The Greatest Pharmacists Never Known

OCTOBER 07, 2015
Over my nearly 3 decades of pharmacy practice, I have worked with some of the greatest pharmacists never known. 
 
Each and every one of them has influenced my practice in ways I never expected. For American Pharmacists Month, I would like to take a few moments to thank the following pharmacists:
 
Ralph
During the spring of 1981, when I was a senior in high school, I spent my evenings and weekends working at the local grocery store. One afternoon while I was working in the stock room, one of my fellow employees led a gentleman who had been asking for me to the back of the store. 
 
Ralph introduced himself as a pharmacist representative of the university where I had been accepted. He came by to chat about pharmacy school and what to expect as a pre-pharmacy student. 
 
Without Ralph’s unconditional concern for my education, I am not sure I would have followed through with my admission to pharmacy school. Thank you, Ralph.
 
James
James was the primary preceptor for my 9 months of clinical rotations during my final year of the PharmD program. He was instrumental in helping me understand that pharmacists are a key player on the patient care team in a hospital. 
 
James helped me learn the importance of maintaining regular communication with the physicians and nurses I work with. He was also obsessed with being prepared and taught me the importance of taking extra time away from work to learn my subject matter and prepare myself so I would be prepared to answer when asked. 
 
Sharks are everywhere, so always be prepared to swim with them! Thank you, James.
 
Bob
After graduation, while I was studying to take the state board of pharmacy examination, I worked as an intern at a small town community pharmacy. 
 
Bob is the pharmacist that owned the store, as well as another pharmacy and grocery store. He also volunteered on the local fire department, coached high school sports, and ran a ranch. 
 
I had just come off of a 9-month clinical clerkship and was focused on developing my clinical skills. Bob made pharmacy clear and brought it home for me. 
 
Clinical pharmacists do more than wear white lab coats and walk the halls of hospitals. They participate in patients’ lives at the community level on a day-to-day basis. 
Thank you, Bob.
 
Joe
My first full-time job as a licensed pharmacist was in a retail chain setting. 
 
This was before computers, but not before prescription insurance, meaning that each and every prescription needed to be not only typed correctly the first time (because there was no back space key), but also accompanied by a handwritten, universal third-party claim form. 
 
From my first day at work, Joe drilled the importance of taking the time to understand and communicate with insurance companies. We want to fill out the claim form appropriately and submit it correctly so that it is not denied and returned unpaid. 
 
Thank you, Joe.
 
Sally
After 6 months at the chain store, I became restless and felt the need to move into the hospital setting. But after 18 months at a mid-sized community hospital, I once again felt restless and found myself searching for another job. 
 
Sally was my director at this current hospital position. She had the foresight and wisdom to tell me that in order to gain the trust of my peers and maintain the integrity of my career, I should consider settling down and sticking with one job for a few years. 
 
Thank you, Sally.
 
Ron
Among other things, Ron taught me how to run a hospital pharmacy. He was efficient, meticulous, and straightforward. 
 
Ron’s rule was that when something landed on his desk, it was acted upon, filed away, or tossed in the garbage. Rarely would he place a document in a basket on his desk for future follow up. 
 
Ron regularly told me that if something is important enough, they’d give you a call. He had a plaque sitting on his desk that read “Illegitimi non carborundum.” (Google it.)
 
Thank you, Ron.
 
Tom
As a community pharmacy owner, Tom had a very good understanding of how to run a successful business. More than that, his spirituality was displayed on a daily basis through his compassion and empathy for his patients. 
 
Tom helped me realize how important it is to maintain my spiritual connection to help guide me through my pharmacy practice on a daily basis. Thank you, Tom.
 
Miriam
Miriam was a director who I worked with for several years. She helped me understand that not all employees are alike, so the same expectations cannot be applied to everyone. 
 
Miriam would listen to her employees, understand their strengths, and then steer them toward their specialty. She taught me that nothing good ever comes from gossiping about fellow employees. 
 
Thank you, Miriam.
 
Lance
I've been working with the same organization for nearly 18 years now. During the beginning of my time here, I started my shift one day and within a few minutes, I was in the middle of a complicated crisis that required extensive follow up. 
 
Lance, a skilled seasoned pharmacist, was my partner in the pharmacy that day. I asked him a couple questions and he pointed me in the right direction. I asked a couple more and he again directed me toward my answers, but he also reminded me that I just happened to be the one to step into this specific mess, so it’s mine to handle. 
 
This rule has stuck with me. If I step in it, I am the one responsible and need to ensure that appropriate action is taken. Thank you, Lance.
 
Carl
In hospital pharmacy, a new project seems to come up every other week. Carl taught me that in order to get things done, you just need to do them. 
 
Many times, it takes extra effort, above and beyond, around the end, over the top, early in the morning, and late in the evening to accomplish what needs to get done. Carl taught me that with forthright effort, anything is possible. 
 
Thank you, Carl.
 
Barry
Barry is the Pharmacist in Charge at our hospital’s outpatient pharmacy where I have been practicing for many years. 
 
He has taught me many things about the operations of an independent pharmacy, but nothing more important than this simple fact: If you continue to sell a product for less than what you purchased it for, then the store will eventually go out of business. Thank you, Barry.
 
A pharmacist’s experience is made up of many interactions with colleagues over the years. I am grateful to have worked with all of the above individuals, as well as many more too numerous to mention here. 
 
Take the time this month to recognize the work that we all do, and #ThankAPharmacist!

Steve Leuck, PharmD
Steve Leuck, PharmD
Steve Leuck, PharmD, has been practicing both hospital and community pharmacy for over 30 years. He founded AudibleRx, in 2011, which provides Consumer Medication Information which is both Useful and Accessible. Content designed to meet health literacy guidelines. Format designed to "read along" with the audio presentation in a simple to use web application. More information at AudibleRx.org.
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