As a fourth-year pharmacy student, while completing a two-month internship with Wal-Mart Stores, Steve Sparks was part of a team that developed the process the company uses to give immunization shots.
That caught the attention of the world’s largest retailer, which offered Sparks a job after he graduated from Harding University’s College of Pharmacy in spring 2013.
That’s been a springboard for Sparks, who now oversees about 2,000 Wal-Mart pharmacies and their associates in 17 states and Puerto Rico. Essentially, he’s the go-to-guy for pharmacy-related compliance issues on the local, state and federal level.
“There are so many laws and regulations in pharmacy, and it’s so heavily regulated,” Sparks says. “We want our systems to be smart, so it’s easier for the patient and easier for our pharmacy associates as well.”
Sparks earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Arkansas in 2009 before spending the next four years in pharmacy school. With Wal-Mart, he started as a pharmacist in Fayetteville, then Springdale and ultimately was promoted to manage the pharmacy of Store 100 in Bentonville in 2015.
“There is so much going on there with pilot programs and testing, you can learn more there than in any other Wal-Mart store,” he said.
In just more than a year at Store 100, across the street from Wal-Mart headquarters, Sparks trained several managers, was in the top five in immunization sales and was one of just six Wal-Mart pharmacists to attend the National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ (NACDS) signature advocacy event in Washington, D.C.
Sparks was then promoted to work in the home office. His most recent promotion was accepted in March, and he is the youngest of three pharmacy directors.
As for his ambitions with the company, Sparks said he’ll continue to “bloom where I’m planted.”
Sparks, married with a 1-year-old daughter, grew up in the Arkansas Delta community of Turkey Scratch and later graduated high school in Beebe.
Away from work, he enjoys the outdoors and is a season ticket holder for most Razorback sporting events. His passion for the Hogs runs deep, underscored by his time as a Razorback mascot while in college.
Sparks volunteers with several organizations including the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (he is a Type 1 diabetic) and International Servants, a Christian humanitarian organization in Belize.