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Bob Grimm, a longtime pharmacist, now volunteers as his time as the pharmacist for the non-profit health clinic at the Hurtt Family Health Clinic, part of the Orange County Rescue Mission in Tustin., MARK RIGHTMIRE, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Article by: By ERIKA I. RITCHIE / STAFF WRITER for OC Register.
Bob Grimm had already spent one career improving pharmacy systems for the federal and state governments.
So three years ago, when he started a second, unpaid career as a pharmacist at Orange County Rescue Mission’s Hurtt Family Health Clinic, his experience came in handy.
The medical storage room he found when he arrived was a mess. Some of the medications were expired. He organized medicines, alphabetically, by generic names. He calculated the organization’s need for drugs by amount and type and matched the stock to those calculations. He made sure everything was dispensed with child-proof containers and labeled correctly.
In short, Grimm made sure that the Rescue Mission’s pharmacy followed California Pharmacy law.
Then, after the overhaul, Grimm’s work began.
He was ready to serve thousands of low-income families. Some are living in transition at the Mission. Others are homeless, or uninsured, yet still in need of medications for acute or chronic conditions.
Grimm volunteers two days a week. He checks on shipments from wholesalers and rotates the stock. He scans a computer system he helped develop to prepare medications pick-ups – counting them out in single doses.
Now that the pharmacy operates at the required California pharmaceutical standards, the clinic’s doctors can write prescriptions that are instantly filled. Patients get them low-cost or free.
Grimm, 67, said his last full-time job was with the county, as the chief pharmacist at Theo Lacey Jail.
His retirement, at 64, didn’t coincide with any sudden loss in energy or drive. Grimm still wanted to help people; he still could.
“The main purpose of life is to provides services. I saw this as a religious organization to provide a ministry of service,” he said.
And how would Grimm serve?
By using “my gift of pharmacy.”
For Jewel Loff, chief executive of the clinic, Grimm is a God-send.
“As a small clinic we couldn’t afford to pay for a pharmacist,” she said. “This is a population not a lot of people are interested in supporting.
He is willing to serve. He does it humbly.”
A PERFECT MATCH
Grimm set his eyes on pharmacy as an eighth grade student in Newton, Iowa. He caught the bug when a teacher gave out pamphlets on careers. The one on pharmacy spoke to his interests: healthcare, science, chemistry and math.
His father took him to a local drug store and introduced him to the pharmacist – Holgar Christiansen. With Christiansen, Grimm was given tasks; restocking shelves and generally helping out. As he worked, Grimm watched Christiansen count and prepare medications.
“It seemed like he had a good life providing service to to people,” Grimm said choking up a bit at his early memories.
“He was an excellent role model.”
Christiansen recognized Grimm’s passion and took him to an introduction on pharmacy studies at the University of Iowa. A letter of recommendation from Christiansen help get him admitted.
Through college, Grimm worked for another local pharmacist and began dreaming of opening his own drug store. But when he pulled the first lottery in the draft, the plan changed. He volunteered for the Army so he could get a pharmacy position.
The experience he got working in military hospitals still fascinates him.
“Patients in hospitals have more acute medical needs,” he said. “I felt I was helping sicker people more.”
After serving, Grimm sought out jobs in Veterans Administration hospitals. He worked at hospitals in Seattle and Omaha, Neb. He started the first institutional pharmacy program while teaching at Creighton University.
He moved to the Veterans Administration in Salt Lake City, Ut. He helped create an automatic data processing system which later became a prototype for federal pharmacies nationwide.
At the Veterans Administration hospital in Long Beach he coordinated with USC to train students. He developed the hospital’s first position for a mental health treatment pharmacist. In Long Beach, Grimm interacted a bit more directly with patients.
“Educating these folks and making them understand the importance of the medications was critical,” he said. “I never got personally involved in their lives, but I’d help them manage as best as I could inside the VA center.”
Grimm retired from the federal system after 29 years of service.
But pharmacy still called him. He got a job as a state pharmacy inspector, checking hospital pharmacies for compliance and educating them on best practices.
He also encountered unethical uses of drugs – that didn’t sit well with him.
“I felt I didn’t have the cop mentality,” he said. “I wanted to be an educator.”
A NEW PLACE TO SERVE
Ariel Graves was at the Hurtt clinic on a recent day, indirectly benefitting from Grimm’s work.
Graves’ 1-year-old son has suffered ear infections since birth, a condition made worse by being homeless. In June, the 22-year-old mother will mark one year of living at the outreach mission.
She gets medicine for her son at least twice a month. She recently picked up allergy medications for herself.
“If there wasn’t a pharmacy, it would be different,” Graves said. “I’d have to take a bus somewhere and give them all this paperwork. I’d have to pay for everything. Being homeless, I don’t have a lot of money.
“It’s definitely a blessing.”
While its helpful for Graves, it gives clinic management another tool to make their services better for thousands. Last year they spent $132,000 in drugs for patients.
“Without Bob, we couldn’t do this,” Loff said of Grimm.
“He’s willing to do this job, and work as hard if not harder than a paid employee. He’s a hero and a very committed man.”