We don’t think twice today about visiting our local pharmacy when we get sick to get that prescription filled.

But who is that white-cloaked medicinal genie smiling back at us as they hand over that bottle of cough medicine. What do they really do and what is a pharmacist anyway?

Pharmacies are a modern convenience that we often take for granted. But the apothecary or pharmacist is a concept that dates back to ancient times!

In fact, according to legend, Greek God of healing, Asclepius delegated to Hygieia, the responsibility of compounding his remedies. Yes, it was her job to draw the juice of that leaf to provide the topical treatment Acsclepius would use to heal a patient’s wound!

In ancient Greece and Rome, priests served physician duties, often being divided into two categories; physician-priests who visited patients and those who remained in the temple to prepare the patients’ remedies.

By the 700’s in Europe, Arabian influence had brought about a separation of physician and apothecary.

The idea of the physician and pharmacist serving separate roles was further structured and recognized with the advent of laws enacted by the city council of Bruges in 1683, forbidding physicians from preparing their own medications.

It wasn’t long after that, over on this side of the Atlantic, Benjamin Franklin decided to adopt the idea, appointing an apothecary to the Pennsylvania Hospital, officially launching the concept of the modern day pharmacist in North America!

Today, to become a pharmacist in Canada is strictly regulated.

Qualifying as a pharmacist in Canada requires a bachelor’s or doctor of pharmacy degree from one of 10 Canadian Universities, and the successful completion of a national board examination through the Pharmacy Examining Board of Canada.

But it doesn’t end there for the budding pharmacist.

A practical apprenticeship or internship is then required to gain the necessary level of experience to qualify to become a licensed pharmacist.

Pharmacists do more than just fill out prescriptions too. Your local pharmacist can provide vaccinations for things like the flu or travel, and if they offer compounding service like we do here at the Medicine Shoppe in West Kelowna, can even change your drug formulations, dosage and make therapeutic substitutions.

And don’t forget, your pharmacist knows your medication history, so we have a good handle on your health and can be a great sounding board and source of advice and information for you!

As pharmacists today, we may be on top of all the latest medicine and medicinal treatments, but our profession is one of the oldest on record!

Always remember, when in doubt, ask your pharmacist. We’re always just a phone call away!