hatched a plan. 

“I was thinking about it and I was like, this is what I’m gonna do for my birthday,” said Smith. 

According to Smith, a portion of the clientele that use the pharmacy in Fred Meyer have a lower income, making payments sometimes difficult to manage, especially during the holidays. 

“I went and bought a $500 gift card at Fred Meyers, gave it to my staff up front and was like, if they have charges, just pay for it, and so we just paid for the copays until the money ran out,” said Smith. 

While Smith did not have an exact number of people that were assisted she did note that the payments lasted until 2 p.m. after being started when they opened at 9 a.m. 

This was not the first time Smith has given back though as she humbly described herself as someone who enjoys the feeling giving to the community provides. 

“I always donate to the [St. Joseph’s Church] in Salem. At Christmas time, I will have my daughter pick out some gifts to give to the Toys for Tots and we spent some of the money there,” said Smith. 

Donating while working though was something she had not done before. Getting permission from her manager, she also had to ensure all the payments made were legally sound. 

“There’s lots of regulations with co-pays. I can’t just waive somebody’s co-pay. It can’t be adjusted. It’s all regulated by insurance companies,” said Smith. 

With a little creativity, Smith landed on her answer. 

“I got around it by buying a gift card and just paying personally for their co-pay.” 

And as one might expect, customers were astonished, then thankful for the small, random act of kindness with many coming back later—and thanking Smith and her staff again. 

Describing her birthday giving as fun, Smith noted how the act, even if someone may not have needed it, was so much more satisfying than spending that money on herself. 

The dilemma, as Smith told it, is that for many, the holidays present a choice. Buy gifts or buy necessities? 

And even in the case of necessities that choice becomes harder. Does one buy groceries this week or buy medication? For many, it is one or the other. 

The giving also served another purpose, a declaration. 

Before the pandemic, Smith talked about how the pharmacy’s scope of duties was much narrower now. 

With a new staff, getting into the swing of things is difficult, especially when you add long lines full of people waiting on important medications. 

Sometimes impatience can get the best of us all, bringing out parts of us that we try not to show, especially towards those in the service industry helping us. 

Paying it forward proved to be a great way to do that for Smith. 

“I felt like this was just a way to show the customers that we do care about you and we’re trying to help you,” said Smith. 

Contact Quinn Stoddard
[email protected] or 503-390-1051

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