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The manager of a DeLand Publix Pharmacy has just received a major award, but it wasn’t a sure thing at all that Kim Barnard would even become a pharmacist.

“If we’re being completely honest,” Barnard said, “if someone had asked in my senior year of high school, I would tell people I wanted to be an anchorwoman.”

But before she graduated from high school, pharmacy won Barnard’s heart and her mind.

A self-professed “pharmacy dork,” she is passionate about her work and giving back to a community she has always loved. 

Barnard grew up in West Volusia, raised by a single father of three and moving from DeLand to DeBary to Deltona. She graduated from Deltona High School, where she spent a lot of time working with audiovisual equipment and dreaming of going into broadcasting.

“The thing is, and everyone who knows me knows this, I love to talk,” Barnard said with a laugh. “I like to smile, and I like to talk.”

Her love of communicating steered her in a different direction. 

She had an after-school job as a cashier at the local Eckerd drugstore. Eventually, she found herself working behind the pharmacy counter.

“I was just the cashier, and one day the pharmacy cashier called out sick, and they asked if I could run the pharmacy checkout,” she said. “It was crazy. By the end of that shift, the pharmacist told the store manager, ‘I want her back here every day.’”

Before long, Barnard upgraded to a job as a pharmacy tech at Walgreens, all before graduating from high school. Her boss at that pharmacy served as an early mentor for her budding career. 

“He giggled when I told him I wanted to be an anchorwoman, and he said, ‘You have no idea you’re going to be a pharmacist, do you?’” Barnard recalled. 

After graduation, she moved to Colorado, where she would begin her studies at the University of Colorado. At the time, it was the only university in the state with a pharmacy school.

After spending 13 years in Colorado, Barnard said she decided family was important to her, and she returned to West Volusia. 

This, according to her father, John Harrington, was one of the happiest moments of his life. 

“Her decision to come back to Florida, to bring my granddaughters home, was for me, one of the happiest,” he said.

Barnard said she appreciated the return to small-town life.

“It’s so amazing, you realize this community still stands. You can leave and see the world and educate yourself, and it’s all still there,” she said. “You can take everything you’ve learned, bring it back home and help make it better. It’s been amazing seeing people who babysat me come and interact in the pharmacy.”

Now Barnard has received the Publix Rxcellence award, recognizing her as the No. 1 pharmacist in the company’s Jacksonville division, which stretches from Orlando into Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.

Barnard manages the pharmacy at the Country Club Corners Publix in DeLand, at 2431 S. Woodland Blvd.

What has been especially amazing, Barnard said, has been giving people she knew as a child vaccinations to prevent COVID-19.

“My kindergarten teacher showed up for vaccination, and my high-school chemistry teacher,” she said. “I haven’t seen them since I was a student! You stand there for a minute, and then they say ‘I remember you!’”

IT TAKES A VILLAGE — Kim Barnard stands with her father, John Harrington, at her college graduation in 2004. Kim, or “Kimmy” as her father still calls her, was raised alongside two sisters as the middle child. It wasn’t always easy for Harrington, a single father working — at times — three jobs, but he is immensely proud of his now-grown children. A grandfather now, Harrington works for the Volusia County Elections Office. Barnard serves on the front lines of fighting COVID-19 by vaccinating individuals at the DeLand Publix Pharmacy where she works, and her father has worked at the Volusia County Fairgrounds at vaccination events.

Barnard never anticipated being a pharmacist, or even living, during such an unprecedented moment in history.

“Working during the COVID-19 pandemic this past year has been unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. Because patients have such direct access to their community pharmacist, our role has always been to help calm, educate, and encourage patients through very difficult times. This was no different,” she said. “We have continued this role, and in doing so, patients are able to call upon their pharmacists for answers ranging from disease prevention, vaccinations, treatments, and everything in between.”

This is the ethic that Barnard brings to her pharmacy team: Always put yourself in the other person’s shoes.

“I remind my staff that you’re dealing with either a sick person, the caregiver of a sick person, or someone who is having to spend money they don’t have. Very frequently, the transaction could be very difficult,” she said.

While the Rxcellence award is wonderful, she said, knowing she’s giving back to the community through the work she and her team do is worth it alone. Worth the long days, the hard work and the difficulties piled onto an already busy schedule by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“To be acknowledged and rewarded for doing something that you love is such an honor. If you ask anyone who knows me, they’ll tell you I love being a pharmacist; I adore my patients, and I get to work side by side with an amazing team in an extraordinarily busy pharmacy,” Barnard said. “The days can feel long and the work can feel insurmountable at times, and yet I can’t imagine not being a pharmacist.”

Barnard has, arguably, no greater cheerleader than her father. Harrington was over the moon when he heard his daughter was up for an award.

“I couldn’t be prouder of her,” Harrington said. “This is our hometown girl. I had tears in my eyes.”

And of course, Barnard couldn’t do it without her team.

“The team I have is so phenomenal, I can’t even put words to it,” she said. 

Barnard’s husband — and fellow pharmacist — David Barnard also stressed how proud he is of his wife.

“I don’t think I’ve ever met a pharmacist who is as empathetic as she is,” he said. “She’s all about making sure there’s an interaction with a pharmacist and a patient, not a transaction.”

For the Barnards and for Kim Barnard’s team, there will always be more to the job than standing behind a desk and filling prescriptions.

“Our role is so much more than just providing the medication in a bottle,” she said. “I feel lucky. I am blessed to work in my hometown, where I was born and raised, and honored to serve my community with Publix behind me, in a way that benefits us all.”

So the next time you’re filling a prescription, say hi to Kim Barnard, or as she refers to herself, “The biggest pharmacy dork you’ll ever meet.”

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