Every girl recalls playing dress-up in her mother’s skirts and high heels, but Monica Pillatzki isn’t a little girl anymore and she is trading in the fancy dresses for another item in her mother’s wardrobe – her white lab coat. Monica graduated from SDSU on May 5 with a Bachelor of Pharmacy degree – the same degree her mother earned from NDSU three decades ago. But it hasn’t gotten any easier for Monica to walk in her mother’s shoes. She still has to complete two years of school, several internships, and residency to obtain her PharmD or doctorate in pharmacy degree.
“Mom is a great resource,” Monica says. “I often call her and ask for help, calculations, looking over papers.” And Mom probably knows the answers. For over 28 years, Monica’s mother, Cindy Pillatzki, stood behind the pharmacy counter, dispensing Zyrtec, Lipitor, and hundreds of other medications. You probably remember her as the one with the smile, the good advice, and the photos of her children. All nine of them! As much as Cindy loved her work as a pharmacist, she says her greatest joy is her children.
Her oldest daughter, Natalie, is an accountant at POET. Emily is studying English and theology at Franciscan University in Ohio. Joshua is studying to be a math teacher at SDSU. Allison, graduates from MHS this year and plans to attend SDSU. Tracy is an MHS sophomore, Jessica is a freshman, Nathan, is in seventh grader, and Abby graduates from St Lawrence this year.
Monica says her mom shows unbelievable support for all of the kids and has never pushed them into fields just for the money. Cindy says, she and her husband, Mark, a farmer, always say, “In life, work takes a majority of the time, it should make you happy.” And she says, “I tell the kids, ‘It’s o.k. to change your mind. Do what makes you happy! ‘”
So, not only is Monica following her mom’s career path, she is following her prescription for happiness. A 2013 MHS graduate, she was first a occupational therapy major, then a health education major, and then she says,” I changed my mind a few times after that. Finally, in my sophomore year I knew I wanted to do healthcare, but couldn’t figure it out. I was considering being a teacher… After job shadowing I realized it [teaching] wasn’t for me. My mom gave me a lot of career development books and I took tests and a class to match my personality to a career. Pharmacy kept showing up.” “I prayed about it,” she said, “and after job shadowing in the teaching job, pharmacy was definitely the choice. I knew I loved working there.” Monica had worked at Liebe Drug in the summers of her high school years, just as her mother had worked at Cartwright Drug when she was in high school.
And after Monica declared pharmacy as her major, Liebe Drug hired her as an intern. “We got the chance to work together for a few summers while she was interning,” Cindy says. “Monica is the hardest worker. She has a big heart, and puts 100 percent into everything. Her faith is what makes her who she is. Her faith can move mountains.”
Cindy, who retired two years ago and misses it all, says things will most likely be different for Monica. “When I started, every patient paid cash, now only one or two percent are cash – everything is insurance. The average person used to take one or two prescriptions, now some are taking eight or nine. Over-the-counter medications are creating issues with patients because they are not telling the doctor or pharmacist they are taking them and they are counterreacting with their medications. Pharmacists want patients to be safe and to suggest items that complement their medications. It would be even harder in a bigger area where you never really get to know your patients.”
“The important thing about being a pharmacist is knowing the questions to ask and when to refer,” Cindy says. “In a small town, it’s nice to be able to tell the patient that you will pray for them. You know more about their lives than a lot of people do, inside and outside the pharmacy. It makes you feel good when you go home knowing that you made a difference.”
Starting this week, Monica will be interning for four weeks in Bowdle, west of Aberdeen. She then moves to Rapid City for the summer. “They have a lot of staff who work in hospitals and teach so we get a lot of firsthand knowledge from people working with patients with diseases,” says Monica.
“When she [Monica] does rotations, it’s going to be exciting,” Cindy says. She’ll see so many different parts to pharmacy, she’ll get to go to hospitals, stores- different clinical settings that pharmacists work in. ”
Although Monica might not decide to live as close as she once wanted to as a child – by the bird house on the family farm – she plans to move back to Milbank after she finishes the program. She says she loved growing up in Milbank and “loves how the people of the Midwest have a strong work ethic, big hearts, and are kind overall.” Side effects we can all feel good about.