Pharmacy Director Dorsie Sullenger Reflects on 42 Years at Hospital

Story and Photo by Jeremiah Kalb

The late co-founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, once said that it’s not a faith in technology. It’s faith in people.

Pharmacy Director Dorsie Sullenger, one of Madison’s longest continuously-serving employees, credits his team for the technology innovations he’s helped bring to the hospital’s pharmacy over the years.

“I’ve had a brilliant staff,” Sullenger says. “I’d put them up against anybody in the state. They’ve all embraced technology.”

During his time, Sullenger has seen the typewriter give way to computers. Computers and phones shrank down to devices his team carries in their pockets, and the internet means work is always with them, for better or worse.

Raised near or below the poverty line in Rigby, Idaho, there was only one car in Sullenger’s household, so he walked everywhere as a teen.

“I paid for most of my school clothes,” he says. His first job at Western Auto earned him forty-five cents an hour.

Sullenger was the first member of his immediate family to graduate from college.

“When I was a kid growing up, that’s all I got hammered into me was you will go to college, and you will get a professional degree,” he says.

Sullenger switched his major from accounting to pharmacology after three years of dealing with a professor who made him and his classmates look like fools in front of the class.

“I had always liked chemistry, and I was really good at math,” Sullenger says. As a kid, he carried a picture in his mind of Ken Regan filling prescriptions at Idaho Drug.

“That always intrigued me,” Sullenger says.

He applied and was accepted into the Idaho State University pharmacy program almost immediately.

Today, Sullenger drives a Tesla, a good example of how much he loves hard work and technology, especially plug-in electric cars.

After spending just a few minutes with the man, it is apparent that Sullenger stands in awe of the advancements of humanity and a person’s potential to make a difference in the world.

Sullenger first set foot on the Madison campus in September of 1979 as a staff pharmacist working 20 hours a week that first year.

A year later, Sullenger was hired on full-time, then became the director of the pharmacy in 1982.

“I have seen a lot of changes in the last 42 years at Madison,” he says. “We went from using an electric typewriter to print prescription & IV labels to a sophisticated software system that auto prints almost all of these labels.”

Because of the hospital’s growth, his team has expanded from five employees to eleven over the years, including the addition of a board-certified oncology pharmacist.

Perhaps one of Sullenger’s most significant achievements has been keeping Madison’s Pharmacy at the forefront of emerging technology for over 40 years.

Despite Madison beginning as a small, rural hospital, Sullenger’s demonstration of his tech prowess and business acumen has been very valuable to a growing county-owned single-entity organization.

His long resume includes the 340B Drug Pricing program that saves the hospital over five million dollars a year, computerized pharmacy software, Omnicell’s automated medication dispensing system, smart pump technology, and recently IVX, an integrated solution that safely and consistently guides technicians step-by-step through the IV compounding process.

What has all of Sullenger’s hard work translated to?

“The hospital pharmacists’ role has switched from a dispensing mode to a clinical mode,” he says.

And this helps keep the hospital’s patients safe and back on the road to recovery and wellness.

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