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Prescription for a full life

Pharmacy leader enhances lives with humor, dedication and innovation

by Angela Koenig 

Four billion prescriptions a year land in U.S. medicine cabinets marked with warning labels that have probably prevented millions of medical mishaps and saved many lives, due to the caring and inventive genius of alumnus and professor emeritus of pharmacy J. Richard “Dick” Wuest.

In the 1970s, Wuest was instrumental in developing and copyrighting the system of using brightly colored auxiliary labels on prescription bottles — alerts and reminders like “Shake well” or “Do not drink alcoholic beverages with this medication.”

The system, Wuest says, started with a simple list on paper that became a universal system still used today. To educate retail pharmacists, Wuest and his team of pharmacists created charts to explain which types of labels went on which drugs. He also co-authored “The Family Guide to Prescription Drugs.”

During his UC career, Wuest, Pharm ’58, M (Pharm ’68), PharmD ’71, supervised the education of more than 2,600 pharmacy students and championed the development of a national licensure exam, for which the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy awarded him the Distinguished Service Award.

He also won the 2011 William Howard Taft Medal for Notable Achievement, UC’s highest alumni honor, which recognizes career accomplishments in the honoree’s chosen field.

“Dick has dedicated his life to the education of pharmacists and the development of the practice of pharmacy,” said Daniel Acosta, pharmacy dean at the time of his nomination. “His awards and recognitions are too numerous to list. Suffice it to say that he is an unselfish and caring individual who has helped many people establish successful careers in pharmacy.”

Those who know Wuest say that despite the seriousness he gives to his work, a spark of levity always accents it, as well. Wuest, it turns out, is a natural-born humorist and storyteller. Such was the case at the 2012 dedication of the J. Richard Wuest Family Pharmacy Practice Skills Center when the benefactor himself couldn’t pass up the chance to throw in a joke.

“Then the skeleton sits up and asks the pharmacist: ‘Hey doc, can you give me something to stop this coffin?’”

As usual, laughs from the audience prove that Wuest always has the right delivery, an asset he attributes to both his Irish heritage and growing up as a “short” young man. Being funny, he says, was necessary for “survival among older, bigger young men.”

Today, however, jokes are a gift he gives, not a protection he uses. The Cincinnati native grew up to become a man whom others look up to and who uses his humorous side to achieve higher purposes.

“You just get more done if other people are happy with the fact that you are around them,” he states. Experience says he should know. The James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy professor emeritus has more than three decades of experience in advancing the field and educating pharmacists, from 1967 to his retirement in 2001. 

Wuest’s financial support of the college includes $25,000 to seed the Wuest Pharmacy Practice Fund, which has grown in excess of $60,000 with contributions from alumni, faculty and staff. This year, Wuest made a $500,000 contribution toward the new skills center. At the time of the center’s dedication, the college’s interim dean William Fant said, “Dick was instrumental in the development of our experiential training programs and pharmacy practice laboratories as pharmacy transitioned to a patient-centered profession.”



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