Pastizzo presents inspirational message

Pastizzo presents inspirational message
Vermillion citizens took time last week to enjoy each other's fellowship, honor a long-time health service provider in the community and enjoy the humor and poignant message of inspirational speaker Frank Pastizzo.

The Community Health Services Award was presented to Vermillion pharmacist Tom Lavin, who owns and operates Davis Pharmacy with his wife Sandy Davis, at the Dakota Hospital Foundation Awards Dinner held Thursday evening, May 11, in the Al Neuharth Media Center.

Lavin began his college career at The University of South Dakota in 1962. Two years later, he transferred to South Dakota State University's College of Pharmacy, and graduated from SDSU in 1968.


Lavin and his wife purchased Davis Pharmacy from Sandy's father, Marshall Davis, in 1970.

Lavin has served the Vermillion community in a variety of ways. He has been a member of the boards of the Dakota Hospital Association, the Vermillion Area Arts Council, the Vermillion Area Chamber of Commerce and USD Drug and Alcohol Studies.

He is a member of several pharmaceutical associations, including the South Dakota and the American pharmaceutical associations.

Lavin's career has spanned nearly four decades, but he always looks forward to each day on the job, he said, while Sandy and their entire family of five grown children who are involved in medical careers, looked on.

"Working as pharmacist here has allowed me, every day, to meet the community's people," he said. "It's a privilege. The honest truth is that 37 years of meeting people and solving problems has been an honor.

"There's nothing more enjoyable. I enjoy going to work every day. And you are the people," he said, speaking directly to the audience, "who make me want to come to work every day."

More than laughs

After enjoying a banquet meal, the audience at the awards dinner heard from keynote speaker Frank Pastizzo, who has put his many talents to good use over the years.

He has worked side-by- side with doctors in Air Force emergency rooms, has taught high school English and drama in England, toured as a stand-up comedian and professional actor in Europe and the United States, and worked as a health care administrator and marketing executive for various agencies in New York.

He is also an author. Pastizzo's book, Cherish, with its simple message, has made his presentations more in demand at conferences nationwide.

Pastizzo connected with his Vermillion audience in a variety of ways. He told jokes. He played jazz piano, and sang humorous renditions of Billy Joel and Elton John hits.

He taught an audience member how to juggle, claiming its easier to master than riding a bike.

And he reminded everyone the importance of bringing the proper spirit to one's workplace to enhance performance.

He noted that the German philosopher, Martin Buber, wrote that we need to treat other people with the same level of regard in which we bestow upon our family members, our closest friends and our companions.

"Otherwise, we simply treat a person as an ?it,' as an agenda item, as something we check off our to do list," Pastizzo said.

He also reminded his audience that they are all human, meaning they will make mistakes.

"Here's the problem," Pastizzo said. "Some people come to the workplace, and they confuse the idea of professionalism with perfection to such a degree that they adopt this facade of supreme competence.

"And when this person inevitably makes some common, human mistake, they want to hide the mistake," he said.

That philosophy, he said, won't prevent more mistakes from happening in the future.

"Fact: The person who makes mistakes is eminently the most qualified person to make recommendations on how the mistakes can be prevented from happening again," Pastizzo said. "That person is intimately aware of all of the dynamics of the mistakes and what caused them to happen. That person needs to feel free and be invited to the table for a brainstorming session, and not excluded."

There was a time in Pastizzo's life, after his parents divorced and he found himself separated from his father and many of his close friends, that he withdrew.

"That's when I used detachment as a means of self-preservation," he said. "And it really worked well for me."

He had an eye-opening experience, however, as a young man, working in an Air Force emergency room.

"I learned that when you decide to keep your feelings out, to keep your emotions out of things, then you're not equipped to deal with other people's feelings and emotions," Pastizzo said.

He said from the time he was 18 until he was 22, nothing at work got to him. He was virtually a robot, he said.

It was a dying patient, who found the strength to thank Pastizzo for his efforts to comfort him in his final moments, that "brought me back," he said.

"That was the instance that had me ask myself, ?What are you doing? How dare you come into this arena of human service, and not connect authentically with the people around you? Who do you think you are?' "

It led Pastizzo to work to become the best Air Force paramedic that he could be.

From there, he became an educator. And it eventually inspired him to write his book, Cherish, and spread the message to others to always make the workplace � the place where most of us spend the majority of our waking time � the best place it can be.

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