As a youth Joe Goins used to ramble into the Randolph Drug Co. in Randleman with about the regularity of Richard Petty winning a race - which back then was pretty often.
Goins would find his way to the soda fountain and order his favorite concoction - a cherry Coke. And while he enjoyed the syrupy drink, he observed life in the drug store - little old ladies buying birthday cards for their grandchildren, kids buying gum to get baseball cards and the pharmacist.From his lofty perch behind the counter the pharmacist reigned supreme, busily filling prescriptions and answering his customers' questions.
Pharmacists were important, he realized. They helped people.
Goins knew what he wanted to become - a pharmacist. Not exactly a high-profile job, he realized, but an important one that took someone with a scientific mind. Someone like him.
``I liked the atmosphere (of pharmacies). They were helping people, doing a service to the community,' he remembers thinking.
Since completing the five-year School of Pharmacy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1977, and as the former chairman of the board of deacons at Mount Calvary Baptist Church and teacher of the church's young adult class, Goins, 35, has had ample opportunities to help people. Even at work he rarely passes up the opportunity to help people, say his co-workers in the pharmacy of High Point Regional Hospital.
Goins' days are always full and sometimes he is asked to ``go the extra mile,' - a trait which Goins often displays, say his superiors.
``I like to think that I go the extra mile,' says Goins. ``I put myself in someone else's place. I find we act differently when we do that.'
In January Goins was chosen the hospital's Employee of the Year - an honor bestowed upon only one of the hospital's 1,350 employees. An honor not to be taken lightly, says Beth Peters, employment coordinator for the hospital.
Goins, a quiet kind of guy in a job that doesn't get a lot of public recognition, was surprised when he heard the news. ``I was in shock. I was totally not suspecting it,' he says.
But he apparently deserves the honor.
``Joe is very sincere,' says his boss Lloyd Ruona, pharmacy director. ``He does a good job. He's very much a Christian and he lives a Christian life. He's kind and considerate of the patients, his co-workers and the doctors. He's proud of the hospital.'
As this year's winner Goins received $250, a reception and banquet in his honor, and the addition of his name on a plaque listing all of the hospital's former Employee of the Year winners. The take isn't as great as winning the New York lottery or picking a long shot in the Kentucky Derby. But then Goins isn't in his profession for the take.
``I feel like I'm helping to ease someone else's suffering,' says Goins, a father of four. ``I enjoy the thought of doing something for someone else.'
When patients enter a hospital they expect to get help from someone else. They expect it from the doctors treating them, the nurses attending them and the technicians taking their X-rays. But rarely do patients think about the help they get from the hospital's pharmacists - the guys and gals down in the basement who daily fill hundreds of orders for medication. Without these behind-the-scene players, hospitals and modern medicine would grind to a halt.
Take, for example, a patient suffering from bed sores. Help can only come from Goins or one of his fellow pharmacists. Using knowledge acquired from 12 years of experience - almost nine of them at the hospital - Goins can whip up just the item to ease the pain.
It's called a BB, says Goins. That's short for a bismuth and bourbon, an unlikely compound known only to doctors and pharmacists. But unlike other things mixed with bourbon, most notably ice, a BB is a topical agent, he says.
Goins first came to High Point Regional in 1977 while on a block rotation during his final months in school. Following graduation later that year, he began a four-year stint working in commercial pharmacies. In 1981 he returned to High Point Regional.
``I wanted to do something more challenging,' he says. ``I wanted to use my education more, on such things as making IVs (intravenous solutions). There are no two days alike here. I enjoy being here more because of the opportunity to learn different things.'
As High Point Regional has expanded it treatment capabilities, Goins and his fellow pharmacists have expanded their pharmaceutical knowledge to keep up with the times. Take, for example, the treatment of cancer. In the past decade science has discovered new ways to fight the disease using chemotherapy. The drugs used in the chemo solutions are very toxic and handling them - measuring out precise amounts for each patient and packaging it - is very dangerous, he says.
Pharmacists handle chemo solutions on a daily basis and are exposed to several toxic chemicals which can cause serious blood and nerve disorders as well as cancer, the disease the solutions fights after being combined. When mixing the chemicals Goins wears double gloves, a mixing gown and goggles. All mixing is done inside a special cabinet that draws fumes and spills into a ventilator, away from the mixer.
Goins' day begins at 7:15 a.m. in front of a computer. Like millions of other Americans in the work place, he has become computer literate. In September, the pharmacy began using computers to generate medication orders, labels and formulas, and to keep a running inventory. Like most innovations, the switch to silicon intelligence was difficult at first. But the computers are now helping increase productivity, says the pharmacist. ``We have more information to handle now.' he says.
Each day the staff of the pharmacy must make up a day's worth of medication for each of the hospital's 250 or so patients. With each patient on an average of five or six medications, the task is considerable, says Goins. After each patient's daily medication order is filled, it must be checked and rechecked. There is no room for error.
After work, Goins returns to his home in the Hillsville community south of Archdale. He is always greeted by his wife, Penny, a former RN, and his four children - Carry Jo, 11; Robbie, nine; Cathy, four-and-a-half; and the newest addition, Randall, nine-months.
With 12 years of work experience under his belt, Goins is solidly entrenched in his profession. But he looks forward to the day when he can move into pharmacy administration, the next rung up the ladder.
Will that require additional education?
He hopes not. ``With four kids I've got enough education going on with math and history,' he says with a laugh.