clipart of a Mortar and Pestle

Family Prescription

Lacey Thornhill’s inspiration to open a freestanding pharmacy began with her family. Now it extends to yours.
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By Glenys Young

Photographer Neal Hinkle
Jared Thornhill, PharmD, (Pharmacy ‘10) and Lacey Thornhill, PharmD (Pharmacy ‘10).
Jared and Lacey Thornhill
Jared Thornhill, PharmD, (Pharmacy ‘10) and Lacey Thornhill, PharmD (Pharmacy ‘10).
clipart of a Mortar and Pestle

Family Prescription

Lacey Thornhill’s inspiration to open a freestanding pharmacy began with her family. Now it extends to yours.
plus sign
By Glenys Young

Photographer Neal Hinkle

acey Thornhill, PharmD, (Pharmacy ’10) still finds it difficult to talk about April 2020. She and her husband, Jared Thornhill, PharmD, (Pharmacy ’10) had finally embarked upon Lacey’s lifelong dream of opening her own pharmacy. They gave up the security of her job. They gave up the insurance benefits that came with said job for them and their three young daughters. They gave up the comfort that came with those safety nets. They could not afford to fail.

What should have been a time of celebration was punctuated with reality. Two weeks in, Lubbock confirmed its first case of COVID-19, and most of the city shut down. Three weeks later, Lacey’s younger brother – the inspiration behind her dream – died in his sleep of an undiagnosed heart defect.

An Unlikely Beginning

Growing up in the 2,300-person Panhandle town of Fritch, Texas, Lacey watched her parents struggle to address her brother’s mental health needs. He suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder and severe panic attacks.

“He was the rowdy, kind of rambunctious kid that they thought maybe had attention deficit disorder,” Lacey remembers. “Looking back, I think he was possibly slightly autistic but misdiagnosed. My parents tried everything, but 20 and 30 years ago, especially in small towns, there weren’t a lot of options.”

Lacey vowed that one day she would find a way to help families like hers, which led her to pharmacy.

Realizing A Dream

Lacey and Jared met in a study group while working toward their doctorates and married following graduation. Unlike his wife, however, pharmacy was somewhat foreign to Jared. Before pharmacy school, he had never stepped foot in one.

“I always knew I wanted to do something in the medical field, but I didn’t know exactly what,” he added. He recognized the abundance of job opportunities for pharmacists and the vital role they play in health care.

“Your pharmacist is, 90% of the time, your first line of defense as a patient,” Jared explains. “They’re the most accessible health care provider there is.”

The first 10 years in their careers, Lacey and Jared worked for Walgreens, where they both completed their initial internship. But Lacey held onto her childhood dream.

Lacey and Jared discussed the possibility many times over the years while starting their family, but the odds weren’t good — the current climate of declined reimbursements, tighter margins and competition from big-box retailers with more resources would be hefty challenges to overcome.

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“Your pharmacist is, 90% of the time, your first line of defense as a patient. They’re the most accessible health care provider there is.”
Jared Thornhill, PharmD (Pharmacy ’10)
Thornhill’s Pharmacy
In 2017, they heard the owner of the independent Shallowater Pharmacy had sold his business to CVS. While acknowledging the risks of starting a business – particularly one that would automatically have competition from a large corporation – Lacey and Jared also realized they might never have a better opportunity than to, as they put it, “offer the people of Shallowater the kind of personal service only an independent pharmacy could.”

The more analytical and business-minded of the pair, Jared left Walgreens to start the pharmacy they’d always wanted while Lacey stayed to retain the family’s insurance.

In 18 months, business was stable in Shallowater, so Lacey quit her job at Walgreens. Three days later, she learned she was pregnant with their third daughter.

“It was kind of a surprise,” Lacey laughs, “but we had already decided we were going to also start a Lubbock pharmacy. So, we just wanted to jump in.”

And jump, they did. On March 2, 2020, they opened Thornhill’s Pharmacy near 82nd Street and Milwaukee Avenue.

Then COVID-19 hit.

Losses and Lockdown

Lacey and Jared found themselves on the threshold of a pandemic, operating a new business that few people knew about with three young daughters to care for and no financial safety net.

Surviving as a new business owner amid a pandemic would prove difficult — at least they chose the right industry.

“The good thing about our business is that people still need medications,” Jared explained. “The elderly population is still going to need the same eight to 10 maintenance medications they took the day before lockdown.”

Unfortunately, COVID-19 prevented them from hosting the large grand-opening ceremony they wanted. The Thornhills hoped to invite health care professionals and the community to introduce them to the concept of an independent pharmacy and explain the differences between independents and chains.

Pharmacists working for larger corporations want to take care of their customers just as much as pharmacists working for small, independent pharmacies, the Thornhills emphasize, but the pressures of working for a larger corporation can sometimes interfere.

man wearing a mask crushing pills in a lab
woman working the desk at a pharmacy

Commitment to Service

Thornhill’s Pharmacy offers several services to save time and simplify life for their customers, including vaccinations, deliveries, coupon cards and a wide variety of flavor mix-ins. With their medication synchronization service, they can schedule a family’s refills to renew on the same day – meaning fewer separate trips to the pharmacy.

As part of their commitment to serving their customers, Lacey, Jared and their employees often find themselves thinking outside of the box to solve more complex problems. Compounding, for instance, offers nearly unlimited options because it allows them to tailor medication to each specific patient.

“We have a lab in-house so we can create and manipulate different types of medications,” Jared said. “Say some medication is only taken by mouth. Well, if a person with diabetes is having nerve pain in their feet, instead of taking something by mouth, we can create a cream or some sort of ointment to put directly on the feet where they have the nerve pain.”

Some of their more impressive ingenuity was in creating a wound dressing for a dog. The animal had a sore on one leg that wouldn’t heal because the dog kept licking it. Nothing the owner and veterinarian tried was working. But the technicians at Thornhill’s came up with a novel solution: a combination spray and powder that were applied together. The powder contained antibiotics to heal the wound, the spray was bitter so the dog wouldn’t lick it, and when the powder and spray mixed, it hardened into an occlusive dressing.

The pharmacy now offers hormone therapies, unique to each patient, and Lacey hopes to one day even offer pharmacogenomics – the study of how a patient’s unique genetic makeup influence his or her response to medications.

Family Business

In April 2020, Lacey and Jared didn’t know how they would make it. But nearly two years later, Thornhill’s Pharmacy has gained traction and built relationships with physicians, dentists, hospice companies and the public.

Much of that growth is because of the dedication to helping people that spurred the Thornhills’ dream.

“We get to know our customers on a personal level,” Lacey said. “We take care of the whole family, and we take the time to make sure everything’s correct with their medications. Again, it’s not that the chains don’t do that or don’t want to do that; they just don’t necessarily have the time to spend one-on-one with people to make sure they’re getting the best price or that they’re taking their medications properly.”

With Jared’s business sense and Lacey’s care and compassion for their patients, the Thornhills have built a solid foundation — both for their pharmacy and their family, which, to Lacey, are two inseparable concepts.

In the mothers and fathers looking for answers for their children’s medical issues, Lacey sees her own parents. In the children, she sees herself and her brother, J.T.

And true to her word, she is determined to make life easier for all of them.