George Doherty and Skip Gibson have been close friends since attending the University of Alberta together in the 1960s. They practised pharmacy together. They’re business partners. So, it only made sense that Skip shared in presenting George with the ACP Honorary Life Membership award at the college’s Celebration of Leadership in Calgary on June 12.
“He gave a glowing testimonial on my behalf which was almost too flattering,” said George. “In my response to it, I got quite emotional and had to quit talking. There were a few more people I wanted to thank, but I got caught up in emotions.”
George and Skip began practising together in Calgary in 1966. The pharmacy profession was different in those days.
“When Skip and I graduated, it was back in the ‘lick and stick’ days,” recalled George. “A lot of what we did made me wonder why I became a pharmacist. My belief was you were supposed to help people. As much as we tried to do that, we were quite limited.”
By the time George and Skip opened the Market Mall Pharmacy in 1977, they began practising with patient care as a priority. They trained to become specialists in hypertension, diabetes, and asthma. They made a difference. George recalled one instance with a young boy struggling with asthma who had been in and out of the hospital for years.
“The boy lived in a situation that triggered asthma,” George said. “The family had a cat in the house, both parents smoked, and this poor child was struggling all the time. His parents came in and we chatted about how their living environment was really hurting their son. We got him a peak flow meter, and we educated the child and the parents. The mom quit smoking. The dad quit smoking around his son. The child understood his medication better. And he wasn’t in the hospital again.”
George is perhaps best known for formulating and developing, George’s Special Dry Skin Cream, which was created in 1996 after a dermatologist asked him to come up with a cream to help with eczema.
“He said a lot of the creams were making his patients’ conditions worse, especially with eczema,” said George. “He asked me to make a cream that he could recommend that had very few additives in it. I went to work on that.”
At first, he made the cream by hand with a spatula. It was effective, but lumpy. Then, one night, he woke up with an idea.
“I thought of using my wife’s cake mixer to blend it,” he said. “I took the mixer into the pharmacy and started whipping the cream up in a different manner. It turned into this white, super-rich cream. The dermatologist liked it. The patients who tried it liked it. Down the road, we discovered it really did help things like eczema and psoriasis and radiation burns with cancer patients, as well as being a super moisturizer for dry skin. It was really an interesting ride.”
George’s Cream has become a nationally recognized brand. The testimonials George still receives make it worth all the effort.
“I had one young lady who was in grade 12, her hands were so cracked and bleeding she couldn’t hold a pen to write her exams,” he said. “A pharmacist recommended George’s Cream. She put it on diligently, twice a day, and wore cotton gloves. Within a week, her hands cleared up. She wrote her exams and passed with honours.”
For all that George accomplished in his pharmacy career, he is most excited about the future of the profession.
“I envision it’s going to be a wonderful career,” he said. “Pharmacists are going to be better at helping people than they ever were before. They’re going to be on the same level as other health professionals. When I first started practising, we were looked at more as merchants than professionals. I’m happy for the new people. I’m kind of envious.”