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Demographics show need for more pharmacists

Nov. 25, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

Why another pharmacy school? Why so many pharmacies?

These questions come up quite frequently, and as a pharmacist, I would like to offer my opinions.

By now, we are familiar with the phrase "baby boomers" -- those babies born between 1946 and 1964, nearly 76 million.

These baby boomers changed society from the time they were born, influencing the advent of new products, new schools, new hospitals, trends, etc. In other words, everything they touched as they went from one period of time to the next. You could describe the eras as actual "explosions" of products, services, goods.

Now, we are readying our country for the next explosion!

Starting this year, 2012, 10,000 seniors citizens will turn 65 every day and, believe it or not, that will continue for the next 18 years!

By the year 2030, senior citizens will make up close to 25 percent of the total U.S. population. That will be close to 82 million senior citizens.

It is estimated that these senior citizens will have five or more chronic diseases, they will see 15 physicians on average and they will have over 40 doctor visits per year. I personally thought this was an exaggeration, until I started to add up my statistics.

Maybe you'll be surprised, also. And we're talking now, 18 years before 2030.

It is estimated that the U.S. will need 70,000 more pharmacists by the year 2030. Again, I thought that was a little exaggerated. Then, I started to count the pharmacies just in the area where I work and live.

Starting at the Rite Aid pharmacy on U.S. 60 in Huntington and driving to the tennis courts at the mall, I passed 11 pharmacies, and they're all busy. And the baby boomers are just arriving.

I think back to my visits in Florida and how I shook my head when I would see at least three pharmacies at seemingly every intersection. Well, think about the much higher population and the greater amount of senior citizens. No wonder!

Am I saying we're more prone to illnesses, more of a "pill society"? No!

Thankfully, we are living longer, more productive lives than our parents and grandparents and the medications of today are a prime reason. No one really likes to take pills, but the results sure make us thankful that they are available.

So, if you're in a discussion, and someone asks if you really think all those drug stores are necessary and did Marshall University really needed to start a pharmacy school, now you'll have a little additional information to say "Yes."

Or, if someone mentions the possibility of entering pharmacy school, you can tell them what a wonderful and needed profession it will be for them.

I have been very fortunate and blessed to have practiced pharmacy for close to 50 years, especially since it has been here, in Huntington.

I see a very bright future for my profession and the students now enrolled at the MU School of Pharmacy will be the best and brightest we have to offer. The knowledge they will possess, the technology they will have at their fingertips, the compassion they will have for their patients and their commitment to their profession will assure their important position in the medical field of tomorrow.

Maybe, and hopefully soon, there will be a pill available that I can take that would allow me to start my profession all over again. My father-in-law used to always say, "if we could just put an old head on a young set of shoulders..."

Makes more sense every day.

Fran D'Egidio is a Huntington pharmacist.

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