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May 15, 2006
Contact: Mary Jane Dunlap, University Relations, (785) 864-8853.

Graduation stories: Husband, wife operate Morris County’s only pharmacy

LAWRENCE — When University of Kansas pharmacy student Catarina Rozman Rziha of Council Grove graduates Sunday, May 21, she will step into an around-the-clock job with her husband running the only pharmacy in Morris County.

Catarina and her husband, David Rziha (pronounced SHEE-A), a spring 2004 KU pharmacy graduate, have a working partnership with Connie Aldrich, the owner of Council Grove’s Aldrich Apothecary. Aldrich is a 1977 graduate of KU’s School of Pharmacy.

For the Rzihas, the appeal of operating a family-owned pharmacy in this historic Santa Fe Trail community of about 2,300 residents was not only being their own bosses but becoming an integral part of a community.

“We wanted to be our own boss; we don’t have to go through a chain of command. We also get to be part of a small-town community and get to know our patients a lot better,” Catarina said.

Gene Hotchkiss, associate dean for administration at KU’s School of Pharmacy, said there is freedom for graduates who decide to operate their own pharmacy.

“They can practice where they want to practice and focus on specific aspects of pharmacy they want to incorporate into their practice,” Hotchkiss said. “If they work for someone else, they may not have that opportunity.”

Originally from the Council Grove area, David interned at the Aldrich Apothecary as a KU student.

“A lot of the people you see from the day they’re born to the day they die,” David said of working in a rural community.

Their customers tend to be elderly. David estimated the average age of customers is in the 60- to 70-year-old range. Some may be lonely; many simply enjoy a business transaction that involves conversation about more than their doctor’s prescription.

“They’re looking for human contact,” he said.

Catarina, who is originally from Johnson County, says time management has been the most important skill she has learned. The workday does not end at 5 p.m. for the Rzihas.

“If you work at a chain you’d work, say, 36 hours a week,” Catarina said. “We work anywhere from 60 to 100. You work, go home and do more work. But it’s the lifestyle that we chose.”

Because they operate the only pharmacy in this Flint Hills county of nearly 6,000 residents, the Rzihas do more than fill prescriptions. Compounding (specializing a medication according to a patient’s needs), filling nursing home medications and selling medical equipment are also part of the job.

KU’s School of Pharmacy helped inspire them to own an independent pharmacy in a rural area, Catarina said. There is an enormous amount of support within the school for those interested in independent pharmacies, she said, including scholarships and a network for sharing information on managing independent pharmacies.

The school’s alliance with the Kansas Independent Pharmacy Service Corporation and its Entrepreneurial Opportunities Group provides scholarships for pharmacy students, many of whom choose to practice in Kansas. The organization also helps to educate students on the ownership of independent pharmacies by setting up networking possibilities.

Through the alliance, Hotchkiss said, small groups of students have visited more than 100 independent pharmacies in Kansas. That way, “students observe first-hand how independent pharmacists function in their own community as a health care professional and an integral participant in the community,” Hotchkiss said.

As practicing pharmacists, the Rzihas participate in KU’s student internship rotation program. They will get three interns, starting in July, who will work at Aldrich Apothecary for one month.

“Dave and I have been very lucky. We’ve received a lot of help from independent pharmacists and hope to pass it on to other students and inspire them,” Catarina said.

KU’s doctor of pharmacy degree program requires six years of study, similar to a professional degree in law or medicine.

Catarina is the daughter of Karl and Maria Rozman of Overland Park (ZIP 66209) and is a graduate of Blue Valley North High School.

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