February Feature: A Love that Lasts
They met at the SAPhA (now APhA-ASP) regional meeting at Wayne State University in Detroit in Oct 1973. Duane was in the last year of the BS Pharmacy program at the University of Wisconsin. Marilyn in her first year of pharmacy school at UKCOP.
Their story was not a “love at first sight,” although they remembered each other. Duane noticed Marilyn as she had run for a regional office. It so happens they ate a banquet meal at the same table and Marilyn has a picture of the table that included Duane.
Duane applied for and was accepted for the UK program starting July 1974. At that time, the only UK PharmD program was a post-BS in Pharmacy (this was the case throughout the country except for California pharmacy schools). It was combined with the residency program; which meant that after three years a student received their PharmD degree and residency certificate.
They reconnected – or perhaps better stated, truly connected – that summer as Marilyn was working at Prof. Don Perrier’s pharmacokinetics lab. Their first (very informal) date was at the long-defunct Ground Round restaurant on Southland Dr. When Duane learned Marilyn was driving to the APhA Annual Meeting in Chicago in August he bummed a ride with her in her yellow VW bug and helped drive as they approached the city.
During the next two years, they dated occasionally. The PharmD-Residency program was very intense and did not allow much social time, especially during reasonable hours. A more common occurrence was for two or three residents leaving the hospital after 11 pm to hurry over to the original Joe Bologna’s location for a pizza – not exactly amenable for calling Marilyn to go out for a romantic evening. However, there were times when they did things together, often social events related to Duane’s program.
Duane had his first connection with Marilyn’s hometown of Harlan in spring 1975. In the first half of 1975, Duane completed an extramural residency rotation in South Williamson, Kentucky which was the headquarters of the pharmacy department for the Appalachian Regional Hospitals system (now Appalachian Regional Healthcare). One of Duane’s responsibilities was to travel so some of the system’s hospitals to do an evaluation of their pharmacy department. One trip took him first to Hazard where a roiling spring thunderstorm chased him over the Pine Mountain Range into Harlan. Duane took the opportunity to visit Marilyn who was interning at the local Creech Pharmacy. This trip is when he met her family.
After graduating in May 1976, Marilyn took a position at St. Claire Hospital (now St. Claire HealthCare) in Morehead as the hospital’s first full-time pharmacist. Together with, Bruce McWhinney, a recent UK PharmD grad, who had a part-time appointment at the hospital, they developed the hospital’s first pharmacy department including a unit dose system, a centralized IV admixture program, and, over time, more clinical pharmacy services.
A characteristic of Duane’s program was the opportunity to concentrate the last year of the program in a specialty area. With his interest in ambulatory care, Duane elected to spend that time, not at the UK Medical Center, but rather in Morehead. He primarily practiced in the clinic adjacent to St. Claire but was also a part of the nascent inpatient pharmacy department and its development.
Housing options were limited for single people in Morehead. Fortunately, Mrs. Kidd had a nearby building with four apartments over a first-floor beauty parlor and adjacent to the Burger Queen. (Yup, you read that correctly. Burger Queen morphed into Druther’s and now is part of Dairy Queen). Duane, like PharmD Residents before and after him, opted for one of these apartments in this building where Marilyn also had an apartment.
Social connections and opportunities in Morehead were also modest for single, mid-20 somethings in 1976 which limited the competition but still allowed us to get to know each other better. Dining at Long John Silver’s on the way home from a long day or for a treat, driving to the edge of town for a real dinner at the Holiday Inn was not uncommon.
They also wandered over to a concert at Morehead State University on a few occasions. Hearing the renowned Kentucky composer and singer John Jacob Niles and The Four Freshmen were two very different events they remember. Watching the 1976 Carter -Ford election results in Marilyn’s apartment along with then pharmacy student, now Ohio State University Pharmacy Dean Henry Mann was another fond memory.
It came time to eventually move on from Morehead, but not together. Duane, upon graduation, when to OSU to work on his master’s and Ph.D. degrees and Marilyn to San Antonio, Texas for the Pharm.D. program.
They are proof that absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder. In 1978, Duane used a presentation at the ASHP Midyear Clinical Meeting as an excuse to travel to San Antonio where he and Marilyn became engaged. Marilyn left the PharmD program to move to Columbus where she became a pharmacist at Riverside Methodist Hospital while Duane finished his Ph.D. And, as Duane is quick to point out, Marilyn was a major help in helping get his dissertation completed during their first year of marriage. They married in Columbus on July 28, 1979.
It’s well known that pharmacy is a “small world” once you enter the profession. As is evidenced by a young Bob Kuhn who was a pharmacy student when the Kirkings were at OSU. Not only did Duane have him in classes he was teaching, but he also worked with Marilyn as a pharmacy tech at Riverside Hospital. Whenever they see each other at the College, they have fun talking about the “old days.”
In 1980, the Kirkings moved to Ann Arbor when Duane started his career at the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy and School of Public Health and Marilyn her career at the University of Michigan Health System. What a coincidence that they ended up at and had a majority of their entire professional careers in Michigan—the place where they met over 46 years ago.
During the past 40 years, the fact that we are both pharmacists has been a positive for both of their careers, although Marilyn is quick to point out that she is the "real pharmacist" while Duane is in the ivory tower of academia.
While their careers were very different, they have worked together on research projects emanating from Marilyn's practice, the publications for which she is the senior author. Also, since most of Duane's research involves pharmacy practice or medication use, he frequently turned to Marilyn for her insights on the design of projects and interpretation of results.
They are also happy to point out that this two-pharmacist couple makes attending pharmacy meetings more enjoyable. While they share topics of interest at the APhA meeting for example, it is more common that they each go off in our own direction during the day and meet up again in the evening for the social events. Through the decades they have developed a coterie of friends with whom we both enjoy interacting. Duane points out that is common when he meets up with his academic pharmacy friends they first say, "Is Marilyn here with you?" and only then inquire as to how he is.
Their common interests do go beyond pharmacy. They both enjoy choral signing and, in addition to their local church choir, are part of a larger choir that does a European concert tour every three years. In fact, this May they will be on their eighth tour together, taking them to Greece, the twentieth country in which they’ve sung.
Volunteer work has also become an increasingly big part of their lives. It was one of the reasons they retired early. They each have our own things, but combine together on "big events." This winter, along with another couple, they will be leading their annual construction crew to Costa Rica where they are currently working on a building at the Methodist Children's Home - a community that houses children who have been taken from their parents because of problems like physical and drug abuse. This year's team numbers 26 people and will be their ninth year at this site.
Pharmacy not only brought them together but has allowed them to grow together as a couple for almost 50 years.