When student Bill Francis met UA professor Hank Winship in 1973, Winship was already wheelchair-bound and needed to put slings on his fingers so he was able to write.
Winship was suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease, which continued to slowly destroy his motor skills until he died in 1977. But despite all the obstacles, the professor was a hugely influential man. One of his many legacies was creating the Southwestern Clinical Pharmacy Seminar in 1968. The conference currently attracts about 200 pharmacists annually.
But his influence was felt much more keenly in Francis’s life. The director of pharmacy at University Physicians Healthcare credits Winship for his career success.
“I just saw him as a very forward-looking guy at that time,” Francis says. “Hank was a soft-spoken guy, but always lucid in what he was saying. He was very articulate. I think he was just able to see things that were going to happen in our profession, that we would expand our roles in health care. He made it exciting!”
Without Winship, Francis may have stayed in retail pharmacy, where he worked for 10 years until he accepted a position at Eckerd Health Services in 1989. With a business degree in addition to the bachelor’s of science in pharmacy, Francis was able to work his way up to eventually become director of clinical services. Today, he oversees the pharmacy department at University Physicians Healthcare in Tucson and is on the board of directors for the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy.
If it weren’t for Winship, Francis says, he never would have found his niche in managed care.
“In those days, if you graduated from pharmacy school, you’d work in retail, you’d work in a hospital, and there were a handful of pharmacists that would get jobs with the government.
“I began my career in hospital pharmacy largely because of Hank. He was the first person that challenged me to look outside of the norms for pharmacy practice. I was just really fortunate to have him as a mentor.”
The mentorship became a close friendship that lasted until Winship’s death. Winship’s children, in fact, served as the ring bearer and flower girl at Francis’s wedding in 1975.
If he were here today, Francis believes, Winship would be proud to see the impact the Southwest Clinical conference has had.
“The quality of the program this year was way beyond my expectations,” he says. “Most of the topics were very useful for me and will help me provide better care for our members. I will make the conference a part of my continuing education going forward. I think Hank would be very pleased.”