For chemistry alumnus his pharmacist’s coat is his cape

Walking through a pharmacy as a child, Daniel Ruiz saw rows and rows of bottles lining the walls. A simple question and a one-word answer from his abuela were all it took for him to know his calling.

Ruiz asked his grandmother what the bottles were. Her response? Magic.

Daniel Ruiz headshot

Ruiz graduated from FIU with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 2016. A year later, he enrolled at the University of North Carolina’s Eshelman School of Pharmacy. Ruiz hopped on a plane and found himself in Carbarro, North Carolina. The small southern town with an indie vibe and far less diversity was a culture shock to the Miami native.

For someone who knew pharmacy was his calling, Ruiz was still unsure of what exactly he wanted to do.

“I was always looking for that cool job,” Ruiz said. “Whether it was a corporate pharmacy job where I wore a suit every day or working for a pharmacy benefit manager or an insurance company. But nothing really clicked.”

That is until the pharmacy student placed second runner up in the NCPA Good Neighbor Pharmacy Business Competition with two of his classmates. The team devised a 144-page business plan for an independent pharmacy. The plan included everything from the vision and mission statements, the first five years of payroll, what loan they’d have to request from a bank, what insurance they’d need and much more.

The lightbulb went off. He didn’t want to be the man behind a desk working in the corporate world reporting to someone calling the shots in a place like New York. He wants to wear the white coat – his version of a superhero cape.  

After pharmacy school, Ruiz wants to return home, not just for the tostadas and cafécitos, but to open his own business. He wants to bring a small town pharmacy experience to people back home in South Florida. One where he can make an impact. One where the community can walk in and he’s there to help.

Ruiz, now a fourth-year student, is no longer in the classroom. He is getting real-world experience through rotations. He’s worked operations at a UNC REX Hospital where he prepared medication in the basement and ran them up to the floors making sure the dosages were correct. He’s worked for a pharmacy IT company where he came up with solutions through different pharmacy platforms.

He’s looking forward to finishing school and creating a unique pharmacy experience for his community. The road may not be easy with competitors like CVS or Walgreens, where people can visit 24/7, or Publix, where they pick up their medication along with a pint of ice cream.

“Give me a little bit of time and I will come up with something they can’t get you,” Ruiz said. “I’ll do it better than them.”