Tomorrow is National Pharmacists Day and, as a pharmacist, I thought I would take a moment to more clearly define pharmacy and pharmacists. The truth is that most of us have only a very vague idea of what pharmacy actually is.
The practice of pharmacy (the use of medicinal plants in healing) dates back to prehistoric times, and there are ancient Egyptian records of medical prescriptions dating from 1550 BC. It took a little longer for pharmacy as a profession to separate itself as an independent science from physicians. Pharmacy as we know it today began in the early 19th century, at least in the U.S. The first College of Pharmacy was founded in Philadelphia in 1825 and the American Pharmacists Association was started in 1852. I’d love to tell you that my family has been a part of the profession since those early days, but the truth is pharmacy has only been a part of our family heritage for the past twenty years or so.
I initially chose pharmacy as a career because my father insisted that my sister and I pursue a medical profession. He thought it was the best way to ensure that we always had a job and didn’t have to worry about money. The only problem was that I couldn’t (and still can’t) stand the site of blood, and I’m not too fond of needles either. How do you get through med school without having to deal with blood? How do you get though dental school without needles? Fortunately for me, I had a friend whose father was a pharmacist and owned his own pharmacy. I got a job there after school and began to learn about this often taken-for-granted profession. And I liked it. I liked being able to help people. I liked being able to talk to them face to face. I liked seeing that I could make a difference in their lives. No blood, no needles, but healthcare nevertheless. I’ve been a pharmacist for over twenty years and I still love it. How many people can say that about their job? Every day is a challenge. Every day is a new problem to solve. Every day is a new person to help.
Pharmacists are experts in drug therapy and serve as the primary health professionals to benefit patients’ health through the proper use of medications. What other healthcare professional can you talk to about your health without an appointment? Who is only a phone call away to answer your medical questions? If you call the doctor’s office, you’ll be lucky if someone returns your call at the end of the day and it certainly won’t be the physician and it may not even be a nurse. The answer, of course, is your local pharmacist, the one healthcare professional you can talk to one-on-one at any time about your health. They are the experts on medications and how they affect your body. I know most people don’t give the pharmacist a second thought, but they are far more than just the person who puts your pills in that tiny bottle and slaps a label on it. The fact is that in the time it takes to translate the practitioner’s illegible handwriting, type a label, and count out those tablets, the pharmacist is also making sure that your medications don’t interact with each other, insuring that you aren’t allergic to the new medication, and managing your insurance coverage. Then they will take the time to talk to you about it (how and when to take the medicine, possible side effects) and answer all those questions you thought of after you left the doctor’s office. Tomorrow is the day to thank them for that immense contribution to your health.