Ten pharmacists, two generations


Pharmacy has provided varied and fruitful careers along many different paths for 10 members of this family (so far). Who knows what new forms of practice the next generation might discover?

Drug Topics readers may recall that the intermittent series “Pathways through Pharmacy” gave rise fairly quickly to an unusual offshoot - accounts of whole clans populated primarily by pharmacists. Here’s the story of another such family group.

My family and I have read with interest the articles written by those of our pharmacist colleagues who come from families with several pharmacists, and we would like to share the following with Drug Topics’ readers.

To start with, I’m Walter Steven Pray, PhD, DPh. During my last years of high school in Broken Arrow, Okla., my parents and I began to discuss my future. My mother and father (Walter L. and Flossie W. Pray) urged me to focus on a profession that laid heavy emphasis on science and math, as I had done well in those subjects.

 My father was a World War II Marine who served in the Pacific Theater. In planning for my future, he carefully read the want ads in Tulsa newspapers, noticing the classified ads for pharmacists that seemed to be in the paper every day. Prospective employers offered monthly salaries as high as $1,000, a princely sum in 1966 and 1967.

The Great Depression

My parents thought pharmacy would be a suitable career for another important reason. They were children of the Great Depression.

As a young boy, Dad was highly resourceful in his efforts to make some extra money. He was hired as a delivery boy for the pharmacy in his small Texas town, and part of his job was delivering medications to the townspeople - and to the local brothel. The ladies of the night were so glad to receive their medications for venereal diseases that they tipped him, sometimes as much as a dime.

Dad recalled that, as the Depression deepened, the last two thriving businesses in town were his pharmacy and the brothel. He said to me, “Steven, when the next depression comes, you’ll always have a job as a pharmacist, because people will still need their medications.”

It all sounded good to me, and I determined that my parents’ vision was right on the mark. But where would I go to college? My high school counselor recommended Southwestern State College (SWSC), in the little town of Weatherford, Okla., right on Route 66. Although it was 200 miles to the west, it was all interstate driving. He characterized SWSC as an excellent choice for two reasons: it was affordable and it had a first-rate, caring faculty who would prepare me well for the profession. The alumni he had spoken to were universally positive about their time there.

Baby Boomer

Since I was in the middle of the Baby Boom generation, college slots filled rapidly. Fortunately, I was accepted into SWSC as a freshman in 1967 and was blessed to have the financial support of my parents. They paid virtually every cost of my college education, so that I graduated owing only a paltry $3,000.

My mother worked as a secretary at a Tulsa cemetery to supplement my father’s income. Without both our parents working, my sister and I might never have been able to attend college.

My father said once, “There was never any question about it. We would have sent you to college no matter what it took. But there were times when we paid your tuition, and we didn't know if we would have money left to buy food for the rest of the month.”

It was their insightful vision and incredible generosity that allowed our families to have better lives than the ones our parents had endured.


Four pharmacists

I studied hard, joined the Phi Delta Chi pharmacy fraternity, and graduated in 1972, having served as president of four organizations. My younger sister, Sheila, graduated from the SWSC College of Pharmacy four years later and married a pharmacist, Waymon Peterson. Our cousin, Preston Turner, attended the University of Oklahoma College of Pharmacy, also graduating in the 1970s. This completed the first generation of pharmacists.

After serving a hospital pharmacy residency at St. Anthony Hospital in Oklahoma City, I obtained a master’s degree in public health from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center College of Public Health.

In 1976, I returned to Southwestern Oklahoma State University (SWOSU, renamed from SWSC) to teach hospital pharmacy. I taught for four years, before moving with my wife to Purdue in Indiana, where our two sons were born, and where I completed a PhD in clinical pharmacy/pharmacy practice in 1983.

Armed with my terminal academic degree, I returned to SWOSU to continue my teaching career, focusing on nonprescription products.

Six more pharmacists

Eventually, the second generation of our family began to choose careers.

Two nieces, Cheryl Grayson Geiger and Kim Woolley Dunn, successfully completed their pharmacy degrees at SWOSU.

Both our sons, Joshua Pray and Gabriel Pray, chose SWOSU for their pharmacy educations, and both their wives (Callie Clark Pray and Melissa Banuelos Pray) are also SWOSU-educated pharmacists. That makes ten of us.

Pathways through pharmacy

Our family has practiced in a wide variety of sites.

I began in a small independent store, moved to a large chain, went back to another small independent, and then, after I gained licensure, to a small chain, with additional volunteer work at a free clinic in north Tulsa.

My next step was to a large hospital, then to my residency and masters. While completing those tasks, I worked at another independent and a Target Pharmacy.

During my first four years of teaching at SWOSU, I worked weekends at a small hospital to make ends meet. At Purdue, I worked in a student dispensary.

When I returned from Purdue, I resumed my full-time academic career, and also began part–time work at Wal-Mart. (I retired from the latter position after 23 years).

I remain with the university and am now also the pharmacist-in-charge at a local free clinic pharmacy.

I have also worked with numerous pharmaceutical manufacturers and their public relations firms, and have served as an expert witness in pharmacy matters. I have written more than 400 articles and four textbooks, and have presented numerous continuing education lectures nationally and internationally.


Many directions

The experiences of other family members are also wide-ranging. My family has worked in independent pharmacies (including owning a pharmacy), small and large chain pharmacies, hospital pharmacies, a closed-door pharmacy, and other venues.

One family member is an editor for ExamMaster, a company that creates the NAPLEX review exams, and another is a sales representative for a major pharmaceutical manufacturer.

Our graduation dates span 42 years, from 1972 to 2014. We have practiced in Oklahoma, Texas, and Indiana. We all believe that pharmacy has been good to us.

The professional paths of the first and second generations appear to be set. However, there are growing numbers of children in the third generation. It remains to be seen whether they will choose their parents’ and grandparents’ profession.

W. Steven Pray is Bernhardt Professor in the College of Pharmacy, Southwestern Oklahoma State University, Weatherford, Oklahoma. Contact him at steve.pray@swosu.edu.

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