ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
What are the odds of a successful small-town pharmacy, in less than a year, filling two key positions-one as a new business partner-with two relatively recent graduates from the hometown high school?
“I just think it was totally the Lord’s intervention on how this all came about,” said Lou Greenhaw, owner of Greenhaw Pharmacy in Hillsboro since she bought it from her father-in-law in 1991.
In 2005, she was needing an exit strategy from the day-to-day affairs of the business. For some time, she and husband Steve had been anticipating a move to Washington State.
The couple had planned to move there eventually after Steve, a pilot with United Airlines, reached the company’s mandatory retirement age of 60.
But when the airline dropped its pension plan as part of its bankruptcy strategy, the Greenhaws decided their best financial move would be for Steve to earn more income by flying larger aircraft during his last few years with the company.
That meant moving to the Northwest sooner than they had planned. But where would Lou find the right people to carry on the pharmacy business?
As it turned out, she didn’t have to look far.
Eric Driggers, a 1997 graduate of Hillsboro High School, came on staff as a pharmacist in May 2005. He entered into a partnership arrangement with Greenhaw starting this year.
Sara (Janzen) Raugust, a 2001 grad, will begin full-time employment as a pharmacist later this month after passing the last of her state examinations last week.
Lou Greenhaw said she couldn’t be more thrilled with the turn of events.
“To have somebody who comes in and has the same ideas about helping people and about total health care, and not just put pills in the bottle and send them out the door-somebody who has the same background of helping and caring-boy, it has to be Divine,” she said.
Being hometown kids who worked in the pharmacy while they were students at Tabor College didn’t hurt either.
“I felt like when they said yes, they knew what they were getting into,” Greenhaw said. “It wasn’t going to be a surprise-for bad or good.”
A hometown surprise
Well, it was a surprise to some degree. Driggers and Raugust, who both earned their pharmacy degrees at the University of Kansas, said they never prepared for their careers with the goal of returning to their hometown.
“You kind of have to go where the position is-and it was filled here,” said Driggers, who graduated from Tabor in 2001 before moving on to KU. “I had no idea I’d come to Hillsboro.”
Raugust, meanwhile, said she and husband Paul knew they wanted to move to a small town when it came time to start a family, but “we hadn’t been thinking about Hillsboro. It just kind of worked out that way.”
Driggers said he always knew he wanted to do something in the health-care field. At Tabor, he was exposed to a variety of areas that interested him. A stint at Greenhaw during a Christmas break settled his mind on a career in pharmacy.
“It was definitely something that fit what I wanted to do,” he said.
Small is good
During his last year of pharmacy school, Driggers returned to Greenhaw Pharmacy for one of his placement rotations. The experience convinced him of the value of working in a small pharmacy rather than a large chain.
“I like the patient contact,” he said. “At this pharmacy, more than a lot of pharmacies, you’re directly involved with the patient.
“In a big city, you have the glass between the pharmacist and the patient. That’s not something I wanted. I wanted more interaction.”
But because Greenhaw Pharmacy had no staff opening while Driggers was doing his rotation there, he and wife Tami figured they’d make their home somewhere between Hillsboro and South Dakota, where her family lives.
“But the way this fell together, we just knew this was where we were supposed to be,” he said. “Tami went to Tabor, so she knew Hillsboro, too.”
Like Driggers, Raugust always envisioned herself working somewhere in the health-care field.
“Pharmacy is a great way (to do that),” Raugust said. “You’re dealing with health care and you’re still interacting with the doctors and nurses, but you get to talk to patients face-to-face.
“I really like getting to know people and being able to help individually on a personal basis.”
After a year and a half at Tabor, during which she worked part-time at Greenhaw Pharmacy, she and Paul moved to Lawrence, where Sara began her training at KU.
Having worked at chain pharmacies through much of her time at Lawrence, Raugust said she learned to appreciate the benefits of working at a smaller, independent pharmacy.
“It’s been very nice to come to Hillsboro, where I obviously know some people,” she said. “It’s definitely been good to be more one-on-one in Hillsboro.”
Raugust appreciates other aspects of the move, too.
“Looking back,” she said, “I’m seeing all the benefits of growing up in Hillsboro. I’m looking forward to raising our kids here.”
With the recent completion of her training, Raugust began working part-time at Greenhaw Pharmacy earlier this month.
Driggers, meanwhile, has been full time with the business for more than a year now. He said he has no regrets about the turn his career has taken.
“It’s been good,” he said. “I like both the pharmacist and business part of it, too. The change of pace is something I really like.”
Lou Greenhaw said her feelings about hiring Driggers and Raugust couldn’t be more positive.
If all goes according to plan, she and Steve will make their move northwest in fall.
But that doesn’t mean she’ll be cutting ties to Hillsboro or to the pharmacy. She’ll continue to be a partner with Driggers until he eventually fulfills the purchase contract.
“I’m going to still own part of it, so I’m going to keep an eye on the financial side of it,” she said. “Eric has told me that I can come back and work occasionally, too.”
With Steve’s mother living in Hillsboro, Lou said they’ll likely be back in town “at least every other month.”
“If someone wants to take a week’s vacation, or Eric wants to work on a project…or take some time off, I’d love to come back and fill in.”