On Thursday, June 7, 2012, Key Compounding Pharmacy celebrates its grand opening in Federal Way. The opening-day ceremony begins at 4 p.m. with remarks by the pharmacy's majority owner HeeJoo Park (b. 1964) and other speakers. Those in attendance are invited to enjoy refreshments and hors d'oeuvres served by caterers and to tour the new 8,250-square-foot pharmacy located on the corner of S 336th Street and 6th Avenue S. The pharmacy has moved into the new space from the building it occupied since opening in 1963 as Key Rexall Drugs on Pacific Highway S in the Midway area of Kent. Key Compounding Pharmacy is the first in the state to be accredited by the Pharmacy Compounding Accreditation Board (PCAB).
Humble Beginnings, Land of Opportunity
HeeJoo Park, the daughter of Nohyeun Park (d. 2016) and Imgeun Im (d. 1995), was born on April 11, 1964, in Gwangju, Korea, and raised in Seoul with her two older brothers Sankyu Park and Seonghwan Park and older sister Jeongyeon Park. Park attended the College of Pharmacy at Seoul National University, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in pharmaceutical science in 1987. While attending the university, she met her future husband Kyung Joong Park, who was majoring in biochemistry. In 1989, Park earned a Master's of Pharmaceutical Science and Organic Chemistry. After receiving that degree, Park wanted an opportunity to expand her life experiences and further her education.
In 1990, HeeJoo and Kyung Joong left Korea and moved to America, settling initially in Colorado. Both continued their education at Colorado State University. HeeJoo Park received her PhD in microbiology and biochemistry, studying with internationally recognized researcher Dr. Patrick Brennan. On a beautiful sunny day, September 3, 1993, in Fort Collins, Colorado, HeeJoo married Kyung Joong. She recalled, "Just the two of us. He had to recruit a witness for us in a hurry because we just showed up" (Park email).
In 1995, Park decided it was time to seek out her next opportunity. She moved to Seattle and started as an intern (volunteering) at Providence Hospital. She became a licensed pharmacist after completing a series of exams and began her work at Providence. Park recognized quickly that there was more she wanted to pursue as a pharmacist. In 1998, her next opportunity arose when she joined Key Pharmacy & Home Care (previously named Key Rexall Drugs) in the Midway area of Kent in South King County. On July 7, 2000, Park and her husband became the proud parents of Hannah Park. In 2001, she became one of four owners of the pharmacy and in 2011 she became the majority owner of the business, now renamed Key Compounding Pharmacy. (By 2014 Park would be the sole owner).
As majority owner, Park made the decision to move to a new location, and with assistance from co-owner and longtime pharmacist James Seymour (b. 1944) found the site at 530 S 336th Street in Federal Way to which the pharmacy moved in 2012.
On June 7, 2012, on a mild spring day at 4 p.m., Key Compounding Pharmacy opened its doors at its new location. In her remarks HeeJoo Park talked of "building the future together with our team to serve the people in need of customized medication, which the manufacturing companies can't provide" (Park email). James Seymour also spoke, as did William R. Letendre (b. 1947), vice president of the Professional Compounding Centers of America (PCCA), who mentioned how happy he was to see the progress the pharmacy had made as it moved into a state-of-the-art facility and that it had come a long way from a small community pharmacy to where it was now.
In front of flashing cameras, a long red ribbon was cut with giant gold scissors by owners Marc H. Kosaka, HeeJoo Park, and James Seymour. An estimated 50 enthusiastic guests were eagerly waiting for the opening. Honored guests at the ceremony included the original owner of the Key Compounding Pharmacy (originally Key Rexall Drugs), George Alexander Ballasiotes (b. 1931); Tahoma Clinic Medical Director Dr. Jonathan Wright (b. 1945); and PCCA vice president Bill Letendre, who flew all the way from Texas to attend and speak at the ceremony.
The pharmacy occupied around 8,000 square feet of the 12,000-square-foot building. Later dentist Dr. Dan Briggs Taggart and Massage for Health and Day Spa would move into the remaining space. After the ribbon-cutting, guests made their way inside the pharmacy, where they were surrounded by equipment, to a decorative food table with catered refreshments and hors d'oeuvres. Volunteers conducted tours, taking the guests in groups to show off the state-of-the-art facility and answer questions. Park said the most significant and memorable moments were the "ribbon cutting, and the positive energy we had" (Park email).
Dr. Jonathan Wright (b. 1945) delivered a presentation on rT3-associated hypothyroidism, misuse of TSH testing, and effective natural treatment of hyperthyroidism. Following the presentation, a second tour of the facility was conducted. Hourly gift-basket drawings were held.
Since its opening in 1963 as Key Rexall Drugs, the pharmacy has been a point of pride and a center for the local community. Interested in all aspects of patient health, its pharmacists have moved into areas that include bio-identical hormones, dental care, dermatological care, veterinary compounds, topical pain management, and vitamin/amino acid blends, all using ingredients of the highest quality.
In 2008, the pharmacy was the first in Washington to receive accreditation from the Pharmacy Compounding Accreditation Board; it was re-accredited in 2012, and has remained committed to the safety of patients and staff.
In 2012, the same year that Key Compounding held its grand opening in Federal Way, the safety of compounding pharmacies nationwide became an issue of public concern and controversy after a meningitis outbreak caused the death of more than 75 people who had used compounded products prepared by the New England Compounding Center (NECC). That tragedy created a tremendous amount of negative press that centered on the compounding-pharmacy industry. The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), responsible for regulation of compounding pharmacies, responded by placing more restrictive policies on the industry, which in turn have been blamed for causing prices to go up and limit what is offered. Park said in 2018:
"I personally feel that the compounding service in pharmacy practice is crucial to people who can't get any help from the current health/medical system in America and there will be more needs and demands for this service as our environment gets more destroyed. But ... [increasing controls] will take away all the creativity and freedom to serve. This is exactly what we have been experiencing since NECC. More regulations and more regulations!!! The price is going up and we are limited to what we can offer and how we can offer the service to people in need" (Park email)
Jonathan Wright expressed similar views:
"What they are doing is putting more and more restrictions on compounding pharmacies and making it more and more costly for them to get the job done and making it more and more expensive to patients" (Wright interview).
Despite the difficulties, HeeJoo Park remained committed to helping people and maximizing their potential. Her ideas were reflected in her business and staff through the service and care provided to patients as Key Compounding continued to bring the past into the future.