If you were sick and didn't get the word, one prescription for a healthy career is a pharmacy degree.
In the Midwest, demand for pharmacists is at full strength. Although no significant shortage exists in Kansas, there's plenty of jobs to be filled.
"It's an excellent career path for students. There's no question of that," said Jack Fincham, dean of pharmacy at Kansas University, which has the state's only pharmacy school.
Growth of retail pharmacy operations and hospital pharmacies bolstered interest in the dispensers of pills and syrups. Nationally, the imbalance between supply and demand pushed starting salaries for new pharmacy graduates into the $45,000 to $50,000 range.
Ken Flanders, a pharmacist at Raney Drug Store in downtown Lawrence, is among the city's elder statesmen of pharmacy. He graduated from KU in 1958.
After operating pharmacies in Hiawatha and St. Joseph, Mo., he moved to Lawrence with plans to retire.
"But I work about 50 hours a week," he said. "That's how scarce pharmacists are."
Jane Siebert, Dillons' director of pharmacy operations in Hutchinson, said there was a slight shortage of pharmacists in the state. The grocery store chain employs 220 pharmacists, she said.
"The farther west you go, the more difficult it is to get pharmacists. People have a lot of choices, and a lot choose more metropolitan areas," she said.
Fincham said almost 95 percent of the people who graduated from KU's pharmacy school the past seven years were practicing in Kansas.
"That indicates the demand is there," the dean said. "They are filling a need. We don't see that need decreasing for the short term."
None of this is lost on students interested in health care jobs.
"We have 4 1/2 applicants for each slot available in the school," Fincham said.
Each year, the pharmacy school admits 95 new students. Total enrollment is about 315 in the bachelor's and doctorate degree programs. The bachelor's degree is being phased out in 1996, Fincham said. The doctorate program isn't cushy -- it's a six-year commitment.
Harold Godwin, chair of the pharmacy practice department at KU, said the evolving health care industry might lead pharmacists to specialize more. That could lead to problems at corner drugstores on Main Street, Kan.
"I hope pharmacy doesn't get into the position that physicians are in -- urban areas with too many and rural areas with not enough," he said.
Fincham said KU's curriculum was being adjusted to prepare more graduates to become community pharmacists. Another goal is to link graduates interested in pharmacy proprietorship with owners wanting to sell.
"We want our students to realize that those opportunities are out there," Fincham said. "We see that as an important mission, to not only serve the needs of our students but to serve the needs of the state."