FORT BENNING, GA – The apple apparently doesn’t fall far from the tree at Martin Army Community Hospital. Anna Wong joined the pharmacy team at North Columbus Medical Home (NCMH) in May 2016. She moved to BMACH’s Outpatient Pharmacy two years later. Don’t worry, you’re not seeing double if you happen to see another pharmacist working on the 6th floor who strongly resembles Anna. Her daughter Alana also works in BMACH’s Inpatient Pharmacy.
“I was inspired and motivated by my older brother, an anesthesiologist, for a career in pharmacy,” shared Anna. “It was a new and challenging career path for women in the late 1970’s.”
“My family was definitely an influence since several members are involved in the healthcare field,” chimed in Alana. “I knew I wanted to become a pharmacist after looking more into it as part of my high school senior project [at Columbus High School].”
Anna graduated from the College of Pharmacy at the University of Utah in 1981.
“The most difficult part of pharmacy training was the pre-pharmacy curriculum of physics and calculus,” confessed Anna. “The classes I enjoyed most were the relationship of organic molecular structure, functions and their effect on human physiology which led me to a deeper understanding of pharmacology.”
Alana earned her Doctor of Pharmacy Degree from the University of Georgia in 2013. She joined BMACH as the decentralized inpatient pharmacist for the MedSurg/ICU (medical surgery/intensive care unit) floor after completing her post graduate pharmacy residency at Piedmont Columbus Regional.
“I work closely with the inpatient medicine team to develop optimized care plans for our patients. I work with our inpatient nurses to coordinate the Meds to Beds service, which provides discharge prescriptions and counseling to patients ready to go home,” said Alana. “As new medicines and guidelines come out, it’s my job to be informed so we can provide the best care for our patients.
“This can be challenging as sometimes, like with the pandemic, the amount of new information coming out can be overwhelming. Each patient has unique factors that should be considered. This is why working with the team is great because we’re learning together … and can collaborate on a medication regimen that works specifically for this patient at this time.”
Anna married her husband Capt. Roland Wong, in 1986. He had just completed his surgical internship at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. Thankfully, the constant upheaval of military life didn’t derail Wong’s career.
“Through the years, the profession of pharmacy has been very accommodating,” said Anna. “I have worked as a relief, half-time, weekends and now full-time pharmacist. By filling in as vacation relief pharmacist [in Salt Lake City], I was able to keep current on all new meds and regulations.”
Anna gave birth to Alana when her husband was stationed at Ft. Huachuca as a flight surgeon.
“The most difficult part of being a military spouse was the uncertainty of when orders would come for deployment to domestic emergencies or foreign deployments during the global war on terrorism,” said Anna. “The best part was the opportunity to travel, live in different places and experience different cultures while not having to worry about the expenses of healthcare and housing.”
Her favorite duty station was Ft. Sam Houston, where her husband returned to complete his radiology residency in 1993.
“My son Ryan was born there at Brooke Army Medical Center,” said Anna. ”We enjoyed the city of San Antonio, and nearby Houston, Corpus Christie and Padre Island.”
They have called Ft. Benning home since July 1993. They decided to stay even after her husband retired from active duty as a BMACH radiologist in September 2004. These days, he still works in Martin’s radiology department while Anna and Alana both work in pharmacy.
“Travel has always been a huge part of our family’s leisure time, but thankfully we didn’t have to physically move or change schools as often as others,” explained Alana. “I chose Benning because the pharmacy department has operations in both inpatient and outpatient areas.
“It’s great for our patients in terms of continuity of care. If they are hospitalized, they are able to get any discharge medications at bedside and more likely to have closer follow up within our outpatient clinics.”
The medical genes run strong in this family. Anna’s son, Ryan, also works in the civilian sector as a health outcome pharmacist. Having worked in the civilian sector, Anna said she prefers being a pharmacist on post.
“The environment in the pharmacy at a military base is different, where we are not subjected to the same type of pressures as in the civilian pharmacies,” explained Anna. “The best part of my job at BMACH is being able to provide focused customer care and service … without having to deal with patient payments and insurance or be distracted by phone calls. I enjoy the patient interactions at the BMACH Outpatient Pharmacy.”
That’s not to say Martin Army Community Hospital’s Pharmacy doesn’t get really busy, as it currently serves more than 90,000 beneficiaries.
“BMACH fills over 300 to 400 prescriptions between 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. There are certain peak times when some waiting will be inevitable,” said Anna. “Although we have some options now for patients who want to drop off and return later for pickup without having to wait in the lobby.”
But to make up for the fast tempo, there’s the added perk of getting to work side by side with her daughter at times.
“Alana will come down to help when there are many patients waiting in Q Flow,” said Anna.
“It’s nice to be able to go to her with questions or support,” added Alana.