Pathways through pharmacy: Bob, the Pharmacy Man!

March 4, 2015

Bob Benton's life in pharmacy has brought him satisfaction and enjoyment of his profession. And he's done a lot of people a lot of good.

A while back we asked Drug Topics readers to tell us about how their lives in pharmacy evolved, as well as about the value and meaning they found in the profession. Bob Benton, a retired pharmacist in Denton, Texas, shares his story here.

Being a pharmacist was a dream I had from childhood. I would go to the corner drugstore with my mother for medicine and was always intrigued, watching Doc Kirk preparing the prescriptions from the local doctor. I was also interested in the box of powders that he folded inside the little squares of wax paper.

When we got home, my mother would dump the powder into a spoon and add water, and hand it to my little sister or me to drink. It never tasted good, but it was better than the old black syrup in a bottle. It also smelled better than the poultices that she rubbed on our chests.

See also: Flying into pharmacy (eyes wide shut)

Dust Bowl years

This all took place in the early 1930s in a small town in western Oklahoma. It was the middle of the Great Depression, and we were living in the Dust Bowl. All the children suffered with coughs and chest congestion. I remember the "doc" telling my mother and dad to hang wet sheets over the bedroom windows. This was to trap some of the dust blowing into the house.

The drugstore, with its soda fountain, was a favorite hangout when I was a teenager. Cherry cokes were the favorite choice.

I graduated from high school in 1948 and attended junior college in my hometown. I also worked at a funeral home. In those days, the funeral homes did all the ambulance transfers for patients admitted or discharged from the hospital. This gave me more exposure to the medical field.

See also: "Farming to Pharmacy": Pharmacist's story is the saga of an era

The Navy

I had planned to attend mortuary science school in Dallas, but the Korean War came along. I was registered for the military draft and began to research various military branches. (If I had had the funds to go further in college, I would have been exempt from the draft.) I decided to try for the U.S. Navy Medical Corps.

In September 1950, I enlisted in the Navy. While in boot camp, I was asked to list my preferences for Navy schools. My first choice was Hospital Corps School. The instructor, looking over my shoulder, said, "Don't list any more. The Navy is begging for corpsmen."

After hospital corps school, Mare Island Naval Shipyard was my next assignment. I worked on a psychiatric ward for a few months, but eventually transferred to the lab as a prospective laboratory technician student. After lab school, I worked at the naval shipyard dispensary, but later was sent to Yokosuka Naval Hospital in Yokosuka, Japan. The patients mainly were Korean War casualties.

 

Pharmacy life

In 1955, with my wife and two small boys, I returned to the States for discharge. I enrolled in the College of Pharmacy, Southwestern Oklahoma State University, Weatherford, Oklahoma. (My choice was influenced by the fact that my wife's father, grandfather, uncle, and brother were pharmacists.) The GI Bill made it all possible!

After my graduation in 1958, our family went to Hereford, Texas, then Vernon, Texas, and finally settled in Denton, Texas. Though my jobs in all these places were retail, I finally found my true love, hospital pharmacy, at the Texas Department of MHMR here in Denton. I enjoyed the interaction with the patients there for about 20 years. I retired in 1992, but even now will occasionally run into a former resident who hails me with "Hi there, Bob, the Pharmacy Man!"

Actually, back then I only partially retired, because I worked as a relief pharmacist for a number of years before finally retiring in 2012. A career of 54 years came to a close.

Unforgettable

One of the most fulfilling experiences of my career was volunteering for a short-term medical mission to Romania. Our group included two physicians, a registered nurse, four support persons, and me.

We were able to carry our own drugs into Romania. Each day for two weeks we visited different rural villages, treating patients who heard about us from missionaries in the areas and came for medical help. Our treatments were limited, but the patients were extremely grateful that someone cared.

Other volunteer opportunities included work with the Denton County Medical Reserve Corps. When Hurricane Katrina hit the Louisiana coast, we worked alongside firemen, police, and other health departments in caring for more than a hundred displaced persons who came to Denton. These people were housed at a church camp outside Denton and arrived with only the clothes on their backs. No medications, of course. It was our job to try to identify the medications they needed and obtain them. Thankfully, I had the free time to devote to this effort.

Being a pharmacist has brought me a lot of satisfaction and enjoyment of my profession, as well as a certain sense of having helped others along my way.

Bob G. Bentonis a retired pharmacist living in Denton, Texas. Contact him at bob.benton2007@gmail.com.

Whether you have spent a few years or many in the practice of pharmacy, we want to share your story with our readers. What made the greatest impression on you? What would you change if you could? Let us know; send your story to drugtopics@advanstar.com for posting at drugtopics.com.