Generation Next: Pharmacy runs in these families

March 19, 2007

For 171 years a Thompson has been behind the counter at Thompson Drugs. Six generations of Heimstreets have counseled patients. The fourth generation of Seiferts recently began practice as a pharmacist, while Rupal Patel, a professor of pharmacy, is following the trail her grandfather blazed ... in India.

Still, what is remarkable about these pharmacists-and the countless others nationwide-is that the commitment to pharmacy had less to do with running the family business and more to do with a shared concern for providing service to the community. Even as financial pressures may be pushing many family-owned community pharmacies out of business, some children are still following in their parents' footsteps.

Behind the counter

Thompson Drugs is located in Spring Valley, Ill., a small town southwest of Chicago, where it has been since 1885. Thompson's great-great-grandfather, Gilbert Thompson, opened the first Thompson Drugs store in nearby Ottawa, Ill., in 1836, before moving it to Spring Valley.

Now 60, Thompson has had time to reflect on his career. "It's given me a comfortable living, and it has given me some challenges," he told Drug Topics. "There were days when I was glad to be there and some days when I wished I was not."

Mostly, however, Thompson appreciates being able to help his patients. "With computerization and Medicare Part D and prescription drug cards, it is difficult sometimes," he commented. "It is more challenging, but it feels good when you have a challenge and you meet it. I have watched so many small stores go out of business for one reason or another, but I still have people come to me and complain about having to wait at the big stores."

Perhaps hardest is the knowledge that the Thompson family tradition will end soon. "I am the last generation," he said. "There is no one in my family to follow me. I hate to give it up, but I am going to be 60 this year, and I only have so much longer to do it. I have a 12-hour day, and when I come home from work, I am tired."

A sense of camaraderie