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Hospital's first pharmacist to receive Healthcare Award

Wes Fain headed department at Sutter Auburn Faith until his retirement in 1992
By: Gloria Young, Journal Staff Writer
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When what was then known as Auburn Faith Community Hospital opened in the 1960s, pharmacist Wes Fain established and nurtured its pharmacy. By the time he retired in 1992, he was supervising a branch with 23 employees. For his dedication and contribution to the hospital’s success, Fain is this year’s recipient of the Healthcare Award, which Sutter Auburn Faith will present to him Friday at the State of the Community Dinner at the Gold Country Fairgrounds. Pharmacy was not Fain’s initial career choice. In fact, sports were his passion through high school and college. “I was always interested in medicine, but I was a jock and planned to be a coach and a teacher,” he said. He was born in Idaho, grew up in Windsor, Calif., and moved to Auburn while still a teen. He played football, basketball and baseball in high school, then went on to pitch for championship baseball teams at Sierra College and Sacramento State. As an adult, he was a tennis player, competing in tournaments as far away as the Bay Area and Reno. Inspired by a good friend who was a pharmacist, Fain took his pharmacy training at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. When he returned to Auburn in 1963, he started his practice at Martin’s Drug Store in Downtown, in the building that now houses Mickey’s Boots. That was where a group of doctors from the Auburn Clinic approached him about setting up the pharmacy in the new hospital. Initially, he kept his “day job,” working part time at the hospital, which started with 50 beds. From the beginning he enjoyed being part of the hospital. “At a retail level we call it ‘count and pour,’” he said. “You’re either counting pills or pouring liquids. At the hospital, you’re actually talking to the doctors and healthcare professionals (about medications) so you use your skills more.” After six years, in 1972, the hospital expanded to 100 beds and Fain switched to full time. He also brought on a second pharmacist, Mike Rossitto. When the expansion reached 150 beds, he hired two more pharmacists — Jerry Berry and Dave Long. Over the 25 years that Fain led the pharmacy, he introduced new standards in safety, implemented the first computer system, initiated advances in IV therapies and worked to keep the hospital’s pharmacy on the forefront of medicine, according to his official bio. Fain recalls those days fondly. “I really enjoyed the camaraderie in a hospital like that,” he said. “ We knew the nurses, laboratory people, radiology people. It was a close-knit group. Everybody knew everybody. The nursing staff was wonderful, under the leadership of Joyce Bacci. She was wonderful.” But there could be challenges, too. One day in the early 1970s as he sat at his desk doing paperwork, he found himself face to face with a robber. “I smelled tobacco and a gun was pressed to my temple,” Fain said. “We knew this could happen, because it had been happening in the Sacramento area. So I had told my staff, if it happens just give them what they want and get them out.” Luckily no one was injured in the incident. Later the man who had held the gun was prosecuted and sent to prison. A second person involved in the crime remained unidentified, Fain said. The robbery resulted in security enhancements throughout the hospital, he said. But it was not all work for Fain, who pursued many activities in his free time, among them learning to fly an airplane. He and his twin brother, Les, even owned a plane. “I was called the flying pharmacist for a while,” he said. That’s because when other pharmacists in the region needed coverage for vacations or other absences, he’d fly there to fill in — Placerville, Marysville and even once to Garberville. He and his wife, Ann Shanley Fain — a third-generation Auburn resident and longtime kindergarten teacher — also enjoyed backpacking. “We went (backpacking in) New Zealand, Australia and Tasmania,” he said. These days, the couple lives near the American River Canyon and their four daughters are grown. “We both enjoy reasonable health and we hike in the canyon every day because we live right by the Stagecoach trail,” he said. The trail has special meaning for Ann Fain. During the Gold Rush days, her great-grandfather, Michael Orr took tolls on the bridge at the bottom of the trail near the confluence. “The abutment is still there, but the bridge is gone,” Fain said. Fain is being recognized as this year’s State of the Community Healthcare recipient in honor of his dedication and commitment to Auburn Faith Community Hospital, Chief Administrative Officer Mitch Hanna said in an e-mail. “Wes had interned in a hospital while at the University of Utah, therefore the founding physicians asked him to set up the new pharmacy department from scratch and run the new hospital’s pharmacy,” Hanna said. “Wes worked two jobs in order to ensure that Auburn Faith was successful. Thanks to his commitment and that of others who were instrumental in the early years of the hospital’s operations, Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital has grown to the fine hospital that it is today!” Fain is very modest about being chosen for the award. “I’m just amazed because there are so many people much more deserving than I am,” he said. “I just went to work out there every day and did my job.” Reach Gloria Young at gloriay@goldcountrymedia.com. ---------- Five facts about Wes Fain 1. He has a twin brother 2. He used to be a pilot and owned a plane 3. He and his wife, Ann, have traveled all over the United States — including Alaska — in their motorhome 4. He loves music and is a strong supporter of the Auburn Symphony and the Auburn Community Concert program 5. He was a pitcher for the Auburn Cubs baseball team in the 1950s State of the Community dinner: When: 5:30 p.m. Friday, April 15 Where: Sierra Building, Gold Country Fairgrounds, Auburn Cost: $37.50 Reservations: Call the Auburn Chamber of Commerce at (530) 885-5616 ext. 223