I have several role models, none more important and instrumental than my mother. She only had a seventh-grade education, yet pushed her children to become doctors, lawyers, and even a navy admiral. Another Louisiana native that I must mention is Mary Munsun Runge of Donaldsonville, LA. Her father, John Harvey Lowrey, was a pharmacist, and the first black pharmacy owner in the state of Louisiana. Obviously, breaking barriers was in her blood, and she was determined to become successful. After numerous leadership roles in the world of pharmacy, in 1979, she became the first black president of the American Pharmacists Association. Nowadays, many enter the practice of pharmacy only thinking of financial rewards or lucrative careers. This was not the case for her, and you can tell by her most memorable quote, “The greatest experience was helping poor African American people who couldn’t even pay for their medicine. Pharmacy gave me an opportunity to help people who needed help.”
I am doing what I believe I was put on earth to do, while working for myself, in the field that I chose. As it is often said, if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. However, I am certain that many of us are in professions that were, or still are, dominated by males. No matter your occupation, all can agree on the fact that some trailblazers faced extreme racism and resistance before we obtained recognition and refuge. I emphatically enjoy every moment of laying virtual bricks as I build my family legacy of STEAM education and generational wealth. In 45 years of doing business, the independent pharmacy I worked for had never hired a black pharmacist in charge. I’ll have you know that not only was I hired as the first black, male or female, PIC, but later that year I bought the entire practice. While I have to remind myself to pause and appreciate my mentors, I must also remain vigilant and sensitive to potential mentees. In pharmacy practice, “cycle fill,” is where medicine is automatically allocated for a patient on a predetermined routine basis. Since I know that my attitude determines my altitude in life, I need to keep a prescription of gratitude on hand at all times and take it daily as needed. Althea Gibson said, “I always wanted to be somebody. If I made it, it's half because I was game enough to take a lot of punishment along the way and a half. After all, there were a lot of people who cared enough to help me.”
In the spirit of Sankofa, I ask that you take time to identify the women who shaped you into who you became, and the women you could help to blossom. Celebrate the congruence of the past and future. Allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to share painful experiences, yet valuable enough to know those events don’t define you. After Mary Munsun Runge passed away in 2014, the American Pharmacists Association created a posthumous scholarship in her name. While this was a wonderful honor, why such an extended time delay with respect to honoring these “hidden figures?” The road has been long and tough for our people in this great nation; sometimes we win, and sometimes we learn. Remind yourselves, “Don’t let success go to your head, nor failure goes to your heart.” This Women’s History Month, let’s appreciate history as we simultaneously write history.