How one Pharmacist's Thanksgiving reflections have reinvigorated his sense of purpose.
We all have that uncle, the one who most consider the “black sheep” of the family. Back when I was a teenager, my parents loaded us teen-aged kids into the 1969 Ford Galaxie 500 to visit my uncle in his rundown apartment, about an hour away from our home. We walked into his place and there he sat on a case of beer, with his artificial leg sitting in the corner. His wife was stirring a pot of soup on the stove, and his kids were running around the house.
He said to my Dad, “You know our brothers-the pipefitter always shows us his big union paycheck, the other brags about his boat at the lake-well, I’ve got it pretty good, too. I have all this, and my kids like me.” It struck me as kind of strange that he was perfectly content, even though he had so little com- pared to all of us.
This Thanksgiving I’ll be sitting down with my family at my daughter Elizabeth’s house. In attendance will be four pharmacists: my wife Denise who works at an underserved clinic in State College, PA; my other daughter Gretchen and her husband Mark, who are assistant professors at West Virginia University School of Pharmacy; and me.
Elizabeth is a bilingual middle school teacher who teaches English as a second language. She works with displaced kids from Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and Cuba. Her language skills allow her to communicate with parents who bring their kids here for a shot at a better life. The parents are relieved when Miss Kreckel can communicate with them at parent-teacher conferences.
My son Phil will also be joining us for Thanksgiving. He is a data scientist at a major bank where he develops algorithms to prevent check fraud.
So, with a teacher, a data scientist, and four pharmacists, what will the conversation be like?
Certainly, we can’t discuss the benefits of tenofovir alafenamide versus tenofovir disoproxil fumarate!
Like every other family gathered that day we will discuss our family and friends, which for my family, includes sharing cute stories about our grandchildren. I’m sure I’ll be reminiscing about the Thanksgivings at my home as a kid. Like my Grandpa Joe, I seem to be the story teller. I’m sure I’ll talk about how my Dad worked every Thanksgiving because he got paid “time plus time and one-half,” and would never miss an opportunity to work 8 hours and get paid for 20. I’ve never worked a Thanksgiving in my career; my Dad never had a Thanksgiving off.
One might think pharmacy conversation will dominate the dinner. Whenever pharmacists gather, there is usually a sprinkle of negativity, often with good reason- understaffing, DIR fees, audits, regulations, gag clauses, and PBMs. I often attend meetings and hear frequently the negative discussions with respect to our profession, some with good reason indeed.
But this Thanksgiving, let’s try to keep things in perspective. Most of us as individuals make at least twice the average household medium income of $61,372.
When I drive to my daughter’s house about three hours away to spend this day of thanks, I’ll be thinking how blessed I am to be a pharmacist, how every day I get to help a lot of people who are indeed thankful for all that I can provide them. Whether it is a hug for a widow who just lost her spouse or providing a Narcan kit to hopefully prevent the death of a loved one. Most of our patients are indeed very grateful for our efforts.
Most importantly, I’ll look around the crammed table at my three kids, two in-laws, three beautiful grand- children, and a wonderful wife, and I’ll think of my uncle’s wise words: “I have all this, and my kids like me!”