More than ever with the disjointed health care so prevalent in our nation, our patients need us.
In October 2020, I started a new position as director of clinical services at Nickman’s Drug Store in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. Fayette County shares the border with West Virginia, our new home. Our goal was to live closer to our daughter and son-in-law, and especially our adorable 4-year-old grandson. We are also 1 hour closer to Pittsburgh, where our son’s family, including our 2 granddaughters, lives. However, in April 2021, I am making another career change.
One sacrifice I have to make is resigning from my teaching position at St Francis University, which is now 2.5 hours away. I will miss my Thursday mornings with the students and our interactions. Most of all, I will miss the spirit of St Francis University. Their tagline is “Become That Someone,” which is attributed to Jack Twyman, who cared for their most renowned graduate, Maurice Stokes, class of 1955.
In the final game of the 1957-58 regular season, Stokes fell and suffered a subsequent brain injury. Three days later, on a flight to a playoff game in Detroit, Stokes suffered a series of seizures on the plane, leaving him paralyzed and unable to speak. Stokes and Twyman played for the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Cincinnati Royals. The league provided no health insurance or pension plan.
Twyman began raising money for Stokes’ care by enlisting the help of the NBA’s stars. The first charity basketball game organized by Twyman was in 1958 and attracted 65 of the 90 players in the league. In 1964, the NBA players threatened to boycott the All-Star game in Boston, Massachusetts, forcing the owners to finally consider health and pension benefits. This act of defiance led to the riches the game enjoys today.
However, none of this was to benefit Stokes. For the next 12 years, Twyman took care of him, acting as his guardian. Stokes died in 1970 at the age of 36. When asked about providing care to Stokes, Twyman was quoted as saying, “Maurice was on his own, something had to be done, and somebody had to do it. I was the only one that was there, so I became that someone.”
On Thursday mornings I drive past the Stokes Athletic Center on my way to Sullivan Hall to teach pharmacology to a class of 55 physician assistant science students. I often think of the Twyman-Stokes relationship, and how helpless Stokes felt, because he could never repay Twyman for all his efforts. I am sure that after every hospital visit (12 years’ worth), Twyman got his payment in knowing he helped someone who truly needed him. I hope for the morning that I teach that my overwhelmed students see me as that someone who not only teaches this most difficult subject, but who cares deeply about them and their knowledge base needed to practice their profession.
What I will truly miss most after my 16-year teaching career at St Francis is the ability to affect future physician assistants. I taught them year-round from the beginning of June until the beginning of May for at least 3 hours on Thursday mornings. During that time slot, I strived to become that someone that they needed.
In the lifesaving profession of pharmacy we are given opportunities to become that someone daily. Whether we volunteer at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic, teach a newly diagnosed patient with diabetes how to use a blood glucose meter, or teach an Advanced Pharmacy Practices Experience student how to give compassionate care, we become that someone. More than ever with the disjointed health care so prevalent in our nation, our patients need us.
The next time you are doing medication synchronization to promote adherence, counseling a new mother on dosing of an antibiotic for otitis media, or giving a shingles or flu shot, for that space in time you have an opportunity to become that someone. As for me, the satisfaction of knowing I made a difference in their health care is what keeps me so energized with this amazing profession, even in this disjointed health care system.