ST. IGNATIUS – They called him a silent and capable leader,the head of the ship to “get her done.” He was at the center of many years of expansion and growth with Tribal Health Department’s pharmacy and he always maintained a smile.
A day in the life of a pharmacist is not only dispensing medicines and telling patients when and how to take their pills and ointments; a pharmacist can be described as a superhero multi-tasker pulled in several directions from patients to doctors to computer technicians. Mostly, pharmacists are builders of relationships.
Since 1997, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Health pharmacist Mike Hertz’s focus over the years was not only managing medication regimens for patients but to carry out meaningful interactions with a large patient care team, patients, and families of patients. His leadership presence at the CSKT Tribal Health Pharmacy has been one of calm productivity.
“He knows every patient and they know him on first name basis. He knows all the elders,” said Renee Krell, CSKT Tribal Health Certified Pharmacy Technician.
Long time friend and colleague Gary Pitts, CSKT Tribal Health Dentist, said the tribal health team was lucky to have him for all the years they did. “He is a local boy and I think that helped (in building relationships),” Pitts said.
Hertz is now off to retirement after 42 in his profession. Not to really retire though, but to take on what used to be his part-time adventures in the outdoors into full-time with his wife, three grown children and six grandchildren. Hertz - known as an active man who runs, hikes, bikes, and fly fishes - said he wants to do the things he loves while he still can. “I’m looking forward to doing things I like to do at the level I want to and spend time with my kids and grandkids.”
According to his co-workers and friends they believe he will do what he loves for many years to come. “He’s very active,” said Krell. “Not sure if he still does it but he would run five to six miles each morning before coming to work.”
His last day was Friday, September 6 at the pharmacy
Krell said Hertz is the best supervisor she’s ever had. Krell said Hertz is easy going, fair, and just good to work for. “He can handle any situation calmly. He’s always smiling and loves to hear about everyone’s families,” she said of her supervisor.
Joe Charlo, CSKT Tribal Health pharmacist since 2011, said Mike is not only a boss, he’s a good friend. And there is a bonus: he’s funny, a huge plus to any working team. “It’s going to be totally different since he’s gone. When you get used to someone’s leadership style it leaves a big hole to fill for the next person.
Charlo, who is now in his later 40’s, says he’s known Hertz since he’s was a younger man in his 20’s. “It’s hard to adjust to see him go.”
Krell’s coping mechanism to bid farewell to a great colleague is this: “We are just looking at this (retirement) like he’s on vacation. He’ll be back.” It has not sunk in. She said he will surely be missed. “He kept the place calm.”
Although the transition will be a tough one for Tribal Health team Charlo and Krell agrees with all their co-workers. They are excited for Hertz to experience his next chapter in life of adventure.
Pitts and Hertz were in close quarters in the early days of Hertz CSKT Tribal Health career. The old Charlo building that sits behind the St. Ignatius clinic now was the home of the pharmacy and dental office. Pitts in the Dental office was only a few feet down the hall from Hertz medicine cabinet - the Tribal Health pharmacy. “(Pharmacy) was a box, barely enough room for two people to move around,” said Pitts. He said Krell made the best of it. When talks of expanding the Tribal Health facilities were discussed Hertz was a huge advocate of the clinic and pharmacy’s expansion, explained Pitts.
Hertz, 66, grew up in Polson and graduated PHS in 1971. He went on to Carroll College and transferred to University of Montana to the School of Pharmacy and graduated in 1977. He worked for Eddy’s Drug in Polson from 1977 – 1982; then Osco Drug in Anaconda in 1984. Buttrey’s grocery chain bought out Osco and Hertz went on to work for Buttrey Pharmacy in 1986 in Missoula. He came home to work in 1993 at CSKT Tribal Health Pharmacy.
“I’ve enjoyed the work (at CSKT). It’s a different and broader range of healthcare,” Hertz described. “It’s a more holistic approach here then just being a pharmacy,” he added. “It’s fulfilling.”
“There’s not a better place I could have planned my career.”