The global pandemic slowed many businesses and permanently closed others. But Access Family Pharmacy wasn't one of those.
In fact, AFP reconfigured its existing space, added more and staffed up in the process of becoming a go-to resource for patient care, including vaccinations and infusions. In recognition of its efforts, the 60-year-old pharmacy is honored with the 2022 Champions of Health Care Award for Community Outreach.
In nominating AFP, Chattanooga physician Richard Moody cites its "unparalleled commitment to singularly providing critical and lifesaving monoclonal antibody [treatments] as well as Remdesivir infusions for the entire region ... when [those were] unavailable even at local hospitals and other medical facilities."
"The pharmacy," Moody adds, "has been a rock during this pandemic ... [and] at personal risk."
Brad Standefer, AFP's owner since 1990, says accepting that risk, and working in spite of it, is just part of the job.
"We're on the front line," he says. "When there's a need, it's our obligation to step up. It's 100-percent taking care of patients, no exceptions. If you can't do that, you can't work here."
Jake Standefer, Brad's son and AFP's CEO since 2019, estimates that he's averaged 50 hours per week the last couple of years, but adds that he's far from alone in that regard.
"Fantastic staff," he says. "Worked long hours. Weekends. Holidays. Patients have called me to compliment our staff and nurses. They've told us that we saved their lives, or a loved one's life.
"We've been a staple in the community for a long time, and we've got a reputation for doing the stuff that's hard to get."
Jake Standefer says AFP was set up for success when the pandemic hit in March 2020.
"We were already going to long-term-care facilities to do vaccines," he says. "Shingles, flu, pneumonia, tetanus – any kind of vaccine."
In nominating AFP, Kevin Lusk, director of physician and community engagement at the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society, wrote that its "health care team, consisting of pharmacists, techs, nurses, and others, served as unrelenting providers, helping to ensure a safe and healthy community."
Jake Standefer says the store put up a modular building, cut its lobby in half and repurposed a conference room in an effort to treat more patients. He adds that AFP leased space at Parkridge Medical Center's main campus, set up a tent and performed drive-through treatments.
"We sped up a bunch. When it started, we did everything we could to help the community," says Jake Standefer. "We went from one nurse to six. We had five pharmacists. Now we have eight."
And Brad Standefer says his son's probably not through.
"I don't see us slowing down," he says. "[Jake's] champing at the bit to do more. We're really busy, but he wants to take it to another level and is in the process of doing that."