Pharmacists are allied health professionals. It now takes six years to become a Doctor of Pharmacy or PharmD. You need to go at least two years to a regular college or university, and then four years to a school of pharmacy. You must pass a test called the PCAT in order to get into a pharmacy school. In order to graduate, you must perform several different externships. An externship is a real-life situation where you do real work at a pharmacy under the supervision of an experienced registered pharmacist. After you graduate from pharmacy school, you must pass a State Board examination before you can practice pharmacy. Once you are a pharmacist you must complete 15 credit hours of continuing education every year to keep your license. It sounds like a lot of work, and it is, but most pharmacists in the U.S. make $80,000 a year or more!
There are many specialties in pharmacy. These include community and chain store pharmacists. Some are employed in matters of pharmacy law and pharmacy administration. Others are researchers and educators. Some work in hospitals, and some administer IV medications to patients in their homes.
A lot of pharmacists work part-time. I am one of those.
I worked full time for a number of years in a very busy food and drug store near Washington DC. I’ve also worked in hospitals and I still work part-time for one nearby. I’ve noticed over the years that a lot of people take medication they might not need (or at least not as much of) if they would just watch their diet more closely. There are a lot of serious medical conditions that can be greatly influenced by the food we eat. They include, but are not limited to, type II diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, cancer, and depression. I started paying attention to where my family’s food came from and what was in it. I saw lots of processed ingredients like partially hydrogenated oils (or trans-fat) and corn syrup in simple foods like bread and crackers. I also learned that a synthetic growth hormone was used in cows to make them produce more milk, but the milk isn’t labeled as such. I even found out that we routinely use some of the same antibiotics on chickens that we use to treat human disease. This is helping to cause these antibiotics to become less effective against the germs. All this made me want to learn how to grow healthier food, so I began a new profession – I became a farmercist!
Farmers raise food. On our farm we have goats, sheep, chickens, ducks, and rabbits. We have a vegetable and flower garden, and we’ve planted some fruit trees. We produce our own meat, milk, cheese, eggs, and vegetables. We can also sell extras to our neighbors. Some things we must have money for, like building a barn and fencing in the animals. Expensive things like these would be almost impossible to do without some sort of income outside the farm itself. That’s why working part-time is a great help – I earn money but still have time to manage the farm. We still buy some of our food, but we try to get it locally so we can see where it comes from and how it is cared for. That helps other people stay on their farms, too.
There are as many different kinds of farmers as there are pharmacists. Some raise cows, or grow corn, wheat or soybeans. Others grow mushrooms, vegetables, flowers, or herbs. Some have thousand-acre ranches in the West, and some have just 100 acres in the Northeast. There are even farms on 3-acre plots in the suburbs! You can farm part-time or full-time, but just like any profession, it is the interest and care that you put into your product that determines if you do good work.
Did you keep up with the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) crisis in Britain in 2001? Did you know that 4,206,000 animals (583,000 cattle, 3,474,000 sheep, 145,000 pigs, 3,000 goats, 1,000 deer, and 1,000 other animals) were slaughtered? Did you know that the vast majority of these slaughtered animals did not have FMD and were perfectly healthy? Did you know that FMD is rarely fatal and that animals usually fully recover within 2 – 3 weeks? Did you know that there is a vaccination against FMD? If this weren’t so tragic it’d be funny.
Two good sites that collect news and information on FMD — not to mention “Mad Cow” disease, vCJD, genetically-modified (GM) foods, etc. — are www.OrganicConsumers.org and www.mad-cow.org — the second one is run by a molecular biologist in the Pacific Northwest and we like his occasional pithy comments that he interjects in some of his articles, though, unfortunately it is not being kept up to date. As you peruse these sites you most likely experience a powerful cocktail of emotions: scepticism, sorrow, disbelief, rage, and disgust, to name just a few. A few interesting articles from these and other sites:
And, from the “It couldn’t happen here, could it?” files: