October 15, 2018
Walking into Asthenis, one is immediately struck by the beauty of the facility. The vibrant purple and green logo grabs your attention, and the modern decor makes the pharmacy unique and inviting. The owner of Asthenis, Dr. Eugenio Fernandez Jr., established the pharmacy just blocks away from where he grew up in a low-income community on Hanover Street in Providence.
Though Fernandez always had an innate interest in entrepreneurship, he didn’t think his pharmaceutical path would allow him to start a business; so as a young college student, he let that dream go and put all of his focus into medicine. He graduated in 2013 from the University of Rhode Island with four degrees (Doctorate in Pharmacy, Masters in Business Administration, Bachelors in Biology, and a Bachelors in Psychology) and later pursued a degree from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. To say Fernandez is driven is an understatement.
Despite his many accomplishments, Fernandez still felt like something was missing. During his clinical he took notice that the people who tend to be disenfranchised by the health-care system are low-income, just like the people he grew up with. Noticing these injustices reignited his interest in starting a business. Fernandez said, “I realized that if I didn’t become an entrepreneur, I could become a part of the problem.” In his quest for innovative solutions to help people in need, he stumbled upon SEG through a Google search and really connected with the concept of social enterprise. Around this time, he was beginning to formulate the idea for Asthenis, a business where he could fuse his passion for helping people with knowledge and skills from his pharmaceutical background.
The name Asthenis comes from the Greek word asthéneia, meaning patient. Fernandez chose this name to emphasize that his pharmacy prioritizes the patient, not administration. After he finished his degree at Harvard, Fernandez returned home to Providence and set-up the pharmacy in a community where he knew first-hand that there was a need for accessible, high quality health services. An important consideration for the pharmacy is that a lot of people in the surrounding area are native Spanish-speakers. In a typical pharmacy setting, a lot of critical information can be lost in translation, especially when it comes to medical jargon. “People lose the opportunity to have a shot of taking care of themselves when they can’t even navigate past the language barrier, let alone the medical terminology,” Fernandez expressed. Due to Fernandez’s bilingual background, the pharmacy is equipped to serve patients who speak either English or Spanish. He believes that pharmacists can create the most impact by educating people about the drugs that they are taking in an effort to increase their health literacy.
While at Harvard, Fernandez noticed that his physician peers would often grumble about the very limited amount of time they had to see each patient. “The average time a doctor is able to spend with their patient is around 15 minutes. That is not enough time for a health care provider to fully explain to a patient what’s going on with them, refer them to a specialist, and go over their treatment plan efficiently.” At Asthenis, patients are able to walk in and ask any questions in regards to their health and navigating the health care system with the security of knowing that Dr. Fernandez will take the time necessary to provide an accurate and understandable answer. In addition, Asthenis offers the best rates for medicine by providing an in-house insurance plan for its members, particularly for people that do not have insurance.
Fernandez is excited to help people who “take a lot of drugs,” and are at a point where they don’t know what they are taking or why they are taking it. In his consultations, Fernandez first gives a breakdown of what exactly the patient is putting in their body. He then informs them what the drug is doing to their bodies, and what they can do to get the most value out of their medications. He wants to give his patients insight into how they can adapt their medical regimen to fit their personal schedules, as opposed to restructuring their life around the medication.
Dr. Fernandez welcomes you to visit Asthenis. “Come by Asthenis, see its beauty, see the neighborhood! Growing up nearby and seeing its evolution, the beauty of the neighborhood is an acknowledgement of just how hard the people have worked to make a difference.”
Asthenis is located at 206 Cranston Street, Providence, Rhode Island, 02907 and is open Monday-Friday from 8:00am-7:00pm.
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Zara Salmon, Communications Coordinator
Zara is a 2018 graduate of Wheaton College where her majors were English and Political Science. During her junior year, she went abroad to Senegal, Italy, and China to study African migration and entrepreneurship. It was through this experience that she fell in love with the field of social entrepreneurship. As the Communications Coordinator AmeriCorps VISTA, she will be working alongside the wonderful Crystal Rosatti helping to build and maintain SEG’s relationships with universities, organizations, and other institutions across the state.