The Washington Times-Herald

Local News

June 13, 2013

Carl Burris: First pharmacist



With assistance from the GI Bill, Burris spent the next four years in Indianapolis studying to become a pharmacist. During his sophomore year at Butler, he married Eleanor James. While continuing his studies through the end of the 1940s, he worked part time at Kunkel Pharmacy in Indianapolis and after graduation worked a year as a fulltime pharmacist for Kunkel before returning with Eleanor to Washington in 1950.

His former employers and mentors at Williams Drugstore had ample pharmacists in 1950, “so I went up to the old Lindeman Pharmacy and I asked Bob Fox if he needed a pharmacist and he took me on.”

Burris went on to explain that it was actually called “Fox Drugs” after Bob Fox took it over, but it had always been called “Lindeman’s Drugs” when he was in high school. His starting pay at Fox Drugs was $2 an hour.

Burris had been working at Fox Drugs for a little over a year when “one day a couple of board members walked in and said, ‘Mr. Burris, we’re interested in getting a pharmacist for the hospital.’”  Hospital work had interested Carl since his days at Butler so the offer was attractive despite the fact the hospital could not afford to pay him more than the $2 an hour he was already making at Fox.

Olive DeHart was the hospital’s chief administrator at the time and according to Burris “she and the supervisor of nurses had to take care of the drugs in the hospital and that took up most of their time. They needed somebody that was able to do it full time.”

So in November 1951, almost 200 years after Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania Hospital hired the first documented hospital pharmacist in America, Burris became the first staff pharmacist at DCH.

He remembers the doctors on staff at the time were for the most part men much like him, returning servicemen, many with strong local ties.

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