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Keeping the business in the family

Creative Compounds owner Denise Burnham hopes to hand over reins one day to her daughter


by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Certified pharmacy technician Lisa Wheeler mixes a custom batch of medication in the lab at Creative Compounds, a Wilsonville compounding pharmacy.Keeping it in the family.

That’s the way Denise Burnham would prefer it to be when it comes to her Wilsonville business, Creative Compounds, a state and nationally certified compounding pharmacy that produces custom-made batches of prescription drugs for customers ranging from individuals to the Veterans Administration.

With that in mind, Burnham has announced the hiring of her daughter, Krista Burnham, who recently graduated from Pacific University with a doctor of pharmacy degree. Krista Burnham currently is working at Creative Compounds while she works toward becoming certified by the Oregon Board of Pharmacy.

“I’ve been working here since I was 16 as a technician and an intern,” said Krista Burnham. “But I’m starting as a pharmacist once I get my license. I think I’ll be more excited once I’m done with my board exams.”

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - New staff pharmacist Krista Burnham, RPh, is the daughter of Creative Compounds owner Denise Burnham.Creative Compounds is a compounding-only pharmacy founded by Denise Burnham in January 1998. It custom makes prescriptions into dosage forms that are tailored for each individual patient. Some of the more common products compounded by the pharmacy include veterinary medicine, dental medicine, bio-identical hormone replacement therapies, sterile products, including solutions for injection, and more.

In short, if the drug is not currently under trademark or otherwise protected from reproduction, Creative Compounds can produce a pharmaceutically pure generic version.

Owner Denise Burnham, RPh, graduated from Oregon State University in 1984 and spent over 10 years working at OHSU as the transplant pharmacist, drug information pharmacist and intensive care unit pharmacist. Now, with almost two decades as a small business owner under her belt, she is thinking about how to most smoothly hand over the reigns of Creative Compounds. Her daughter, for one, is looking forward to the challenge - one day.

“At first, when I was a teen, I was like ‘Oh gosh, I never want to to do this,’” Krista Burnham said. “But I grew up and went to college, where I loved chemistry and math and science. And I didn’t like being stuck in a lab all day; I liked the interaction. So I was thinking this could be the job for me.”

As a staff pharmacist Krista’s job will be primarily supervisory.

“The pharmacist is overseeing, making sure things run smoothly,” she said. “You don’t usually make anything, but you make sure the techs are making things correctly. And then they do lots of phone calls, counseling with patients and verification - pretty much your day is spent verifying things, taking phone calls and, of course, counseling patients.”

At Creative Compounds’ north Wilsonville facility off Parkway Avenue the compounding of various drugs, medications and other products is split between a clean room and a sterile chamber that can be vacuum-sealed. The former still features numerous safety precautions but is not sealed against the outside environment.

In other areas technicians sift through the heaps of paperwork generated by insurance policies, patient information and reports and much more.

For Krista, having a family tie to her new job is a big bonus, particularly when her mother is formulating plans to eventually leave Creative Compounds entirely in her hands.

“It’s a very cool thing,” she said.

“It certainly gives me a lot more ownership of the business,” Denise Burnham added with a smile. “I have to make sure it goes well, I’m leaving this as a legacy and I don’t want to leave her a disaster.”

Denise Burnham is leaving a lot more than a business as a legacy, though. As a respected figure nationally in her field she also guest lectures at the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland and is a member of Oregon State Pharmacists Association, National Community Pharmacists Association and the International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists (IACP). Last year she also was elected as a regional representative to the IACP board of directors.

She got her start in business, however, because of someone else’s failed get-rich-quick scheme.

“I worked at OHSU and I knew some people who wanted to start an impotency clinic,” she said. “They were sure they were going to get rich, but it didn’t work out and there were still patients.”

Those patients required custom-made drugs, which gave her an idea. Combined with the realization that there also were many veterinarians in need of similar service, the kernel of a business plan began to form.

“I loved animals and I knew there was a lot of animal compounding to be done,” Denise said. “So I started with vet compounding, and that turned out to be quite a commodity business.”

It was at that same time, however, that hormone replacement therapy also was gaining rapidly in popular.

“It was getting really big,” she said. “Suzanne Sommers and Oprah were putting out books and doing TV shows about it. So that and being the only woman compounding in the area meant I got a lot of calls from women in the area wanting to talk about their symptoms. And with hospital background, the sterile lab environment was already there in my head.”

That was just a couple years before the turn of the century. These days, though, she’s thinking more succession than success; she’s already found the latter.

“She’s trying to train me up so I’ll be ready,” said Krista.



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