OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

OSU pharmacy dean notes changes, looks to retirement

06/10/1998

CORVALLIS -After two decades of service as dean of the Oregon State University College of Pharmacy, and observing the many changes in the profession, Richard Ohvall is reluctantly saying goodbye.

"I've been doing this a long time and now it's time to step aside and give someone else a chance," said Ohvall, an admitted Midwesterner who maintains that his 22-year tenure at OSU was "a delightful fluke."

"I really didn't plan to come here at all," said Ohvall, who stepped down from his position of dean of the School of Pharmacy at Ferris State College in Michigan to take the OSU spot in 1976.

"When I first took the job here at OSU, I didn't plan on staying more then a few years."

Ohvall grew up in Wisconsin, receiving his bachelor's degree in pharmacy from the University of Wisconsin in the midst of the Eisenhower era. He served as a community pharmacist and an Army Medical Service hospital pharmacist before returning to school for graduate studies.

With 45 years of professional experience behind him, Ohvall has seen a number of changes in the profession.

"When I graduated from pharmacy school in 1953, there wasn't but a handful of women in the class," Ohvall said. "There was concern by women that they might be working at a pharmacy and people would come up to them and say 'I want to talk to the pharmac ist,' not realizing that they were talking to the pharmacist."

Now, 60 percent of OSU pharmacy students are women, a figure that holds true at most pharmacy schools throughout the nation, Ohvall said.

Another change: the rise of health maintenance organizations and drugstore conglomerates.

"Consolidation is going big-time and that will continue to exert pressure on the corner pharmacists," said Ohvall, who added that the trend is no different than those occurring in grocery, clothing or discount markets. Small pharmacies, he said, will b e able to carve out their own niche.

"The corner pharmacist will always have a place in Oregon," Ohvall insisted.

Changes in the profession have dictated changes in education, Ohvall said. One of his challenges as dean of the College of Pharmacy was to assure those changes were reflected at OSU.

One adjustment has been the evolution toward increased patient care, but at the same time holding onto the in-depth traditional study of pharmacy.

"Communication skills have become more important," he said noting that pharmacy students are encouraged to take a variety of speech and communication classes, along with chemistry, biology and mathematics.

One thing that hasn't changed is the incredible array of opportunities for pharmacy students, Ohvall said.

"Our students get jobs just like that," Ohvall said, snapping his fingers. Opportunities range from positions as varied as the traditional "corner pharmacist," to cutting-edge medical research or pharmaceutical sales.

As for Ohvall, he says retirement plans focus on family, friends, fishing and gardening, and he has no plans to return to his roots in the Midwest.

"One of the strengths here at OSU has been the people," he said. "I'm absolutely delighted I stayed, I really love it. It just sort of happened, but we were blessed to come here and it's been a delightful place to work. If I had planned it, it couldn't have worked out any better."