Pushing boundaries in Pharmacy – Cathie Reid
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Cathie Reid has come a long way from her early days in pharmacy, where she worked at the coalface as a Pharmacy Manager.

Soon after, Cathie’s life took several serendipitous turns, eventually landing her the prestigious title of the National Commonwealth Bank Business Owner Award category in the 2011 Telstra Business Women’s Awards. We meet the woman behind the inspirational story.

For APHS* Aged Care and Packaging managing director Cathie Reid, a trip to Fiji and a reluctantly-accepted party invitation changed the course of her life.

Were it not for these turning points, Cathie wonders if she would have gone on to build a national healthcare business and identify much-needed medical device for community pharmacies, which won her the National Commonwealth Bank Business Owner Award category in the 2011 Telstra Business Women’s Awards.

Chance encounters

This turning point came after a tumultuous marriage breakup when Cathie was 27. Cathie jetted to Fiji for a pharmacy conference - it was a much-needed opportunity to get away without going on a “dreaded singles holiday.”

At the time, Cathie was managing a retail pharmacy in Melbourne, and she was steadfastly working towards her then-goal of a junior partnership.

Cue the first turning point: Through contacts at the conference, Cathie was asked to be part of an aged care pharmacy group start-up, which sparked a passion for aged care services. This brought her together with like-minded colleagues who were equally passionate about this sector.

Reflecting on this experience, Cathie says, “That trip dramatically changed my career and my life. I met people who had all these wonderful ideas. It really was a significant fork in the road.”

However, something was still missing. While her work was rewarding, reaching another high in 1998, when she was named the Victorian Pharmacy Manager of the Year, Cathie didn’t feel that her life was complete.

“I thought I was going to be this nun-like person, who devoted her life to her work, because she was never going to have any personal happiness.”

A chance meeting changed that. As Cathie half-heartedly made her way to a 30th birthday dinner, she bumped into Stuart Giles, who she hadn’t seen since they studied together at university in the late 80’s. They caught up over a drink and Stuart proposed six weeks later.

“He was unequivocal. He said, ‘we’re getting married and that’s all there is to it!’”

Soon after, Cathie and Stuart went into business together, co-founding the Active Care Pharmacy Group.

“If I hadn’t gone to that dinner and walked down that lane at the same time that Stuart was walking up it, my story would have been very different.”

Leading the way

Cathie’s story since then has certainly been one of success. She and husband Stuart merged with the APHS Pharmacy Group in 2002, before taking full ownership of the business in 2010.

APHS is now one of Australia’s largest hospital, oncology and aged care pharmacy providers, generating more than $200 million in annual revenue.  There is no doubt that Cathie and her team are leading the charge to meet the health needs of Australia’s ageing population.

Personal meets business

Cathie’s personal life again dovetailed with her business calling through the innovative Medido Monitored Compliance Device.

Cathie was immediately able to identify the benefits of this device through her own family experience, where her grandmother lay in pain on the bathroom floor for 24 hours after having a stroke. Had she been using the Medido device, Cathie’s family would have known something was amiss several hours later when she failed to take her medications.

The web-based device alerts the patient when their dose is due and advises their carer if it is missed. The medication is pre-packaged into sachets, so pharmacists save on manual packaging costs. It also gives elderly patients the confidence and independence to manage their medication.

Unfortunately adverse effects, such as falls, are not uncommon when a patient isn’t taking their medication as advised. According to the Department of Veteran Affairs each year in Australia 140,000 people are admitted to hospital due to medication misadventure alone, a truly saddening statistic.

“We’re receiving fantastic anecdotal feedback from people who are using it and say it’s making a big difference. We hope it will have a significant impact for many more people,” Cathie says.

The tipping point

The road to success hasn’t been entirely smooth. In 2007, Ramsay Healthcare decided not to renew its contract with APHS, setting up its own pharmacy service instead. This forced Cathie and Stuart to reassess the APHS business.

“We had a good, growing business until then but we realised we could fail because of someone else’s decision and lack of diversity in our revenue stream. So we looked through the microscope and assessed the business against what was happening in the wider healthcare market.”

They then set out on a “radical reinvention” to see the business survive.

“Thankfully, we did it before the global financial crisis hit. We were already well underway by the time it did, so no one could really stop us!”

An achievement for all

Winning the 2011 Commonwealth Bank Business Owner award gave Cathie the chance to thank her hard-working team.

“It was so exciting to win such a prestigious award and be able to recognise the tremendous work by all the people involved.”

Cathie says the award was also an accolade for the wider pharmaceutical industry.

“It’s rare for pharmacists to be recognised outside of our field. People have made a point to come up and tell me how proud they are that a pharmacist was commended.”

Go for it

Cathie received much support from her fellow award nominees and made many new business contacts. She advises women who are considering entering the awards to “go for it”.

“Just entering makes you assess the things you have done in your business.  I think women tend to diminish their achievements, so getting it down on paper is a really powerful exercise.”

She recommends having a trusted friend or business partner look over the entry.

“You need someone who will make sure you don’t undersell yourself. Find someone who will tell you when you need to sing a little louder.”

Next steps

Since winning the award, Cathie and the APHS packaging team haven’t slowed down. Having outgrown their premises, they will soon extend their Belmont premises and build a new manufacturing plant in Brisbane.

Pharmacy wholesaler Symbion has come on board with capital to fuel the growth.

Significant industry reforms will also bring about some changes for pharmacists. Cathie has vowed to help APHS’ clients stay and survive.

With so much on her plate, one might wonder when Cathie plans to take a break.

“We’re taking the kids to New York for Easter. We also have a family trip to the London Olympics; we promised during the last Olympics that we would go. I don’t know how the kids managed to squeeze two trips out of us in the same year!”

For the hard-working aged care visionary, the holidays are clearly much-deserved.

*Australian Pharmaceutical Healthcare Systems

You can connect with Cathie Reid on the Women in Focus community.

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Great story Cathie, it shows hard work, innovation and determination pays off. Enjoy your break you truly deserve it.

All the best


Thank you so much Alison!

Love you, Cathie - you are awesome....

Hi Cathie

I like your history (not story), because it is real life and real success through perserverance and a little bit of luck, being at the right time, in the right place meeting the right person. In addtion to your business success I wish you happiness and fulfilment. Also, you appear to be a great person with a pleasant personality. I wish you all the best.