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Dr. Shadreka McIntosh, a fifth-generation Fort Myers native, grew up in a part of town that never has had a Publix, a CVS or a Walgreen’s pharmacy.

McIntosh, a pharmacist, decided to help fill the void.

Sozo Wellness Pharmacy opened in July at 3510 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., in Veronica Shoemaker Plaza. It’s about 2.4 miles from there to the nearest CVS, 2.4 miles to the nearest Walgreen’s and 2.5 miles to the nearest Publix.

Since none of the big chains have chosen to build stores in the communities known as Dunbar, McIntosh sprang into action.

Any time a low-income, low-vehicle community lies more than half a mile from the closest pharmacy, it can be considered a “pharmacy desert,” according to Dima Qato, a professor of pharmacy at the University of Southern California. She coined the term in 2014 while teaching at the University of Chicago.

“When you don’t have that access, you tend to have a lot of gaps in medical care,” McIntosh said, “which can tend to lead to ER visits and hospital admissions. That’s something that as a community, we don’t want that to happen, to increase that burden on the system here in our area.”

McIntosh and her supporters finally found the time to celebrate the grand opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday afternoon. She received a $270,000 from a revolving loan fund from the Collaboratory of Fort Myers, Catalyst Community Capital. As the loan is repaid, it will continue to avail loan funding for businesses that may not be able to receive funding from larger banks.

McIntosh named it “Sozo,” a word with biblical roots. Translated from Greek, it means “save or saved; to make whole or healed.”

Since July, Sozo has vaccinated more than 700 Fort Myers residents.

“It’s really surreal,” McIntosh said. “It’s been a lot of hard work to get to this point. It’s just great to pause and look back on how much we’ve accomplished in getting open and actually take some time to celebrate that accomplishment.”

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