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Coloring outside the lines and reinventing rural hospital pharmacy

Coloring outside the lines and reinventing rural hospital pharmacy

When Dana Darger, Director of Pharmacy, was 8 years old, he spent six months at a Denver hospital due to asthma complications. At that time, allergists and pulmonologists didn’t really exist, so he was treated by a dermatologist. “The asthma drugs available at that time were just awful,” he said. The experience sparked Dana’s interest in new, better medications, and before long he befriended the pharmacist at the drug store just blocks from his childhood home in Sioux Falls. He worked at the drug store throughout high school, and the rest was history.

After attending South Dakota State University for his degree in pharmacy, Dana worked for 22 years in Pierre before joining Regional Health. While he loved living near the Missouri River and now in the Black Hills, it’s pretty clear that Dana’s true happy place is with his colleagues at Rapid City Hospital, where for 17 years he has made it easier for patients at all Regional Health locations to receive high-quality pharmacy services.

“We are reinventing the way rural hospital pharmacy can be done, and we’re doing it extremely well,” he said. “When I walked in here 17 years ago, we were short six pharmacists. We had no one in Custer, Lead-Deadwood or Spearfish. Now we can take care of a patient in any one of our facilities from any location.” Regional Health now has pharmacists in Rapid City, Spearfish and Sturgis. Custer patients are cared for remotely, and a Lead-Deadwood pharmacy technician is supervised by a Spearfish pharmacist through a telepharmacy model approved through the South Dakota Board of Pharmacy.

Dana said both Regional Health and the Board of Pharmacy have always been supportive of his ideas and have allowed him to “color outside the lines.” He also credits his colleagues with helping fill the gaps between his big ideas and making them a reality. “I’m a dreamer. I know where we’re at and where we want to be. Sometimes those gaps are small and sometimes they’re caverns. My team can tell me if my dream isn’t going to work, but they can also help me make it a reality. We have an amazing crew here.”

Tiffany Clendenen, Pharmacy Manager in Spearfish who has been with Regional Health for 18 years, said the pharmacy team is a very cohesive group in which all locations have equal input. She appreciates Dana’s “out of the box” ideas. “Unknowingly, he challenges my black and white tendencies and allows me to look at different perspectives,” she said. His motto to “just do the right thing” allows his team to always put patients first.

Dana said while retirement time might be nearing, he’s not yet ready to leave his Regional Health family. “I don’t ever get up in the morning and not want to go to work. I get to go to work at a job I absolutely love. I have the best job in the world here.”

National Pharmacy Week is a great time to recognize how integral our pharmacy caregivers are to our team. Thanks to all of them for ensuring our patients receive the best possible outcomes.

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