Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Rick Gates doesn't have to read headlines to know what's the latest COVID-19 vaccine news.

In his role as Senior Vice President, Pharmacy and Healthcare at Walgreens, Gates has had a front-row seat to the government's COVID-19 battle plan, Operation Warp Speed, and he's played a vital role in making Walgreens, one of the largest drug store chains in the U.S., a leader in pandemic support.

Gates recently was interviewed by Gayle King of CBS This Morning regarding the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.

"At Walgreens, we're working closely with the federal administration to quickly provide access to COVID-19 vaccines as soon as they become available," says Gates. "And the rapid pace of the innovations we're rolling out today are not limited to COVID-19; they are building the Walgreens of tomorrow; they are cementing our role as the go-to healthcare provider for our customers and the communities we serve." 

Gates is a member of the College's Executive Leadership Board, and he's a proud supporter of the College and its students. A native of West Des Moines and the first in his family to graduate from college, Gates knew he wanted to become a pharmacist from a young age – he was 14 when he started working in a neighborhood pharmacy. And yes, it was legal at the time to employ a boy of 14.

"I worked for a great couple, Phyllis and Jim Spratt, who owned Drug Mart Pharmacies in Des Moines," says Gates. "They gave a kid the opportunity to understand patient care as well as the business side of pharmacy."

When it came time to apply to colleges, he chose the University of Iowa, primarily because it was not too far from home and the football team's prowess. Gates grew up watching Hawkeye football. And after nearly three decades with Walgreens, most of that time spent at corporate headquarters in Deerfield, Illinois, Gates still credits professors and classwork at the College of Pharmacy for helping to launch his career.

Rick Gates, Walgreen Executive and Pharmacy Alumnus

Rick Gates, '95 BSPh

What your education from the University of Iowa College of Pharmacy teaches you is hard work, humility, and drive," says Gates. "Don't underestimate the impact you can have, no matter what it is you choose to do after graduation.

In his work with Dean Letendre and the Executive Leadership Board, Gates has helped identify industry trends and the education needed to support them. He is excited for students today because of the growing importance of pharmacists' role in the healthcare professional mix.

"At a time when community care is essential, pharmacies and the pharmacists who work in them have a significant opportunity to provide patients with greater access to high-quality healthcare, help manage chronic conditions, and help reduce overall health system costs," Gates says. "I expect that pharmacists will continue to expand their role as part of a holistic healthcare team. I have no doubt that there are greater things ahead for the profession."

As he looks forward, Gates says he is excited about the College's direction. "The sky's the limit!"