The Community Pharmacist Is the Richest Man in Town

December 24, 2014

Like George Bailey from It's a Wonderful Life, I am "the richest man in town."

When it comes to Christmas movies, Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life is hard to beat.

The story resonates with me for 2 reasons. The first is Old Man Gower, the pharmacist who almost poisoned a kid, and had George Bailey not been working for him that day, he would have done it. I will be the first to admit that a pharmacy tech has corrected my work on occasion.

Nobody wants to be the pharmacist who harmed somebody. I joke about a lot of things throughout the workday, but potentially fatal medication errors are not one of them. Thankfully, angels and a few George Baileys have been watching over my shoulder for the past 20 years.

The second reason is George. He had the potential to achieve greatness, and he was going to build skyscrapers and travel the world. Instead, he wound up running a "busted up building and loan" after his father's passing.

It was the last thing George wanted to do for a career, but he made life more livable for a lot of people in bucolic Bedford Falls. Pretty much the whole town knew him, and he had a profound effect on so many lives.

I am a pharmacist in my adopted hometown. To say that I know the local population is an understatement. I can't go buy a gallon of milk and not talk to somebody I know and, to me, that is simply marvelous.

Patient contact is everything to my job. When people ask me if they could "bother me" for some help, I try not to take umbrage to the question. Helping someone is what the job is all about.

Then, there are the George Bailey moments of the career. These are the times when you realize what would have happened to someone had you never been born and a less-qualified pharmacist had taken your place.

Human error is the scariest part of pharmacy, and I have made some half-of-the-puck-sticking-out-of-the-goaltender's-mitt saves in my career. But saves they were, and I was the reason for it.

That is what makes the job worth doing. I have touched a lot of lives in the past 20 years, and I pray I can do it for 20 to 30 more without an Old Man Gower in the record books.

I had lunch with my wife the other day, and a patient picked up our tab. He smiled and said "Merry Christmas!" I was touched by the gesture. It lifted my holiday spirit and made me realize that, like George Bailey, I am "the richest man in town."

Whether it's Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, or Solstice, or Harvest, or December 25th, I wish peace on Earth and abundance to everyone! That, and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Jay Sochoka, RPh, thinks it's a wonderful life.