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Pioneer pharmacist still filling prescriptions

By Staff
LONG SERVICE n Bill Woods Jr. of Meridian works as a pharmacist with Rush Foundation Hospital, a job he has held since 1949. Woods has no immediate plans to retire from the job he says he has always enjoyed. Photo by Marianne Todd/The Meridian Star.
By Steve Gillespie/The Meridian Star
Sept. 8, 2001
For 52 years, Bill Woods Jr. has been a pharmacist with Rush Foundation Hospital two-thirds of his life, in which he also fought a war, raised a family and played a lot of jazz.
It was 1949 when Woods became the first hospital pharmacist in Meridian and one of the first in the state. His late wife, Sara, was a cousin of Dr. Lowry Rush, who was in medical school at the time. He told Woods his father and uncle wanted to open a pharmacy at the hospital.
Eventually a radiologist and pathologist joined the hospital staff, Woods said, but that was it for a long time. Today there are many doctors with many specialties on staff at Rush as well as a number of pharmacists.
Pharmacy changes over the years
Since 1999, Woods has been clinical consultant pharmacist with Rush Senior Health Center. He has been working with some patients since 1949.
The role of the pharmacist has grown along with the pharmaceutical industry. When Woods started in the profession he stocked about 100 items. Now he keeps up with more than 2,000 different medications.
He said technological advances have helped standardize the manufacturing of medications. At the same time, pharmacists are interacting more with patients.
The one thing Woods said has remained constant through all his years as a pharmacist is the learning. He said keeping up with the latest information is a never-ending process.
The back yard of the blues
Woods was raised at the edge of the Mississippi Delta, in Charleston.
Blues and jazz have always been a major influence in his life. He said music is like flying, "Once you've done it, you can't get it out of your system."
Woods is a saxophone player in a local jazz band, Carey Smith and Friends. He also plays clarinet and piano.
When he was 6 years old, Woods began taking piano lessons and even made a trek to Meridian as a youngster to play at a music convention at the old Lamar Hotel, now the Raymond P. Davis Courthouse Annex.
Music helped Woods get through school at the University of Mississippi. While there, he revived The Mississippians jazz ensemble that is still in existence today. It was music that brought Woods and his wife, Sara, together when she auditioned as a singer for the group.
A winding road
While at Ole Miss, Woods enlisted in the military on the advice of his father, who was on the draft board.
Woods joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in Memphis, Tenn., in 1943 and flew missions over Italy as a B-25 bombardier/navigator.
In the fall of 1945 Woods returned to Ole Miss. He finished school and married Sara in 1946. She died in 1990. Woods has three children, Bill Woods III, a dentist in Meridian, his daughter, Donna Knight of Meridian and David Woods, of Purvis, who works with a steel company. He also has nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
At 78, Woods has no plans for retirement. He is a charter member of the Mississippi Society of Health System Pharmacists and he said his work is as interesting and rewarding as ever.
Steve Gillespie is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3233, or e-mail him at sgillespie@themeridianstar.com.