Discount Drug Mart pharmacist Kara Bloom (left) discovered a suspicious growth on patient Sandy Callow (right) during a routine flu shot that turned out to be an aggressive form of melanoma. Photo:

Sandy Callow had no idea a simple trip to the pharmacy for a flu shot in 2016 would end up saving her life, but it did—and it had nothing to do with the flu.

Kara Bloom, PharmD, had just gotten her license from the University of Findlay Pharmacy School in Ohio and was giving Callow a flu shot at the Discount Drug Mart in Euclid, Ohio, when she noticed a suspicious looking mole on her arm. Bloom told Callow she should go to her doctor, but Callow was hesitant and said she usually only went to the doctor when she really had to. Bloom then told her about her own experience with melanoma, explained the risks and urged her to make an appointment. Callow did.

Bloom remembered that in pharmacy school they had gone over the warning signs of melanoma. She also had a painful association with the disease because her grandfather died from it, so she was particularly attuned to melanoma symptoms because she knew she had a genetic predisposition. Later, when she was a pharmacy student, she, too, noticed a suspicious growth, which turned out to be melanoma.

Bloom worked as a “floater” at the Discount Drug Mart and worked wherever she was needed and so only worked at that location once or twice a month. Callow came back to the Drug Mart every day looking for Bloom, according to the pharmacy technicians who worked there. One of the technicians told Bloom, “She only wants to talk to you. She’s been waiting for you to be here.” Callow came back again and Bloom was there. She said, “I don’t know if you remember me, but you gave me my flu shot. I went to my doctor and that spot you told me to get checked out turned out to be melanoma.” It was also a very aggressive form of the disease and would have been very serious if it had gone undetected.

Bloom came around from behind the counter and gave Callow a hug. They both cried. Callow gave Bloom an angel she had knitted for her. Bloom said she has kept it on her mirror ever since. She said, “It was really kind of her to go out of her way to do that for me.”

Reflecting on her own story and the broader role of pharmacy, Bloom said, “We’re one of the most underutilized members of a healthcare team.” She noted that when a patient is sick, they’re sent to a specialist, but it’s a pharmacist who really has a better grasp of looking at the big picture. She said, “We’re available a lot longer hours than most healthcare providers. If you have something that happens after 5:00 p.m., who do you contact?”

When asked how she would like to see her profession evolve, Bloom said, “I hope that we get more involved with patients because that’s the best part of my job, when I get to sit down with someone and give them their flu shot, or talk about their day, or talk about their medications, or teach someone how to use their insulin.” She added, “Hopefully in the future, I will play more of a role in my patients’ lives overall.”