Con­tented in Heart’s Con­tent

David Dawe re­flects on his nearly three decades as a phar­ma­cist in Trin­ity Bay


Laugh­ter may be the best medicine. But, de­spite his good sense of hu­mour, David Dawe re­al­izes if laugh­ter could cure all that ails you, the Heart’s Con­tent phar­ma­cist and his col­leagues might find them­selves out of busi­ness.

And that would be no laugh­ing mat­ter.

Af­ter 30 years of op­er­at­ing an in­de­pen­dent com­mu­nity phar­macy in Heart’s Con­tent, Dawe still loves his job — mainly be­cause of the rare op­por­tu­nity it gives him to be on a first name ba­sis with his cus­tomers, or as he likes to call them, his pa­tients.

What prompted Dawe, a Gan­der na­tive, to end up prac­tic­ing phar­macy in Heart’s Con­tent? His grand­fa­ther, Ge­orge Sin­yard, was a Heart’s Con­tent na­tive who moved to Har­bour Grace in 1943. And Rex Sin­yard, a well-known Har­bour Grace phar­ma­cist, is Dawe’s un­cle.

Dawe al­ways liked the sci­ences as a stu­dent.

“ There were seven of us in our fam­ily and my fa­ther drove a taxi. So I guess there was an ex­pec­ta­tion there, es­pe­cially on the first and sec­ond sons, to try and bet­ter your lot through post-sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion and a pro­fes­sion,” he says.

For Dawe, the choice was easy. He stud­ied phar­macy at the old Col­lege of Trades and Technology in St. John’s, grad­u­at­ing in 1977 as a mem­ber of the col­lege’s third phar­macy class.

Af­ter spend­ing his first two years work­ing in Gan­der, Dawe found him­self in Heart’s Con­tent.

Op­por­tu­nity knocks

Af­ter op­er­at­ing his first phar­macy from a rented room in the town hall dur­ing his first two years in the town, Dawe pur­chased a build­ing next to the Cable Sta­tion, for­merly known as Martin’s Gro­cery and Gen­eral Store. He ren­o­vated the build­ing and opened his phar­macy and con­ve­nience store in April 1982.

The store shelves were once filled with ev­ery­thing from mag­a­zines to hair dyes and other con­fec­tionery items.

But a visit to the store ear­lier this month re­vealed those shelves are get­ting bare. In fact, Dawe notes, some­times tourists vis­it­ing in the sum­mer­time ask if he is clos­ing up shop.

He ex­plains large in­ter­na­tional re­tail giants like Wal-Mart have ef­fec­tively wiped out the con­fec­tionary side of his busi­ness, the same as they have done to count­less small busi­nesses in ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties around the prov­ince.

Now with ev­ery­body driv­ing two cars and shop­ping malls within com­mut­ing dis­tance, Dawe ex­plains one of the only rea­sons they come into his store these days is to have their pre­scrip­tions filled, and avail of the Sears out­let op­er­ated un­der the same roof. Dawe keeps the op­er­a­tion go­ing with the help of his two em­ploy­ees, Vir­ginia His­cock and Dawn Green.

“ We used to open seven days and nights a week. Now we’re down to six days (Mon­day-Satur­day) and no nights,” he says.

When he goes home at 5 p.m. his evenings and week­ends are his own, ex­cept for the oc­ca­sional call at home for his as­sis­tance.

“ This was the first Christ­mas Day I can re­call be­ing able to eat my Christ­mas din­ner with­out a sin­gle call,” he says.

Not that he would mind, be­cause the phar­ma­cist is no stranger to tak­ing calls, and re­spond­ing to them at home at all hours of the night.

Se­niors im­por­tant

One of the mes­sages on Dawe’s elec­tronic bul­letin board over his dis­pen­sary reads: “ Se­nior cit­i­zens are im­por­tant to us.”

It’s a mes­sage Dawe lives by. Us­ing the plow on his jeep, he has been known to clear snow from the drive­ways of se­niors.

“I’ve plowed drive­ways for wid­ows and peo­ple with heart con­di­tions, or se­niors who may not have younger fam­ily mem­bers to do it for them,” he says.

Phar­macy has changed a lot since Dawe started in the pro­fes­sion. For one thing, he says, the num­ber of med­i­ca­tions have more than dou­bled.

Peni­cel­lium G. was once the cure-all won­der drug. Then Amox­i­cil­lian, a new an­tibi­otic, came on the mar­ket in the late 1970s, and it went on from there, he notes.

Dawe used to type his pre­scrip­tions on an old man­ual type­writer. Now, like ev­ery­thing else, it’s all done on com­puter.

While some phar­ma­cists swore they would never get a com­puter, Dawe went high-tech early, be­com­ing, he claims, the first phar­macy on the Avalon to com­put­er­ize in the early 1980s.

While he still en­joys many as­pects of his pro­fes­sion, es­pe­cially the friendly rap­port with his pa­tients, Dawe says, “phar­macy is not as much fun as it used to be.”

One of the as­pects of the pro­fes­sion he doesn’t rel­ish is the ev­er­in­creas­ing reg­u­la­tions.

“ There is such a thing as pro­fes­sional judg­ment,” Dawe says, “ but govern­ment reg­u­la­tions are tak­ing more and more of that away from you.”

While he can see the need for such reg­u­la­tions in larger cities, where there is so much drug abuse, Dawe says in smaller places like Heart’s Con­tent, “I’m just used to be­ing a one-man show.”

One of the changes he likes is the Phar­macy Net­work, a govern­ment ini­tia­tive that con­nects all phar­ma­cies to a data­base.

Some 28 phar­ma­cies around the prov­ince are now linked, and Dawe’s Phar­macy was No. 7. All 400 phar­ma­cies will even­tu­ally sign on.

In essence, Dawe ex­plains, if you had an ac­ci­dent or be­came ill while trav­el­ling in any other part of the prov­ince, the doc­tor at­tend­ing you could plug into the net­work’s data­base and find out im­me­di­ately what med­i­ca­tions you may be tak­ing.

End of the line?

Asked about fu­ture plans, the 56-year-old says he will con­sider re­tire­ment “some­time within the next cou­ple of years.” But he’s in no hurry, and would even con­sider do­ing re­lief work for a phar­ma­cist who may want to take over his busi­ness.

He would have no hes­i­ta­tion in rec­om­mend­ing phar­macy as a pro­fes­sion for those with the right ap­ti­tude, which not only in­cludes an in­ter­est in the sci­ences, but also, as im­por­tantly, an abil­ity to com­mu­ni­cate ef­fec­tively with pa­tients.

But it’s not an easy pro­fes­sion to en­ter. He says there were about 370 ap­pli­ca­tions for the 40 seats in MUN’s School of Phar­macy this year. About 100 can­di­dates will be in­ter­viewed and about 26 from this prov­ince will be ac­cepted, which he finds “amaz­ing.”

When­ever he does re­tire, he plans to spend his twi­light years in Heart’s Con­tent.

“ This is my home,” he says.

Bad ap­ples

Since our in­ter­view with Dawe ear­lier this month, three St. John’s phar­ma­cists have been charged with pre­scrip­tion drug re­lated of­fences. The well-pub­li­cized cases have left the pro­fes­sion with a black eye.

Dawe feels “ to­tally dis­cour­aged that some­one in our as­so­ci­a­tion would go to those ex­tremes.”

De­scrib­ing the in­ci­dent as “an un­for­tu­nate sit­u­a­tion,” Dawe hopes peo­ple un­der­stands there are “ bad ap­ples” in ev­ery pro­fes­sion.

Point­ing out a re­cent sur­vey ranked phar­ma­cists in the top three pro­fes­sions for trust­wor­thi- ness, Dawe won­ders where they would rank if that poll were re­peated now.

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