Student Research Spotlight: Zac DeJames, Health Sciences

It might not be far off the mark to call Zac DeJames a pharmacy savant.

The Duquesne University student, who will receive his master's degree in Health Administration in August, can often value a pharmacy's inventory with one look around the supply room.

While earning his undergraduate Health Sciences degree at Duquesne, DeJames worked at the University's pharmacy in the Hill District where he was asked to help improve inventory processes. And when the pharmacy was sold to UPMC, he began honing his skills at UPMC's other pharmacies.

"I knew I didn't want to work behind the counter at a pharmacy," DeJames said. "I've always been good at math and like numbers, and would like to own a pharmacy someday. So the business side really appealed to me."

He's become so good at it that some pharmacists don't believe him when he gives their supply the eye-test.

"I went to one pharmacy where the pharmacist told me there was $4 million worth of inventory," DeJames recalled. "I told her there was no way given what I saw on the shelves they had that much inventory. So I went ahead with a full count, which included hand counting pills, about 350 a day. When I finished, the inventory was worth $2 million."

A pharmacy's success relies on having  the correct inventory, DeJames said, noting that the average pharmacy's annual inventory loss is 10 to 15 percent. There are various reasons for such losses, including inaccurate inventory counts, purchasing unneeded drugs and having a "safety supply" of medicines that aren't being sold.

"In small independent stores, correct inventory counts can make the difference between continuing operations or closing the doors," DeJames said. "In larger pharmacy networks, where the inventory is valued in the millions of dollars, poor inventory practices can lead to staff layoffs and budget cuts that impact patient care."

Since working at the UPMC pharmacies, DeJames estimates that new processes have helped eliminate more than $9 million of inventory waste. He's currently finishing his capstone project with Dr. Faina Linkov, chair for the Department of Health Administration and Public Health at the John G. Rangos, Sr. School of Health Sciences.

"I would never be where I am if it weren't for Duquesne," DeJames said. "My professors gave me the opportunity to work in a pharmacy and prepared me for anything I'd like to do with my career. I have an entrepreneurial streak and Duquesne helped bring that out in me. It's been a great experience."

Media Contact: Ken Walters 412-417-8156