Put Your Heart Into It

Published on 21 April 2021

Throughout her education, career and retirement, Carolyn "Susie" (Naeger) Bussen, B.S. '70, has let her fierce passion for learning and endless curiosity guide her — inspiring those around her to do the same.

When it came time to consider what path to take after high school, Bussen had her eyes set on becoming a physician.

"My oldest brother Len [Leonard L. Naeger, B.S. '63, M.S. '65, Ph.D.] always felt he needed to tell everyone what to do — especially me," Bussen laughed. "I told him I wanted to become a doctor, and he said 'Why don’t you get your pharmacy degree first, and then if you go on to become a doctor, you’ll have a career that can put you through medical school.' We didn't come from a lot of money. So it was important that you could take care of yourself. Len really was the inspiration for both me and my brother Barry [Barry J. Naeger, B.S. '68] to go into pharmacy."

Once Bussen decided to continue the family legacy of attending St. Louis College of Pharmacy [now part of University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis], she was eager to jump into the curriculum, especially chemistry.

"I really liked the course load," Bussen recalled. "Every year, there were two full terms of chemistry. I worked all throughout school, so I had to study when I could, but I loved it. I also had top-notch professors. Some of them were better lecturers than others, but they all had Ph.D.s in whatever class they were teaching and made certain you learned the material. The first semester of Dr. Magarian's organic chemistry class I got a C and was devastated. I had never gotten anything less than an A before. In the second semester of his class I got a B. I was thrilled! He was tough as nails, but, boy, did I learn organic."

Though Bussen kept busy with her studies and her job at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, she still found time to have fun, even if that meant making a little bit of mischief. At the time, women at the University had to live in the residence hall on campus for their first three years and were subject to strict curfews, even on the weekends.

"You had to be in the dorm by 10 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on the weekends, and that didn't always work," Bussen laughed. "My friend and I would sign out for overnight and say we were staying with my brother who lived on campus with his wife, and then we would go find a party, stay out until 2 a.m., and then sneak back into the dorm. Those were the only two nights I had off. You gotta do what you gotta do!"

After graduating cum laude from St. Louis College of Pharmacy, Bussen continued her career in hospital pharmacy until a serendipitous opportunity in pharmacy consulting completely changed the trajectory of her career.

"I got into consulting by accident," Bussen said. "I needed a part-time job, and a friend of mine who owned a long-term care pharmacy needed a pharmacist to consult at the hospital purchasing his drugs. I absolutely fell in love with it, and I stayed in consulting for more than 30 years."

To have a job where she could use her education and her passion for learning was incredibly important to Bussen, and that is precisely what she found in pharmacy.

"It was a very rewarding career," Bussen said. "I was able to use what I learned every single day, and that made all of my hard work in school worthwhile. It was one of the best decisions I ever made."

True to her passion for lifelong learning, Bussen has maintained her license and continues to find joy in continuing education opportunities for pharmacists. The spark that guides Bussen, even in her retirement, has always been her pursuit of knowledge and new experiences. This spark is something she hopes every student can find within themselves.

"Put your heart into it," Bussen said. "I'm not talking about just the profession but the whole learning process that prepares you for your profession. Listen to your professors, and follow their lead. But don't stop there. Go further and seek the answers yourself. Enjoy your profession and be an ambassador of that profession — it's only as good as you make it. So make it the best."

This story was first published in the spring 2021 issue of Script Magazine. To view past issues of Script, visit the Script Magazine archive.

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