Absolute Health and Wellness Pharmacy catches the midday sun with a glimmer. The flag in front of the building, which advertises flu shots, flaps vigorously, is sail powered by a stiff breeze and the steady traffic of St. Claude Avenue. Located in Arabi, a few hundred yards outside Orleans Parish, it is a cozy, local outpost in an industry that is dominated by national chains like Walgreens and CVS.
At the heart of the operation is Terione Brock, a native of Violet, Louisiana. In 2019, Brock opened Absolute Health and Wellness to fill a void — a Black-owned, community-based pharmacy.
“As a pharmacist, my job is to fill the prescriptions, answer any question and consult with the doctor and be a part of the health care team,” said Brock. “But after the patient leaves the doctor’s office, they have more questions. They ask us questions that they don’t like to ask the doctor. My goal is to help change health care outcomes and lessen health care disparities in our communities and other communities.”
Brock came by her vocation naturally, first expressing interest in medicine as an “inquisitive little girl” accompanying her grandmother to the pharmacy.
“I was curious and wondering, why do we take medicine? How does it work? I knew I wanted to be in health care overall,” said Brock.
Her curiosity led her to the Xavier University College of Pharmacy. She graduated in 2012, and by August of that year was licensed. Brock spent the next several years honing her craft and serving her community in St. Bernard Parish.
But the defining moment of her career in medicine was not treating others, but facing down her own health scare — breast cancer. Brock considers herself a “miracle,” as she was diagnosed in the later stages of the disease. She’s been in remission since 2018, but her struggle with the disease led her to examine what it truly means to be well.
“I was that person a few years ago who, you know, took my health and my body for granted,” said Brock. “And when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I decided that my body is a temple and I need to be aligned.”
Alignment is a key principle of Brock’s. Mental health, spiritual health and physical health are tightly intertwined. In addition to pharmaceuticals, she will often recommend homeopathic remedies for her clients. Her goal is to facilitate wellness and remove barriers to good health, whether they are physical, emotional, spiritual or economic.
“Most people get admitted and readmitted to the hospital because of issues with compliance,” Brock explained. “So I want to know, is it the cost of the medication? Is it the side effects? I want to dispel any mental myths. Why aren’t you taking your medicine? Or are you taking it but you’re not taking it every day? So there’s so many reasons I try to talk to them in person and take time out to figure out, what is the reason you’re not being compliant?”
If the medication costs too much, Brock will work with the patient’s physician to find a “generic substitution or something affordable.” If a patient believes that their medication causes cancer because of a story they saw “on the internet,” she presents them with the facts. And often her advice has nothing to do with medication at all, but lifestyle changes.
“I meet people and they’ll come in and just in casual conversation, they will say ‘I have a headache,’” Brock said. “And I say, ‘Well, did you take your medicine today?’ And I said, well, did you drink water and they’re like ‘No, I don’t drink water.’ Your organs need water. So just a simple couple glasses of water can decrease your blood pressure, lessen the viscosity of your blood and make the headache go away. Like, it’s just that simple.”
In the age of COVID-19, we’ve all been forced to make lifestyle changes, but Brock notes that since the pandemic began, she hasn’t seen any flu cases, which she attributes to masks, hand hygiene, social distancing and an increase in vaccinations. She offers the flu vaccine to seniors for free, as well as COVID-19 tests, and reassurance to her patients that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe. She also thinks the pandemic has made her community think more closely about their health. Especially now, when New Year’s diets and new gym memberships are on everyone’s mind. But Brock’s advice is simple.
“I believe that you are what you eat,” said Brock. “I believe that we have to get our diet together. And drink a lot of water. Physical activity is very important. Thirty to 40 minutes, three to four times a week. I would say sleep hygiene is crucially important. Most people don’t get eight hours of sleep, but it’s essential. And I would say you need to do something overall, that enhances you spiritually, whether it’s meditating, whether it is praying, but you need to do something to get aligned physically and spiritually.”
And as we begin the New Year, Brock has a few resolutions of her own.
“2021 is to help more people take charge of their health,” said Brock. “Being a survivor of breast cancer, I want to advocate more towards that. And honestly, encourage people to do mammograms and detection and just do more diagnostic testing to catch things early, as well as overall wellness. Because wellness is just not about health. It’s also about the mind. So mental health is important to me. Cancer issues are important to me. And of course, the things that plague this community, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol.
Because for Brock, health is wealth, and a healthy community is good medicine for all.