Thursday, March 17, 2011
Pharmacist Lou Lor Lucassen helps a customer Thursday during a prescription pickup at Walgreens at West Mason and Oneida Streets in Green Bay. / M.P. King/Press-Gazette
Pharmacy career inspired by challenges faced, desire to help
BELLEVUE — When Lou Lor Lucassen's dad lost a lot of weight after he was diagnosed with diabetes, her mother, who doesn't speak English, blamed his medications.
She said the family's confusion played a part in her decision to become a pharmacist.
Today, Lor Lucassen helps members of Green Bay's diverse population understand their medical symptoms and learn to properly use medications. For her work she was named a 2009 Green Bay Press-Gazette Everyday Hero. Heroes are those who make the community a better place to live and work.
As a pharmacist for Walgreens in Green Bay, Lor Lucassen often serves Hispanic and Hmong customers. She knows some Spanish and hopes to take classes so she can better serve that growing population, Lor Lucassen said.
"It's very satisfying when you can help someone," she said. "There are times when someone is explaining their symptoms and you can suggest something that might have been missed or maybe they didn't think of before."
Her work impressed Tina Hollenbeck, a former Green Bay teacher who worked with her younger siblings.
"I observed her interacting with a Hispanic family who had come to have several prescriptions filled (at Walgreens,)" Hollenbeck said in her nomination of Lor Lucassen. "At first, the parents attempted to rely on their middle-school aged son to translate as Lou explained (in English) the dosage instructions for each medication, but it was became obvious he really didn't understand what to tell them. … Then, Lou amazed everyone within earshot as she began giving the prescription instructions to the parents in fluent Spanish herself."
That's because she knows how scary it is to not understand, Lor Lucassen said.
Lor Lucassen's journey began in a refugee camp in Thailand where she was born. The family came to the U.S. when she was 6.
She and her siblings learned English while helping the family navigate the unfamiliar customs — and cold weather — of Northeastern Wisconsin. Lor Lucassen was smart.
After graduating from high school, Lor Lucassen studied to become an electrician, but soon realized a trade job wasn't for her. She worked in a pharmacy and eventually enrolled at the University of Wisconsin's pharmacy school.
Her father was a professor in Laos, but worked in a factory in his adopted country. He stressed the importance of education, Lor Lucassen said. She was attending pharmacy school when her father passed away and knows he would be proud.
But her mom thought Lor Lucassen should follow Hmong traditions: to marry young and stay home to raise a family. Her two older siblings stayed close to home and took factory jobs, though one now lives in Oklahoma. She has two younger siblings in college, one at the University of Wisconsin-Stout and one at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, and two siblings in high school.
Lor Lucassen married at 17, but even then her "mother thought I was very old," Lor said. She lives and works in the area to stay close to her family.
The generation gap is huge when moving to a new land, she said.
She's proud her younger siblings, too, are pursuing higher education.
"I think I influenced them," she said.