Why I Love Being a Pharmacist: Announcing the Winners

In honor of American Pharmacists Month, we asked our readers to answer one question: "Why do you love being a pharmacist?"

Your answers were inspiring and informative, each depicting in its own way the upstanding moral character and dedication of today's pharmacy workforce. The winning entry came from Jay Sochoka, RPh, CIP. Jay's story will appear in the December 2011 print issue of Pharmacy Times.

Pharmacy Times also published the stories of several pharmacists who earned an honorable mention. Congratulations to the winners, and thank you to all who entered this year's contest!

Winner: Jay Sochoka, RPh, CIP

When I began practicing pharmacy 16 years ago, I have to admit that it was not a love-at-first sight encounter. However, like all experiences worth having, time proved a key factor in defining and reshaping my perspective.

I entered into pharmacy because I had a good head for science and wanted a fast paycheck—“0-$60,000 in five years” was the catch phrase on an old Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science fundraiser T-shirt. (It will always be PCPS to me.) I was a newly licensed, riding-in-my-1972-Corvette, 22 year-old pharmacist with a pocket full of money…and I had the attitude to prove it.

My preceptor (wrongly) taught me that being rude was my right. I was lawyer-like and would look for a technicality in a prescription to find the reason not to fill it. No DEA number? Sayonara. Even though I did my job well, I had no love for the profession itself. For several years, I dreaded the schedule of 12-hour days, every other weekend, and a dearth of holidays. I hated when I worked in a new store, and people openly pined the loss of their favorite pharmacist to my face. To me, at that time, every customer was a nuisance.

Then something happened: my father became terminally ill, and I became a caregiver. I suddenly realized that I was dealing with a lot of sickness and pain on the other side of the counter. I was able to empathize with the weary, irritated, and sometimes impatient faces before me. The customers became my patients—people with actual names, feelings, and needs.

While doing no harm was my creed for medications, such had not been the case with my attitude as a young pharmacist. My life experience completely transformed my professional demeanor. Since that defining event nearly a decade ago, my mantra has been, “Who can I help today?”

I meet needs wherever I see them, especially if doing so will make someone’s life a little easier. You need a box of light bulbs? I’ll stop checking prescriptions (unless there is a real emergency on my hands) and take you to them myself. You’re running late from a hospital discharge, and you need medications for you or your loved one? I’ll stay open past closing time and wait for you to arrive.

Now, a little older and a great deal wiser, I love being a community pharmacist—especially the “community” aspect of it. A positive approach has paid dividends that go beyond a paycheck. I walked into the grocery store one day and, as per usual, I met one of my patients. After a quick chat, I went on my way to shop. “That’s my pharmacist!” said the man to his girlfriend in a tone of pure pride. Tears welled up in my eyes.

Who wouldn’t love that?

Honorable mentions

Our editors selected these pharmacists to earn an honorable mention for their stories, which you can read here.

  • Kathleen Jane Cross, PharmD
  • Erin Smith, RPh
  • Matthew Bledsoe, PharmD
  • Carrie Burke
  • Michael Ostrowsky
  • Michelle Gualtieri
  • Matthew Lennick, PharmD
  • Ed Pitz, RPh