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10/11/2021

A family affair: Multigenerational pharmacists share their stories

Drug Store News sat down with several pharmacists to find out what has inspired them to keep pharmacy in the family.

They speak about their parents with utmost adulation. They are joyful that they are working side by side with their relatives. They can’t hide how proud they are of their sons and daughters.

These are the pharmacists whose grandparents, parents and siblings are pharmacists. They also are the pharmacists who are married to pharmacists, and whose children are following in their footsteps.  

Whether they are multigenerational pharmacy owners, or hang their white coats in vastly different healthcare settings, their passion and enthusiasm for pharmacy has made the profession truly a family affair. 

Drug Store News sat down with several pharmacists to find out what has inspired them to keep pharmacy in the family.

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Heidi Snyder
When Heidi Snyder was only 5 years old she loved going to work with her dad, Danny Kantor, at his pharmacy in Elmsford, N.Y. “I loved the smell of the pharmacy,” she said. “If I had a choice with what to do with my dad, that’s what I wanted to do.”

Snyder, who has owned Drug World in Cold Spring, N.Y., since 2003, said her dad was the ultimate entrepreneur. He eventually owned four pharmacies.

Kantor, who passed away in 2020, also had many leadership roles, including serving as president of the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York and as chairman of NACDS’ small chain conference, known as NACDS Regional today.

Snyder recalled that her dad was tough on her. He even fired her three times when she was a teen. 

After Snyder went to pharmacy school in Boston, she earned a master’s degree in marketing in Chicago, and then worked as a pharmacist in California.

When her dad wanted to retire at the age of 60, Snyder, who was 37 years old at the time, moved her family back from California so she could take over the business. “I read every file in every file cabinet. I sat in his office for every meeting he had. I got to hear him on the phone,” she said, adding that he even took her to NACDS board meetings. 

In 2000, Snyder’s father sold the business to her. “I had the opportunity of a lifetime,” she said. He told her: “‘You’ve got this.’”

Finally, Snyder recalled playing the game Life with her dad. “He wanted more of the dollar signs and hearts. I had equal amounts of each. I needed some fame in my life.”

Snyder, who has administered over 5,000 COVID-19 shots, recently got her share of fame. “Someone walked into my store and said, ‘You’re Heidi. You’re our heroine.’ I couldn’t stop crying,” she said.

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Catherine Cary
Catherine Cary and her sister Michelle Thomas are both pharmacists who grew up in Bremo Pharmacy, owned by their dad, Dan Herbert. 

Herbert, who was president of the American Pharmacists Association when he passed away in 2004, opened Bremo Pharmacy in Richmond, Va., in 1976. He oversaw five pharmacies at one time. 

“We grew up surrounded by pharmacy,” Cary said. “My dad ran the pharmacy, my mom did the books and our living room was the business office. All four children helped out when they were too young to work. We went with him so he wouldn’t be by himself, from when we were old enough to dust shelves until we were able to help when we got to high school. We did everything from delivering to dusting shelves to being a pharmacy technician.” 

Two of Herbert’s four children saw pharmacy as a natural career choice.

Cary noted that her father was ahead of his time in his ideas about pharmacy. “From the time I graduated pharmacy school, they were looking for ways in the community setting for pharmacists to be paid for their knowledge and advice versus for the product,” she said. 

When her dad, who was the CEO of the pharmacy, had a sudden and terminal illness, Cary, who enjoyed her role as a pharmacist, had to switch gears. “We asked, what are we going to do, hire someone to run the company or change our roles?” she said. “I decided to take on more of an admin role at that point. We had three pharmacies and realized smaller for us was better for keeping things in line as far as our goals and staying focused on who we were. We closed one of the three pharmacies this past year during COVID.”

Cary’s sister Michelle stayed on for a few years as a pharmacist after their dad passed. She now works at a physician’s office group, where she specializes in helping diabetes patients get control of their disease. Michelle and her brother, Charles Herbert, still remain active with the family business in an advisory role. Cary’s other sister, Wendy Vandy, serves as the project manager. 

Finally, Cary said she is glad she followed in her father’s footsteps. “It’s rewarding when you’re able to help people feel better and live healthier lives,” she said.

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Douglas Hoey
When Douglas Hoey, CEO of the National Community Pharmacists Association, was born, his father Phil was just six months into his dream of starting a new pharmacy that was located in the back of a Gibson’s Discount Center.

“I literally grew up in it, in the bays with the medicine, with my coloring books,” Hoey recalled. “Gibson’s had laundry detergent, vinyl records, mops, and guns and a variety of things. I’d go out front to buy a pack of gum, a comic book, and say, ‘My dad works in the back’ to get my 10% discount and, of course, they knew who I was because there weren’t a lot of other 6-year-old kids walking around the store by themselves. I grew up just hanging out at the store and then eventually started working at the store when I was 13, running one of the registers.” 

When Gibson’s left the community, Hoey’s dad took over the building and later built a freestanding pharmacy across the street.

Hoey, who started out as a journalism major in college, also was interested in premed. “A lot of kids in my high school who went to college were zoology majors, hoping to get into medical school,” he said. “I thought that they were putting all of their eggs in one basket. I thought I knew a lot about pharmacy, that’s practical. I’ll declare pharmacy and, if I don’t get into med school, I’ll be a pharmacist.”

Yet by the time Hoey went to pharmacy school, his love of pharmacy was blossoming. “Something clicked,” he said. “I was learning about the practice of pharmacy in pharmacy school and took that back to the store on spring and winter breaks and in the summers, where I worked to make money for college. I had the passion for the patients and for being able to make a difference, and on the business side, being able to marry up the business and patient side. I fell in love with that, and by the time that I had finished my sophomore year in college, I was accepted into pharmacy school, and that passion continues 30 years later.”

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After working for other independents for a few years and eventually for his dad for a couple of years, Hoey decided to go to Washington, D.C., to join NCPA. His move came shortly before his father’s plan to retire. “His being ready to retire didn’t jive very well,” Hoey said. “I was young and wanderlust was in my blood. I wanted to see the world before I settled down, so our timing didn’t match up very well,” he said, noting that his dad sold his pharmacy to a group in Oklahoma. 

While Hoey had his own pharmacy dream, he was quick to point out a slew of important decisions that his father made that have left a lasting impression on him.

The first was his dad’s decision to build a freestanding store. “It was a very wise decision,” he said. Hoey also credited his dad’s support of legislative issues for inspiring him to become an association leader. “When I got out of school, I practiced for five years before coming to NCPA. I was at his store for two of those years as a pharmacist. He paid for NCPA membership for me and his other four pharmacists.”

Hoey, who has been with NCPA for almost a quarter century, said that while his father would have preferred if he stayed in the family pharmacy store, he is proud of his son.

“I know he was happy about me going to NCPA, although at the time, he thought I was crazy moving 1,300 miles away to Washington, D.C., from the Midwest. He’s very proud of me today.”

It appears that despite the fact that Hoey followed his own pharmacy dream, his view of the future of pharmacy coincides with his father’s vision of what pharmacy ought to be. 

“We saw a lot of glimpses of the future of pharmacy through the pandemic, where the pharmacy industry has been talking about the fact that pharmacies will become more of a health destination, a health center,” Hoey said. “That’s slowly been happening, but the pandemic accelerated that with point-of-care testing and vaccinations.”

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Hugh Chancy
When Hugh Chancy’s parents — Hubert and Sue — opened their first pharmacy, Chancy Drugs in Hahira, Ga., in 1966, he was a young boy growing up in a pharmacy that housed a soda fountain. While the soda fountain left an impression on him, it was what he learned about the pharmacy profession that left a permanent mark.

Fast forward to today, Hugh, who is chairman of the National Community Pharmacists Association’s board, along with his brother, Bert Chancy, have expanded Chancy Drugs into five retail pharmacies and a long-term care pharmacy that services nursing homes and assisted living patients. Hugh’s wife Tina and his oldest son Patrick are both pharmacists who work in the family business. Bert’s wife Cyndi is also involved in the management of the family business.

“I was very young when the pharmacy was started,” Hugh Chancy said. “I got to see the impact of what my dad did and how it impacted the lives of people in the community. Originally I thought, I don’t want to follow in my dad’s footsteps and become a pharmacist. As I got older, I really resonated with the way he impacted our community. I realized then that pharmacy was truly a profession that could make a difference. I have always felt that I had a servant’s heart, and pharmacy is truly a service profession. So, what I was pushing against ended up pulling me back in.”

Chancy met his wife in pharmacy school. Upon graduation, they both worked for a chain pharmacy before returning to his hometown. Tina worked for a local hospital for a few years before joining the family business. Today, she runs the closed-door pharmacy, which services long-term care and assisted living facilities, as well as patients who want their medications packaged. 

What is it like to be married to a pharmacist? “It’s exciting because we both have similar passions,” Chancy said. 

“We both like to serve people and patients,” he said. “Early on, we both worked for the same big box store, and we did the same thing and we had some of the same complaints every day. When we got back into business with the family, all of our job roles changed, and so her day and my day are totally different. We’re both working toward the same goal, but we have different job responsibilities and are dealing with different issues. No matter how hard we try not to discuss pharmacy issues at home, somehow it always ends up in the  conversation.”

Chancy said that his son Patrick chose the pharmacy profession because he saw the same thing in his parents that he saw in his father. “He saw what we were doing was having a positive impact on patients’ lives and our community,” he said, noting that Patrick organized the pharmacy’s vaccine clinics.

Finally, Chancy, who became involved with NCPA in 2002, and began serving in leadership roles since 2009, said that he and his wife Tina have been involved with local and state pharmacy organizations since they graduated from the University of Georgia College of Pharmacy. Patrick is following that path also. “We saw that from my father. He instilled in me early on that you always want to be a part of the solution, so always serve in a capacity that is available to you,” he said.

Heather Ferrarese
“Everybody says they have the best dad, but I really do,” said Heather Ferrarese, who has been working side by side with her 80-year-old pharmacist father Brian Ferrarese at Bartle’s Pharmacy in Oxford, N.Y., which has been serving the community for over 50 years.

What drove Ferrarese to the pharmacy profession was the relationship her dad has within the community. “I saw all the good that he did. In a small family business, we offer 24/7 emergency services, and just seeing the respect and appreciation that people had for him. I wanted to emulate that as much as I could,” she said.

With that goal, Ferrarese returned home after graduating from pharmacy school to join her dad, who still practices. “He’s about 15 feet away,” she said with a chuckle. “Most people think it will be very difficult to work with your father. I’ve come to know my dad in a completely different way. I always need his guidance. I really admire his work ethic and his caring for the community.”

When Ferrarese isn’t taking care of patients, she’s on the forefront of legislative issues that impact pharmacy. She is president-elect of the Pharmacist Society of New York, of which her dad has been a member for many years. 

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Michele Belcher
Michele Belcher’s father, Michael Maffett, always had ambitions about owning a pharmacy. After he was discharged from the military, he decided to go to pharmacy school. 

After graduating from Oregon State University in 1966, Maffett worked for a few different chain drug stores in Oregon and Washington. Then he and wife Bonnie moved back to their home town of Grants Pass and purchased the Grants Pass Pharmacy from Nan and Lewis Stidham, who founded the pharmacy in 1933.

Belcher recalled that when her parents bought the pharmacy in 1973, her mother did all the bookkeeping and gift purchasing. “It was a husband and wife operation,” she said, noting that they also purchased the building.

Belcher, who was 10 years old at the time, said that she and her siblings spent a lot of time at the pharmacy after school. “I helped a lot in the pharmacy,” she said. “We had an old-fashioned soda fountain that we still operate. I stood on a box and helped punch the numbers into the cash register. When I would go to work with him, I loved being able to help around the store.”

When Belcher became a teenager, she helped to keep patient profiles, which were kept manually. “We had a profile system set up for each patient and utilized a carbon copy when you wrote out the receipt. I would write the patient’s receipt, with their name, the medication name, quantity of pills and the price,” she recalled.

After Belcher’s husband was honorably discharged from the Marines in 1993, the opportunity to run her parent’s pharmacy presented itself. 

Looking back on the opportunity that she had to work alongside her father, who is in his 80s, Belcher said, “Those are memories that I will never forget. He had such a caring and empathetic way of taking care of his patients.”

Finally, Belcher, who will be president of NCPA this October, noted that in the ’70s, her dad served on NCPA’s long-term care steering committees. “He felt very passionate about not only giving back to your community, but giving back to your pharmacy profession,” she said.  

Janet Engle and Andrew Donnelly
What is it like being married to another pharmacist?

“We both understand the stresses and the importance of each other’s jobs,” said Janet Engle, who met her husband Andrew Donnelly when they were both working in the same pharmacy. 

“We also had a lot of mutual interests besides pharmacy,” Engle said. “Our careers are similar in that we both have held faculty positions and various administrative positions, but that is where the similarity ends.”

Engle is now the executive director of the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education while Donnelly is the director of Pharmacy Services at UI Health, and associate dean for clinical affairs and clinical professor, department of pharmacy practice, at the University of Illinois Chicago College of Pharmacy.

“We don’t need to spend a lot of time explaining things that come up at work,” Engle said. “It is also nice that we can help each other out by reviewing publications or posters, for example.”

Engle’s husband also keeps her current with trends in hospital and ambulatory pharmacy as he oversees a large pharmacy department that has seven outpatient pharmacies.  

Another benefit to both being pharmacists is that often the couple is speaking or presenting posters at the same pharmacy meeting, as they did at an international pharmacy meeting in Seoul, South Korea.

The couple’s oldest child, who is going into her P3 year of pharmacy also teaches her parents new things. “Our daughter gave me a very good perspective on the challenges that student pharmacists were facing with the pandemic,” Engle said.

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