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Rocky River pharmacist prescribes TLC as the best medicine

By Sue Botos

Leigh Ann Kukral

ROCKY RIVER – The pharmacy profession can be defined as linking health and chemical sciences, but according to  pharmacist Leigh Ann Kukral, the human touch is just as important an ingredient.

Recently retired after 34 years, the past 24 at the Rocky River CVS pharmacy, Kukral does not hesitate when asked what she misses most.

“The people. It’s really a challenging profession, but it’s really rewarding, and I think it’s because of the really deep personal connections you make with people,” Kukral said during a recent interview.

Over the course of her career, Kukral has made house calls, delivered prescriptions and attended patients’ wakes and funerals. She has also sat with those who were not able to leave their homes. She recalled one in particular.

“I had a young woman who was chronically ill and her parents would come in for her because she was too sick. But we would talk on the phone quite a bit,” Kukral remembered. “Her condition got worse, and she called one day and said she wanted to meet me because we had never met before.”

Kukral went to the woman’s home, sat with her and talked for a while. A few days later, the woman passed away.

“It just reminds me of the human part of what we do. I feel like that gets lost now,” Kukral recalled.

Her career choice seemed a natural to Kukral, a Garfield Heights native. “I was always really good at math and science. I was going to go to medical school (but) when I took a year off and was deciding what to do after I graduated from Ohio University, I just decided to go to pharmacy school,” said Kukral, who received her pharmacy degree from the University of Cincinnati in 1983.

Kukral credits her mother for instilling her strong work ethic and always encouraged herself and her brother and sister in school and work.

“She was always my hero. I always felt like she was a really courageous person,” said Kukral, remembering how her mom found a job as a secretary, after she and Kukral’s father divorced when the family was young. She eventually worked her way up to medical staff secretary.

Reminiscing about the changes she has seen over the years, Kukral said the field has definitely changed since she received her license in 1983. “Back then, there were no computers. People really didn’t even have insurance. It was just a pharmacist and a typewriter.”

She added that much more is expected of a pharmacist now. “You’re constantly juggling, trying to take care of patients and then trying to get everything done that the company wants you to do. The whole time you’re doing it, there is no margin for error, ever, period.

“I used to tell my students, or interns … the minute you walk through the door, you have to be perfect,” Kukral continued, her soothing voice gaining an edge, “So whatever you have going on in your life, the minute you walk through that door, it’s forgotten.”

She added that cool under pressure is a defining characteristic of a good pharmacist. “It’s a lot of stress. You have to have good people skills, you have to have really good leadership skills and you’ve got to be really empathetic. You’ve got to realize that everyone that comes to you has a story and you don’t know what it is. You don’t know what is going on in their life.”

The opiate crisis, she continued, calls for pharmacists to work even more closely with physicians, assisted by OARS (Ohio Automated Reported System) which tracks patient prescriptions.

Long- time customer Bob Erzen felt that Kukral had all of these qualities. “The pharmacy at CVS was always busy, yet if I needed to consult with her, she made me feel like I was the only one in the store,” he recalled.

“Her pharmacy staff  were always friendly and willing to go out of the way for customers. I attribute that to her selection and training of her staff.”

So what does the pharmacist prescribe for retirement? “Trying to feel what it’s like to be a normal person. For 35 years, I’ve worked 60 to 70 hours a week, so it’s kind of nice to take a step back and just weigh my options and just see what inspires me. I’m sure I’m going to do some volunteer work, but I’m waiting to see what the right opportunity is for me.”

 

 

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