By Marc Summerfield
UMMC Director of Pharmacy Services
Unlike the abundance of physicians and nurses depicted in film, the number of pharmacists in the movies — going back as far as you like — is few. How many pharmacists in film can you name?
Unfortunately, fewer than a handful are notable. The first was 1933. W.C. Fields plays the pharmacist Mr. Dilweg in The Pharmacist. The third was 1985: James Garner plays a small-town druggist who romances Sally Field in Murphy’s Romance. Arguably, the most famous film-pharmacist appears in the Christmas-season favorite, It’s a Wonderful Life, starring Donna Reed as Mary Hatch Bailey and Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey. The great character actor H.B. Warner plays the BedfordFalls druggist, Mr. Gower.
In It’s a Wonderful Life, Mr. Gower, depressed over the death of his son, loses his concentration and miss-fills a prescription. A young George Bailey realizes Mr. Gower’s mistake and purposely fails to deliver the medication; thus, saving a patient.
In 2003, UMMC became the first hospital in the world to employ robots (TUGs®) to deliver medications from the satellite pharmacies to the patient care units. The first TUG® was used to deliver medications from the pharmacies in the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center to the Shock Trauma units. The hospital now employs eight TUGs® to deliver medications to the Gudelsky patient care units, Weinberg patient care units, as well as in the Shock Trauma Center.
Consistent with the practice of naming inanimate objects, the pharmacy decided to name each TUG®. The pharmacy named the first TUG® “Mr. Gower,” and he has been serving the hospital well for almost 10 years, 24/7. In the photo above, he poses with two of his human colleagues, Marisol De León, RPh, PharmD, critical care pharmacy operations manager, and Sina Esnaashari, pharmacy application analyst.
Other TUGs® have been named “Clara” and “Florence,” as tributes to the great nurses, Clara Barton and Florence Nightingale. “Edgar” is a tribute to Poe, and “Tony” is in honor of a long-time UMMC pharmacist who died shortly before this TUG® was purchased.
So, when you are watching It’s a Wonderful Life this year for the ___th time (fill in the blank) and see Mr. Gower, remember that there is a lonesome, eponymous TUG® traveling the halls and serving the patients, same as all pharmacists and pharmacy technicians do, but in a different, modern, technology-based manner.