BEAVER, Pa. (AP) — Marvin Bahm always considered his career as a pharmacist to be more than just a dispenser of drugs. He looked at his customers as friends in need of his expertise.
Still a practicing pharmacist, Bahm, 83, has been making friends and filling prescriptions for 60 years.
After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 1953, he joined the family business in Midland, Bahm's Pharmacy, which he took over in 1971. Bahm's Pharmacy stood as a familiar sight on Midland Avenue for more than a half-century until it was sold to Rite Aid Corp in 1997.
He continued to work there part-time, along with his pharmacist son, Joel. Today, you can find Bahm still doing what he loves at the Beaver Health Mart pharmacy in Beaver, where he has worked for the last four years.
"I love it here," he said. "They would do anything for you . and that's the way a pharmacy should be."
Being a pharmacist is in his blood, but at first, he wasn't sure. He thought about being a pilot, but never pursued it. After spending some time in his youth "fooling around," Bahm recalled his dad telling him to make a decision on what he wanted to become . so off to pharmacy school he went.
By graduation time in 1953, Bahm's Pharmacy was quite busy. Midland was a small, booming steel town with many thriving businesses. His dad asked for his help at the store.
"So, I came back, and I stayed there forever," he said.
Bahm said the primary objective of a pharmacist today remains the same as it was back then: To interact with and help the customer.
One thing that has changed is the amount of education a pharmacist needs. According to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, graduates must have at least two years of regular college courses before they enter a four-year pharmacy program. After those six years, they earn a pharmacy doctorate degree.
The technology used in pharmacy has also greatly evolved in order to keep up with the increase of prescriptions being filled.
"If you come into the pharmacy and see the computers they have there, it's really wonderful," Bahm said.
That's a big contrast to the pharmacy of the 1950s when a lot of mixing was done in the store. The pharmacies had all the current drugs and everything they needed, Bahm said, but it wasn't like it is today.
"We did our own compounding, made up pills, made capsules, and cough syrup," he said. "Of course, there are a lot of new drugs out now."
Some chain pharmacies are becoming more automated with less customer contact, something Bahm frowns upon.
"You can't help anybody that way," he said. "You need that closeness with your customer."
Bahm recalled times when he would go out in the middle of the night to deliver a prescription for a mother and her sick child.
"If I had to go into the pharmacy to get the medicine, well, I'd deliver it, too," he said. "We took care of our people."
Adrienne Barnes, a pharmacist at Beaver Health Mart, can understand the importance of building relationships with those who come into the pharmacy.
"The ties in the community are just so strong and you can learn from him (Bahm), whether you've been practicing one day or 30 years," she said. "To have somebody that's been practicing for 60 years be a part of your life is just so humbling."
Bahm has lived in Midland since 1941. He and his late wife raised two sons and four daughters. He continues to play an active role in the community and has served on various school boards over the past 41 years.
Bahm may only put on that symbolic white lab coat part-time these days, but the love of his chosen field has been going strong for 60 years.
"I worked all my life and I enjoy it," he said. "I really do."
Information from: Beaver County Times, http://www.timesonline.com/